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What is the meaning of The Flowers by Alice Walker?

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tina22 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 4, 2007 at 1:32 AM via web

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What is the meaning of The Flowers by Alice Walker?

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted April 7, 2007 at 5:53 AM (Answer #1)

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First, begin by thinking of the significance of the little girl's name. Myop is short for "myopia" a eye condition where one cannot see things far away (near-sightedness). Little Myop cannot see beyond the beauty of her carefree childhood.

However, one summer morning her romping takes her farther from home than she'd ever been before, a whole mile. She does not realize (due to her myopia) the remains of a hanged man until she quite literally bumps into him.

That the man was a laborer is clear from "some threads of blue denim" from his overalls and the "shredding plowline" that is found in the earth nearby. The brutality of his death is uncovered in the details: "large white teeth, all of them cracked or broken" indicates that he had been beaten before his murder. He had been left and forgotten for so long that he had literally rotted away, his severed head lying horrifically beside his decomposing body.

The story concludes with "And the summer was over." The young negro girl has lost her innocence, her myopia.


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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 4, 2015 at 12:10 AM (Answer #3)

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"The Flowers" is a story of losing innocence (or, if you will, of lost innocence). The theme is grounded in a specific racial experience as the story quite poetically relates a young girl's discovery of a lynched man lying dead in some underbrush.

As the story begins, Myop is young and believes in her youth and possesses the natural solipsism of youth. However, the further Myop gets from home (her place and moment of origin), the darker the world becomes. When she realizes this, Myop tries to go back and tries to regain her position of innocence. Her effort fails.

"Myop began to circle back to the house, back to the peacefulness of the morning. It was then she stepped smack into his eyes."

The discovery of a dead, lynched body overtakes her former, brighter vision of reality. Myop drops her load of flowers. 

"The final line, "And the summer was over", stands alone as the single sentence of the last paragraph, forcing readers to think about the way in which Myop's innocence has been destroyed: she can no longer be innocent[...]" (eNotes).

The meaning of the story then can be related to Myop's journey from innocence to experience or from ignorance to experience. At the story's outset, Myop did not believe her world was populated by such gruesome things but in the end she can no longer hold onto the idea that her world is one of pure beauty. She releases that idea figuratively when she drops her bundle of flowers. 


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