The Flowers By Alice Walker

What is the theme of the short story "The Flowers," by Alice Walker?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Alice Walker's short short story "Flowers" is essentially a coming-of-age story that expresses the theme of loss of innocence. It opens with a young, innocent African-American girl, named Myop, feeling at peace with the world and ends with her realizing that the world is far from a peaceful place.

Myop's feelings of peace and happiness are depicted in Walker's descriptions of Myop skipping about her family's sharecropping farm, moving around "from hen house to pigpen to smokehouse," singing and playing with a stick as she goes. Her happiness is further depicted in her venture of picking wildflowers, a venture she becomes so engrossed in that it carries her a "mile or more from home." The farther she moves from the peace and security of home, the more she ventures into uncovering the harsh reality of the world.

Far away from home, she has an awakening when she discovers a deceased man. At first, she remains innocent and unperturbed; she even stoops to pick a wild rose growing near the body. However, her innocent gesture of picking the wild rose reveals to her the truth--the man had been hanged.

Since there are also clues in the story that help identify Myop's race as African American, such as the description of her "dark brown" skin and the fact her family owns a cabin that stands on a sharecrop farm, the reader can assume the deceased man had been the victim of a lynch mob.

By the end of the story, Myop "laid down her flowers" because, as soon as she realized the man was a victim of a lynch mob, she became overwhelmed. Hence, innocently picking the wild rose led her to painful revelations, and the more she understood about death and how the man died, the more she lost her innocence and her childhood, showing us the main theme is loss of innocence.