Alice Walker

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The Flowers By Alice Walker

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

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Jennings Williamson eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The major themes of this text are related: innocence cannot last forever, and ignorance is bliss. Even Myop's name—the root of the word "myopic," meaning "nearsighted"—seems to draw attention to how small her world is, so to speak. It's as though she can only see what is near to her, and this has kept her innocent and ignorant of the real world outside her own childhood one. The narrator tells us that she has explored the woods behind her home many times; this space has comprised her whole world, where the worst thing she has had to fear are snakes. However, this time she makes "her own path," finding new flowers but also learning that the "strangeness of the land made it not as pleasant as her usual haunts." When she steps through the skull of the dead man's skeleton, she notes the remains of the noose used to hang him, and she [lays] down her flowers" on the spot.

And the summer was over.

The season of summer is used to symbolize Myop's childhood. In spring and summer, she was innocent, happy, and blithe as a result of her inexperience with and ignorance of the world. Now that she has seen not only death but also racist cruelty, both her innocence and her ignorance vanish.

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There are several themes apparent in "The Flowers" by Alice Walker. A prominent one is a loss of childhood innocence, which a previous Educator response explains.

An additional theme is that violence and racism have a ripple effect, touching generation after generation.

The man whom Myop finds is a victim of racist violence, as evidenced by the details readers are provided in the setting. Myop's family members are sharecroppers, and it is noted that she has a "dark brown" hand. The man she finds "had been...tall," and he wore denim overalls, most of which have rotted away. He has not only been hanged, as evidenced by the noose, but has also been beheaded.

Myop's grotesque discovery shows that the violence of adults will eventually reach the younger generations. But there is also, in the ending, hope that generations who follow in the footsteps of violence will be able to create something beautiful...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 744 words.)

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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