How does Alice Walker create the mood in "The Flowers?"

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Walker skillfully creates one mood and then abruptly alters it in "The Flowers." She achieves this in describing Myop's actions, and sensory details to create vivid imagery. These words create such clear mental pictures that the reader may feel he or she is a part of the scene. Walker does this in a very brief amount of space—and Myop never speaks a word.

Sensory or descriptive details appeal to one of the five senses. It is autumn, and the colors of this day in the harvest season create a vision of nature in all its beauty, and convey Myop's excitement:

The harvesting of the corn and cotton, peanuts and squash, made each day a golden surprise that caused excited little tremors to run up her jaws.

Not only are the colors related to the "golden surprise" of the harvest, but also Myop's excitement becomes contagious. There is humor to be found as we imagine Myop picking at favored birds:

Myop carried a short, knobby stick. She struck out at random at chickens she liked...

There are possibilities for a stick in a child's hand—a magic wand, a glittering sword, or a drumstick—the details appeal to our sense of hearing:

[She] worked out the beat of a song on the fence around the pigpen...the tat-de-ta-ta-ta of accompaniment.

We can almost hear the clacking sound of the stick on fence, sounding high and then low with each plank of wood the stick passes over—hitting wood, then air, then wood again. There is a sense not only of touch, which the author creates in us, but that of warmth—and safety:

She felt light and good in the warm sun.

Walker then describes the plants Myop collects—this passage appeals to our sense of sight—with "velvety ridges," "blue" flowers, "brown" buds, and fragrance.

She found, in addition to various common but pretty ferns and leaves, an armful of strange blue flowers with velvety ridges and a sweet suds bush full of the brown, fragrant buds.

At noon, when the sky is high and the sun would be hot, Myop finds herself in part of the countryside she does not visit as often. The shift of the mood is subtle as she finds herself in this "gloomy" cove, and the sensory details responsible for the mood change appeal to our sense of touch and sound:

The air was damp, the silence close and deep.

This signals a change in Myop's day—like stepping into a graveyard. Myop turns toward safer, more familiar land, but steps on the brittle remains of a man long dead. This does not frighten her. Instead, Myop is curious, as she is about all of nature. And in many ways, he has become one with nature. Then that she sees the beautiful flower:

Very near where she'd stepped into the head was a wild pink rose.

Walker sets us up here: roses bring to mind love. 

Usually, pink roses are used to express gentle emotions such as admiration, joy and gratitude.

Myop has felt all of these things today: it would seem the bud is her crowning achievement, added to a large group of plants the child has already amassed. The rose, however, distracts the reader. When we return to Myop's activities, we discover a horror we'd rather not see, and one Myop has ostensibly never seen:

It was the rotted remains of a noose...Around an overhanging...oak clung another piece.

As if on a grave, Myop lays down her flowers. We can infer some sense of her possible reaction:

And the summer was over.

This can also mean that Myop's innocence is gone.

The mood is created with plot development and sensory details.