What is the conflict in "The Flowers"?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The key conflict in this story is between innocence and experience, or the innocence of Myop, the key character, in her childlike wonder and attitude to the world, and then the state of experience that she is ushered into at the end of the story when she discovers the body of the lynched man and realises the full import of what she sees.

At the beginning of the story, Myop is presented to us as a character who is completely unaware of the significane of her skin colour. The name itself, Myop, is reminiscent of the word myopia, which is a form of blindness. So it is that Myop wanders around, being fascinated in nature, without understanding the social and racial realities behind her existence and the difficult life her parents lead as sharecroppers. What is interesting is the way that Walker describes what Myop sees as "seeming" to be beautiful, indicating that perhaps her view on life is not authentic and accurate.

The way in which her innocence is challenged and killed off is when she discovers the skeleton of the lynched black man, and suddenly is forced to confront the realities of racism. Although this happened many years ago, it is enough to cause the dramatic los of Myop's innocence. Note the final line of the story says "And the summer was over," which is also given its own paragraph, which forces us to think about both the end of the real summer but also the end of the metaphorical summer of Myop's life where she is able to dwell in carefree simplicity. The implication is that she can no longer be a child when confronted with the reality of how blacks were treated in the past. The way in which the loop around the bough is still shown to be restlessly moving indicates that there is stil the threat of racial violence today, giving Myop another reason to dispense with the ignorance of childhood.

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