The Flowers By Alice Walker

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

The theme of "The Flowers" by Alice Walker is the fall from innocence into experience. Myop, a young Black child, thinks of her rural home as an idyllic paradise until she finds the remains of a lynched man in the woods nearby.

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The main theme of this short story is the fall from innocence. Myop, a child, has lived a sheltered life in the idyllic "garden" of her home. As summer ends and fall comes, every day seems to her like a "golden surprise" as she explores the stream near her home or gathers nuts in the woods with her mother. She doesn't yet realize the limits on her life.

One day, as she is gathering blue (the blue symbolizing being blue or sad) flowers, she stumbles across the corpse of a man who was obviously lynched, having been both hung from a tree limb and beheaded. This discovery of death and violence on the land she had considered nothing but beautiful and nurturing jolts her into a new awareness and a loss of innocence. In the season of fall, she falls from grace.

The story is about the sin of racism as an evil that all Black children will eventually become aware of, shaking their trust in the world. When Myop sees the corpse, not only is "summer" as a season over but it is replaced by "fall" as a pun on the biblical fall from grace, symbolizing Myop's new awareness that good and evil are everywhere.

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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 from the ruins. After all, Myop discovers a "wild pink rose" growing near the skull and adds it to her bouquet of flowers. She eventually lays down this bundle, perhaps as an offering of beauty to counter an act of such ugliness. Myop's gesture shows that even in acts of violence, younger generations often provide hope of a more beautiful future.

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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.

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