Alice Walker's story "The Flowers" is about a child's loss of innocence. More particularly, it is about a black child's confrontation with the brutality of racism.
Myop is a ten-year-old girl, the daughter of sharecroppers. Her family is poor, but Myop is young enough not to understand that, and she seems happy with her life. "Each day [is] a golden surprise" to her, and as the reader views Myop's world through her eyes, it seems simple and beautiful.
Myop goes for a ramble in the woods behind her parents' cabin, an area she has explored "many times." As she wanders, she picks flowers: "strange blue flowers with velvety ridges" and the "brown, fragrant buds" of a sweet suds bush. She eventually wanders further than normal and, with a little anxiety, turns to make her way back home. It is then that she steps on a rotting skeleton. Carefully pulling her foot out of the crushed skull, Myop notices a final flower: "a wild pink rose" which is "very near the head" of the skeleton. She picks it to add to her collection, when she sees, around the roots of the rose bush, "the rotted remains of a noose [...] blending benignly into the soil." Myop has a silent realization and lays down her flowers.
The different flowers Myop gathers may be understood as "landmarks" of a kind in this brief, powerful narrative. There are the "silver ferns and wildflowers" that grow around the spring where her family gets water; these are familiar beauties, and Myop walks blithely past them. Then there are the "strange blue flowers" she finds as, "[making] her own path, bouncing this way and that way," she ventures further from home than she has before. Myop is moving from the safe, known sights of childhood into new places where there are different, but still beautiful, things to discover.
The final flower is the "wild pink rose" growing near the skull of the skeleton Myop stumbles over. Myop is only mildly perturbed by the skeleton; like many children her age, she is more fascinated than alarmed by this morbid thing. She is distracted when she notices the rose, and still in the spirit of innocence, she reaches out to pick it. This flower, however, is encircled by the loop of a noose, part of which is still knotted to the "overhanging limb of a great spreading oak" above her. This flower, unlike the wildflowers of her home or the strange blue flowers of her earlier wandering, is surrounded by death. The ring of rope around its root serves almost as a kind of cordon and could be understood as a warning: there is beauty in the world, but it is not for Myop. Myop is black, and in a racist society, the flowers of life are not hers to pick. Myop understands this abruptly and implicitly and lays down her flowers by the skull of the dead man, because she no longer wants them.