Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Madden’s style in “The Day the Flowers Came” is straightforward, even colloquial in places. He uses a limited third-person point of view to get inside J. D.’s mind and to show how J. D. sees his own situation, but much of the story is rendered in dialogue between J. D. and his various visitors. The narrator does not comment on J. D.’s thoughts and actions. Their meaning emerges from the juxtaposition of events and from the implications that arise from Madden’s handling of them.

Aside from the use of light and darkness to underscore J. D.’s changed perspective of himself, the chief images are the doorbell chimes and the flowers referred to in the title. The chimes have the single function of calling J. D. to his door to confront a reality he does not begin to accept until the end of the story. The flowers serve a dual function. They are the literal expression of the sympathy of J. D.’s friends and neighbors, and they are also symbols of life’s impermanence. The day the flowers come is a turning point. It is the day on which J. D. is first able to see life clearly and to recognize his place in the universe.