How do we lose our childish way of seeing the world? How can we suddenly they see the world as it is, in all its evil? ‘The Flowers’ is a story about a young girl who goes through an experience that forces her into changing her way of seeing life, and it presents themes like growing up and loss of innocence.
The main character of the story is Myop, a 10-year-old girl without any major worries in life. The only thing we know about her physical appearance is that she is of African descent because it is mentioned that her hand is dark brown. It is unknown whether she lives in Africa or is a descendant of—or maybe even one of—the African slaves brought to America. Myop has a very childish and innocent way of thinking and is also fairly naïve. She is not afraid of anything because she has not seen the darker parts of life yet, and she does not care about anything outside of her tiny little world. An example of this from the text is on P.1 L.8-10: She was ten, and nothing existed for her but her song, the stick clutched in her dark brown hand, and the tat-de-ta-ta-ta of accompaniment. We see here how limited the list of things Myop minds about is.
She lives in the moment with no thoughts of how tomorrow may turn out. It is unknown when the story takes place, but it says in the story that Myop’s family harvest different crops like cotton and corn, and plantations with African slave labor were common in The American South as early as the 18th century up until the end of the American Civil War in 1865. Also, the dead man, whose body Myop finds, was clearly hanged and among the slave owners of that time, hanging was a common punishment for slaves. Therefore the story could take place during the time of slavery in The American South as well as in modern time. The problem with this theory is that Myop, at first, generally seemed like a very happy and carefree girl, and I do not suppose that the usual slave girl would have that happy of a childhood.
Myop’s name itself is a symbol that describes a part of her personality. The word myop is derived from the English word myopic which also means nearsighted or narrow-minded. It refers to the fact that Myop, for instance, at first does not at all seem scared when she steps down into the man’s skull. She is nearsighted—she does not see the whole picture and does not understand that the man was executed and left there to rot. She just gazes interested at the spot where he is lying, and it is first at the very end of the story, when she sees the remains of the noose spinning in the air, that she finally understands what is really going on and loses her ‘nearsightedness’. Another symbol is the season in which the story is set. In the summer the sun is warm and she feels light and good.
The summer symbolizes her happy and innocent childhood but then, when she loses her myopic view on the world; when she realizes the truth about the dead man, her childhood is over. This is seen in the text in the two very last sentences on P.2 L.10-11: Myop laid down her flowers. And the summer was over. Her bundle of flowers is a symbol of her innocence and her laying them down symbolizes her putting away that innocence, suddenly not without any worries. I believe that both the new blue flowers Myop finds and the fact that she is wandering off on her own, which is unusual, are symbols of her leaving the security of the childhood behind and going off into the unknown. The symbols are characterized by all relating to the themes growing up and loss on innocence.
Something significant about the story is the mood that changes very suddenly in the middle of the text. In the beginning, the focus is on Myop’s happy childhood, her innocence, the beauty of the surroundings, the summer, and her carefree mind. To empathize this, words like beautiful, keenness, good, light, and warm are used. But then Myop begins walking into the woods and as soon as she starts trying to find her way home, the words used to describe the surrounding immediately change. The land is described as strange and gloomy and words like damp, close, and deep are used to give the reader an impression of the suddenly changed mood. That is also when Myop first discovers the dead body and the change of mood is a way of warning both the reader and Myop that something unpleasant is about to happen. It works very well because the reader becomes more attentive straightaway.
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