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A Theme of Innocence in The Flowers by Alice Walker

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“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” (Martin Luther King Jr.). In Alice walker’s symbolic short story “The Flowers” she tells the experience of a lively young girl and the victim of a brutal end. This story was written in the 1900s. While the story isn’t a widely known piece of Alice Walker it is a very captivating story of the reality we live in. It shows the transition between ignorance and reality for 10-year-old Myop. While the story “The Flowers” is a fictional story, it projects the reality of life and the blindness and innocence of children to worldwide problems such as racism and sexism.

In order to construct a truly authentic experience for readers, Walker incorporates autobiographical details about her life and racial experiences to strengthen the realistic nature of the text. The author Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944, which was considered a very intolerant time in the United States. Everything was segregated. There were separate bathrooms for white people and people of color, theaters, schools etc. this was also during the era of the Jim Crow Laws. The Jim Crow Laws were named after an insulting song lyric about African American people. The Jim Crow laws were present for about 100 years. These laws were made to marginalize people of color, however people who decided to defy the laws were often met with brutal assault and death. Alice walker attended a segregated school that would be considered inferior by current standards. Despite it being a segregated school Walker still recalls her terrific teachers who encouraged her in her pursuit to write. She also was raised in a fashion would be considered old and first wanted “permission” to become a writer by her mother. Her father was a sharecropper and organized the first black voters in the county. Because her parents were sharecroppers her family did not have much money. When Alice Walker was eight she was injured because her brother fired a BB gun and hit Walker’s right eye. Because her parents didn’t have enough money and didn’t have a car she couldn’t obtain professional medical attention and went blind in her right eye. It was after her injury when the scar tissue started to grow over her eye she took up reading and writing because she became self-conscious of her appearance, and even includes she eye in her writing, Beauty: When the Other Dancer is the Self.

Not only does “The Flowers” projects innocence, racial, and gender problems but so does many of her other works. Alice Walker is a famous novelist, poet, and essayist. She’s won over five awards for her writing. She is most known for the novel The Color Purple which is about an African-American girl named Celie who experiences the struggles of life and abuse. This novel also became a movie directed by the famous director, Steven Spielberg. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the National Book Award for fiction. Most of Walker’s works like The Color Purple are inspired by the life experiences of black women and the hardships they face in the world. Her works depict emotional, physical, and spiritual devastations. For example, the abuse Celie experiences by her father and husband. She also draws inspiration from her own experiences. Being the daughter of a sharecropper she incorporates her own experience into her short story “The Flowers”. She also incorporates history into most of her stories. For example, the skeleton Myop discovers within the forest on her walk. Later after graduating high school she was offered a scholarship to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and got involved with the civil rights movement. In 1963 she was offered another scholarship and transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in New York and graduated in 1965. In 1967 she married Melvyn Leventhal while working with the Head Starter program which is a program to educate poorer children. Walker and Leventhal ended up having a daughter named Rebecca. However, they ended up getting divorced 11 years into their marriage. Despite having started a family Walker stook with her writing career and kept publishing eye-opening works.

Within “The Flowers” is two separated, contrasting parts, the first half of the story has an optimistic view of the world, the view of a child. The story starts with a girl of color named Myop skipping around her farm on a day in summer that had never been as beautiful. Her home is in a rural area so she hasn’t been exposed to racism or sexism yet compared to if she were living in a big city. She smells the harvesting of plants such as corn and peanuts and the harvest makes each day exciting for her, waiting to see different happen on her little farm. She carries a stick and enjoys her summer. Nothing exists except for her song. No problems of the world, no worries she has to concern herself with. She can simply enjoy nature and stop to smell the roses.

The second half of “The Flowers” acquires a pessimistic view of the world, this represents the reality of the world. Myop starts to stray from the familiar environment to explore deeper into the wood. While she is out she keeps an eye out for snakes. Myop straying from home serves as the conflict of the story. As she wanders away she starts to worry. The setting soon becomes that of a graveyard, eery and damp. Just like reality, it isn’t a sunny jubilant place.

While the story “The flowers” is indeed quite short even the first part has intricate meaning. The main character’s name Myop is the Latin word for nearsightedness. This is representing innocence, not knowing the trouble in the world. She is living in her own version of Eden’s garden. The farm contains animals and trees, like the Garden of Eden. As the story progresses Myop walks beside a stream and watches as “white bubbles disrupt the thin black scale of the soil”. This exhibits black society in the past and the present, white people disrupting the peace of the society in which people of color live. How Britain went to Africa to collect slaves to sell, separating families and destroying the lives Africans knew. However, to Myop, it is simply bubbles and soil. While she is wandering around the unfamiliar area she still continues to pick her flowers, showing her innocence.

The second section represents death and reality, the loss of innocence. Even as Myop is “vaguely keeping an eye out for snakes”, this is a representation, there should be no deceiving snakes in her garden of Eden. She ends up walking into the eye of a skeleton. Skeletons represent death and horror. But as she unlodged her foot she isn’t afraid. This is a sign of acceptance that there are evil and horrors in the world even if she hasn’t yet experienced any. As she looks around she sees a raised mound in the shape of a big ring and some rope dangling from a branch on a nearby tree, a noose. This man was the victim of a hanging far enough into the past for the body to decompose, leaving only the skeleton. She also notices his broken teeth. This man was the subject of leaching before he was hanged he was beaten. This man, whether he was of color or not, must have opposed the common ideology of segregation whether it was considered a small offense toward the attackers’ ideology it was big enough to become the victim of a brutal murder. As she looks around she beholds a wild pink rose inside the loop of the noose. The rose commonly embodies life and eternity. The rose within the noose thus represents how the violence in the world will never be fully gone, it will never die. Within the story “Myop laid down her flowers”. This quote signifies Myop giving up her innocence, she has seen the reality and can never unsee the truth of the world. After having experienced the sighting of the skeleton “the summer was over.” The summer was another representation of Myop’s innocence and saying that the summer was over it indicates that her childlike innocence is now gone.

Despite “The Flowers” is a fictional story it does, in fact, represent reality while showing how innocent children are. Children are sheltered from the problems of the world by their parents, they aren’t exposed to the outside world and when they are they won’t forget about it. Kids simply walk around unknowingly and unfazed by problems. For example, they don’t think about kidnappers when they want to go outside, they don’t realize the number of problems that are happening all around them. As Kevin Watson, a college teacher of English and has a master’s degree in Applied Linguistics and Creative Writing said: “His eyes are closed forever, but hers are about to open”. 

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A Theme Of Innocence In The Flowers By Alice Walker. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 28, 2021, from
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