What is the setting of “Marigolds”?

Updated 21 March, 2023
The setting of the short story "Marigolds" is a rural African American community during the Great Depression. The story takes place in a shantytown of a small town in Maryland. The author uses vivid descriptions of the setting to create a sense of poverty and hopelessness. The main character, Lizabeth, lives with her family in a ramshackle house near the railroad tracks. She and her friends often play in the nearby marigold patch, which is owned by a cantankerous old woman named Miss Lottie.
Detailed answer:

The setting of "Marigolds" plays an essential role in establishing the themes and mood of the story. The author, Eugenia Collier, sets the story in a poverty-stricken African American community during the Great Depression era. The story takes place in a "shantytown on the outskirts of a Maryland town" (Collier 233). This setting creates a bleak and desolate environment, where the community members are struggling to make ends meet. The author uses vivid descriptions to portray the harsh living conditions, such as "the ramshackle homes" and "the cold, pitiless wind" (Collier 232).

The setting also serves as a backdrop for the conflict between the protagonist, Lizabeth, and Miss Lottie, the owner of the marigold garden. The marigold garden, with its bright colors and beauty, stands in sharp contrast to the poverty and despair that surrounds it. The garden becomes a symbol of hope and escape for Lizabeth, who wants to break free from the cycle of poverty that has trapped her family and her community.

Furthermore, the setting reflects the racial tensions and social inequalities of the time period. Lizabeth notes that the white community lives in "a world of roses and carnations and highballs and catered affairs" while she lives in a "world of poverty and ugliness and despair" (Collier 235). This juxtaposition emphasizes the stark contrast between the lives of African Americans and whites in the 1930s.

Overall, the setting of "Marigolds" serves as a powerful tool to convey the themes of poverty, hope, and racial inequality. Eugenia Collier's use of vivid descriptions and contrasting imagery provides a stark and realistic portrayal of life during the Great Depression era.

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