The Flowers by Alice Walker
The literary process of the last decades in the United States was characterized by a variety of approaches to the depiction of reality, the rejection of the usual ways of perceiving literary texts and watching the place and role of the phenomena that were previously considered marginal. The concept of multiculturalism has appeared in American literature in the mid-60s. The revision of established judgments leads to significant changes in editorial policy, a reorientation of literary criticism and higher education. A few decades ago, the rich traditions of different cultural and social groups that made up the American nation have not been the subject of the special literary studies. Currently, the works of African-Americans, Chicanos, Native Americans, women, and sexual minorities, which were previously excluded from the literature mainstream, have become an integral part of the American cultural life. Alice Walker is a bright example of these changes. The author is deservedly recognized as one of the most significant figures among the contemporary African-American writers. Her work has gained a wide popularity not only in the United States but also abroad. Walker won numerous literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize (Gumbs, Martens, & Williams, n.d.). In her story The Flowers, Alice Walker revealed the theme of violence and harsh reality of the lives of African-American people through symbolic images, tone, irony, and characters.
Her The Flowers is considered an effective and impactful story. Optimistic perspective in addressing ethno-racial and gender problems created significant peculiarities in the work. Typical compositional principles in the work of Walker become open-ending. The story is characterized by the possibility to continue the plot. In-depth psychological analysis is combined with philosophical generalizations of a global nature. Thus, the images become important symbols. The main character is the epitome of true childish innocence. In particular, flowers represent the symbol of the girl’s innocence.
Myop’s family is poor, but the girl is happy. She finds pleasure in the simple things and nature. She is familiar with the land and takes power form it: “She found...pretty ferns and leaves, an armful of strange blue flowers with velvety ridges and a sweet suds bush full of the brown, fragrant buds” (Walker, 1988). However, she could not return home unchanged after the terrible finding. Lynched black man became a turning point in her childhood and future life. The death has entered into her innocent world, and she could not remain the same. The last line of the work “the summer is over” is referred to the girl’s childhood.
Obviously, The Flowers raised the theme of death. Myop realized the strict reality that people can die. Moreover, sometimes, it happened in cruel and horrible ways. The detailed description of the body (eyed, teeth, clothes) strengthens this theme. In addition, death is presented symbolically. After the discovery of the noose, heroine’s childhood, naivety, and innocence die too. The scene where the flowers are laid down on the land symbolizes the death of the girl’s childhood as she is at the gravesite of childhood and happiness. In this place, Myop realized that she lived in a cruel world. The last line emphasizes this symbolic death as the summer is often associated with the careless happiness; its ending symbolizes the end of full-bloomed happiness in Myop’s life. There is a strong contrast between the introduction and the end of the story. It begins with a slight description of Myop’s life and ends with the loss of the psychological innocence. Loeb (1996) stated that Myop was pushed into “the complex adult world”. Thus, the character development is represented by Myop’s change form a naive innocent girl into an adult, who understands a harsh reality of the surrounding world.
With the advent of Walker’s works, there appeared a fundamentally new image of a black woman, who tries to find her place in life. The author has a unique opportunity to look inside the situation of the contemporary women in the world. It draws a close attention to the inner world of women, the issue of their psychological and spiritual oppression, a keen interest in her social position and sexual roles. At the same time, the work has a strong ethnic overtone, violates many questions regarding the black community and its cultural traditions. It can be concluded that the dead man was a worker. Moreover, the description of large bones and teeth with the combination of death cause indicates that probably he could be of African-American ethnicity. Therefore, Alice Walker highlighted roughly racist past of the southern states of the United States. Through Myop’s character, the writer emphasized the relationship, which African-Americans had in this period of the U.S. history. The Flowers is aimed at drawing the public attention to the issue of racism in the modern society. Fitzgerald (2008) emphasizes that “from the time she was young, Alice knew that the world was a different place for a black child in the South than it was for a white child anywhere”.
The tone of the story is made by the vivid imagery through describing the girl’s actions. The words create a clear picture and cause the readers to feel a part of the story. The introduction creates a pleasant atmosphere of childhood, while the further part is characterized by a ‘strange’ tone. This change of the narrator’s tone contributed to the main idea of the story: the coming of age.
Moreover, Walker used irony in order to show both simplicity and complexity of the world. The writer created irony in the introduction by describing the girl, whose life was simple. However, Walker emphasized that the life of Myop’s family is more complex as it was poor. The author also used irony in the lines about the stream and white bubbles, which disrupted black soil. In such a way, she represented the contemporary society.
Organically combining feminist and ethnic ideas, Walker expands feminist literary space and renders it from the fairly narrow plane, which is traditionally associated with the experience of the white middle-class women. The limitations of ethnic issues are destroyed as the writer considered all people of color. The commitment to humanistic ideals determines the pathos and the ideological direction of the work. The principled position of Alice Walker is quite independent. Therefore, it is sometimes contrary to the moods of multiculturalism, because Walker sets the obvious priority of human values over any ideological principles. Thus, despite the huge interest in the national culture and its roots, Walker does not accept violence, even if it is justified by the desire to preserve the traditions of the people. Through The Flowers, Alice Walker showed the impact that violent history of the United States had on its children.