The Flowers by Alice Walker: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Kevin Watson

Kevin Watson has taught ESL, Spanish, French, Composition, and literature for over 33 years at universities in France, Spain, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Japan, and Ecuador. He has a bachelor’s in education and master’s in applied linguistics from the University of South Florida and a master’s in creative writing from the New School in New York City.

Alice Walker's 'The Flowers' examines the purity of young life and the inevitable loss of innocence. This lesson will discuss how Walker cleverly connects her story to one of the best known stories ever told.

Bursting With Life

In ''The Flowers,'' a short story by Alice Walker, Myop is a 10-year-old daughter of sharecroppers. She happily tours places around the farm as if she hasn't a care in the world. The first two paragraphs give visuals of pastoral beauty, the flavors that make Myop's jaw tremble, the scents that make her nose twitch. We feel the sun, we hear the tapping of her stick and feel it clutched in her ''dark brown hand.'' In this short space we get all five senses, the full offering of life. In this idyllic place, she is content. She is very much alive.

The Perfect Place

There is a beautiful spring, the beginning of a stream that was born and will flow until its end. There are wildflowers bending in the breeze. Myop turns her back on the house and ventures into the woods; she keeps an eye out for snakes. At this point, maybe you are beginning to put together a picture: a perfect place, a girl's curiosity, turning her back on her parents' home, watching for snakes, and gathering plants from nature's garden.

The Garden of Eden

There is certainly the sense of perfect beauty and innocence in the woods and in the girl. She has always followed her mother, her authority. But then she goes farther than she has before, tasting more as she ventures into a strange place until paragraph five where the tone changes, and the beauty fades. It seems she has gone too far.

The forest
forest

Walker foreshadows the change of mood with language: ''not as pleasant as her usual haunts.'' Then it is ''gloomy,'' ''damp,'' and ''the silence close and deep.'' These words could easily describe a cemetery or a grave. She decides to return to the peacefulness of the morning, but it is too late. She steps into the eyes of a man that died some time ago; his eyes are closed forever, but hers are about to open. She absorbs visually the scene with interest, with no other thoughts intruding, no panic or fear or disgust.

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