Marigolds Short Story Essay Questions

One of the central messages of this short story seems to be summed up in the main symbol of the story, the marigolds, and the narrator's actions in destroying them. From the start it is clear that the marigolds are a symbol in the short story, in that they have a meaning above and beyond their literal significance. The narrator is clearly puzzled by the marigolds, especially given the nature of Miss Lottie's home:

Miss Lottie's marigolds were perhaps the strangest part of the picture. Certainly they did not fit in with the crumbling decay of the rest of her yeard. Beyond the dusty brown yard, in front of the sorry gray house, rose suddenly and shockingly a dazzling strip of bright blossoms, clumped together in enormous mounds, warm and passionate and sun-golden.

In addition to this description, we are told of the care that Miss Lottie takes in working on her marigolds, working on them "all summer". The children come to hate these marigolds:

For some perverse reason, we children hated those marigolds. They interfered with the perfect ugliness of the place; they were too beautiful; they said too much that we could not understand; they did not make sense.

However, by the end of the short story, the narrator realises herself the symbolic significance of the marigolds, however, only after she has destroyed them:

Whatever verve there was left in her, whatever was of love and beauty and joy that had not been squeezed out by life, had been there in the marigolds she had so tenderly cared for.

The marigolds, then, symbolise humanity's innate ability to create and cultivate beauty in even the most desperate and poverty-stricken surroundings. This meaning is made explicit in the last words of the story:

For one does not have to be ignorant and poor to find that his life is as barren as the dusty yards of our town. And I too have planted marigolds.

There could be many claims (themes) identified in "Marigolds" by Eugenia W. Collier, but one that is stated explicitly is that innocence and compassion cannot co-exist. In order to be truly compassionate toward someone's suffering, a person needs to have personally suffered, too.  

The story is told by an adult first-person narrator—Lizabeth—who is looking back on an act of childish cruelty that took place when she was fourteen. Lizabeth and her younger brother, Joey,...

There could be many claims (themes) identified in "Marigolds" by Eugenia W. Collier, but one that is stated explicitly is that innocence and compassion cannot co-exist. In order to be truly compassionate toward someone's suffering, a person needs to have personally suffered, too.  

The story is told by an adult first-person narrator—Lizabeth—who is looking back on an act of childish cruelty that took place when she was fourteen. Lizabeth and her younger brother, Joey, are frustrated by circumstances they cannot control: the summer heat, their family's poverty, their mother's absence, the "formlessness of [their] summer days." To alleviate their boredom, they decide to annoy their neighbor, Miss Lottie, because "annoying Miss Lottie was always fun." Miss Lottie has a lot of misfortune in her life—her home is described as being "the most ramshackle" one in an already-destitute town, and she has a "queer-headed" (handicapped) adult son named John Burke—but despite her hardships, Miss Lottie plants marigolds on her property. The marigolds are tangible evidence that Miss Lottie defiantly refuses to give in to her misfortunes.  

As the story develops, Lizabeth and her brother (as well as some other neighborhood children) throw rocks at Miss Lottie's marigolds and damage a few. Later, Lizabeth's frustration spills over into envious violence, and she destroys Miss Lottie's flowers. Instead of appreciating Miss Lottie's efforts to bring a small bit of beauty to an otherwise ugly place, Lizabeth strikes out at the flowers in misplaced rage. The narrator realizes after her rage is spent that she

could not express the things that I knew about Miss Lottie as I stood there awkward and ashamed. The years have put words to the things I knew in that moment, and as I look back upon it, I know that that moment marked the end of innocence. . . In that humiliating moment I looked beyond myself and into the depths of another person. This was the beginning of compassion, and one cannot have both compassion and innocence.

By the end of the story, the narrator has gained hard-earned adult perspective. She still feels a sense of remorse for what she did to Miss Lottie's marigolds, which is evidenced by the last sentence, "And I too have planted marigolds." Younger Lizabeth's innocence was lost as she destroyed the small patch of beauty in Miss Lottie's yard, but this loss of innocence is what gives the narrator the ability to be a compassionate adult.

0 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *