“Flowers” by Margaret Atwood, An Essay by Arch
Before you start reading the essay, I suggest that you have to have a “feel” of the poem here. ~
The poem “Flowers” is authored by Margaret Atwood. The lines of the poem were written and inscribed in a persona of a hopeful girl who brings fresh flowers when she goes to visit her ill father on a hospital. While she was in the white-walled room where her father lies almost quiet, she has described her reflections on her memories with him. Beyond Atwood’s dominant imageries of sorrow and stillness constructed by the persona, reveals a daughter’s optimism towards the health of her dying father.
Atwood has pronounced the poem in the voice of a daughter who faces the situation of losing her father. From the first line of the poem, the daughter’s perspective was revealed with the presence of the article, I, which is the representation of the perspective of self. Thus, this poem is written on a characterial voice – in the perspective of the flower girl.
In the view of the one who reveals what she perceives, the persona brought her tone as a daughter to her father. Her actions in the first stanza show hopes of her father opening his eyes to see, if not just smell, the fresh flowers that she has brought from home. Having a visit to her father on the hospital, she desires to be a witness to her father’s state of health. She has placed the flowers in a jar on the longing to see him enlightened through immediately perceiving the flower on his side after he opens his eyes. On the other side, thoughts of loosing her father made her express the predicament that she has to deal the moment her father dies. Loosing her father is the least acceptable fact that she has to face.
The impatience has jolted her to have a streak of feeling that she has to go beyond her melancholic actions. The sixth stanza showed the girl prompting herself a question that acted like a bridge to the succeeding stanzas. As a personal compassion, remembering the past would bring live memories that had greatly involved her resplendent experience with her father.
The thought of a past excursion with her father on the seventh stanza added to her optimistic side. She has confidently expressed that behind the surface fact that her father seems so unconscious; there is still a father who would not sacrifice his memory on account of facing death.
The persona’s sympathy would not be expressed if the author’s written words were not written at all. The words that were constructed by the persona in the poem denotatively and connotatively link every stanzas of the poem, and intricately, every idea that makes the poem more coherent and powerful. The author’s words expressed by the persona are not obscure, and they are generally simple. They are not fully technical because they could be generally understood of anyone who went to school and could read an English text. Thus, the level of diction was General English, which is more appropriate to a text as reflective and as descriptive this poem is.
The title of the poem is as simple as the way the text was crafted. “Flowers” are natural creations that intensify the colors in the environment. If imagined the flowers that were placed on the persona’s father’s side on a bed, they would happen to be the only objects that would surface to have their natural colors; the white sheet on her father adds to the likeliness of the room to a ship as the room was described to be white-walled and was plain on the fourth line from the beginning of the second stanza. On the beginning of the third stanza were the arrivals of two women in their blue dress, they are the medical staffs that are described to be “plump and muscular” – that pertain to their size and mostly, their knowledge and passion of and for health and pain. The women were termed as “Angels” because they somehow help the persona’s father escape the realms of death using their medical knowledge and skills. Again, these words came from the thoughts of a hopeful girl.
The description “erased” in the seventh stanza is a connotation of blankness and stillness – a stance of the persona to her father that he looks austere and dead. Beyond that, she has leaped from that thought to bring the idea of a tunnel that her father was trapped in. “Tunnel” in the dictionary is defined as an underground or underwater passage; in the poem, the end of the tunnel connotes the halting of the daughter’s fear of her father’s death. On the line, “But somewhere in there (the far end of the tunnel)”, the persona has temporarily escaped from the idea of sorrow because that line has acted like a technical tool which brings out live memories of her father. At the last of the stanzas, the persona unleashed a fact that there will come a time when has to give everything up: the sorrow, the anger, and memories of the flowers, but still, she longs to save her father in her own way.
The imageries in the poem constitute sensory impressions that express sorrow, stillness and inevitably, the sense of optimism. The mixture of words of the author and imagination of the audience brings the concrete meaning of the poem more lively, making it more understandable by just merely looking at the surface because it was written without hiding something; all were emotionally expressed by the persona as they are written in text. The persona has metaphorically revealed that she is the flower girl from the very first line; it means that the girl and the flower girl that commonly carries the flowers on a wedding is one. Visually, the girl has carried things that could naturally display colors in the white-walled room. The old flowers were not already fresh at the juncture the girl arrived at the room to visit her father. So she has replaced the old ones that were described in an overstatement of odor that the greenish water did smell like dirty teeth. The snipping sound made by the surgical scissors could be heard as the stems were cut to long prolong their life. The fresh flowers that are placed in the white-walled room symbolize the importance of a daughter to her father at all times; that the daughter would be a witness of whatever events that might occur next.
The father’s statement that he feels like he is on a ship is also a showcase of sorrow and stillness in the point of view of the persona. After the persona’s father expressed verbally his curt observation that he is on a ship, where in fact he is not, the girl has seconded and elaborated the idea through the succeeding lines. The white walls, the small windows that would be difficult to peep through because they are minimal, the bells that ring, the stranger’s rubbery shoes that make sounds on the floor, as well as an air-conditioner that sounds like the ocean’s water hitting the shore bring a whole image that translate to a feeling of loneliness and dreadfulness. The persona has spoken the thought of losing her father to the degree that she has revealed her determination that her father’s waving goodbye would not be just acceptable; as she has imaginatively illustrated the idea of a ship that carries her father that is sailing away. “The waving of the hands that do not wave” on the last part of the second stanza conveys stillness – a product of a horrible jolt of fear and coldness.
As the women of two came, the persona has observed that they are skillful and objective as the thirtieth and the thirty-first line elaborated. Their hands were described visually and evocatively as the possession of the muscular angels that were skillful at fighting and taking care of the ill. The persona’s concluding understatement on the fifth stanza that the rest, including her, are not capable of medically helping the diseased, is a compliment for the professionalism of the medical staffs. They make her father closer to her because they take care of him, hence, ameliorating his health.
The last two stanzas contain dominantly with doom and a streak of hope from the point of view of the persona. The flowers in the pickle jar are visual imageries that represent a creation that deserves life because it is still having a purpose to live. The flowers’ purpose of living is it adds colors to a plain background. Without them, life would just be monotonous and lonesome. And so the daughter needs her father to live to fill her life complete. Without her father, she would not be able to recover for a very long period of time as she has learned to peep through is father’s feelings. The memory of fishing with her father on a body of water was a product of the girl’s longing to have a father’s companion. Having been in a hospital brings an impression of a lacking of father’s sympathy on his daughter for a period of time.
The last of the stanzas was rather a product of the whole poem. It was the total result of fear, anger, sorrow, loneliness and hope expressed by the persona. Ultimately, it reflects the persona’s thought’s lucid outcome once she enters the door that would lead to her infinite experience of memories with her father. The act of giving up means obliterating all the fears, all the sorrow, as well as hope. Everything would fade away and renewed as one already experiences the actual feeling of being on a place where she has never been before. The flowers that the flower girl has brought would just be a piece of wreckage that has been left by her life on earth, from that, another kind of hope rises up again.
Atwood has created a persona that is passionate about her life so long as the other person who is the reason for her to live is present. Hope acts like a bridge that joins the life and relationship to last more than necessary. The hopeful girl shall live as long as her father is alive in her mind because her father is the reason why she has brought the flowers beside him. Adding a color to his life means to forget about the dreadfulness about life and face a new life that is more alive with the most vibrant of colors after he lives the hospital healthy, joyful, and tranquil.
One might perceive an effective poem which has an “immediate powerful emotional effect”, will also bear intellectual analysis. The poem’s sorrowful imagery is dominant as it is almost commonly contained in every stanza. It could certainly evoke its emotional effect, but for a “greater poetic experience”, poetic analysis could bare a meaning which could finally move a reader.
Although the poem is dominantly dark in its nature, its persona has managed to sprinkle ideas of optimism that somehow brought a thin jet of light on a gloom. Atwood in this poem never failed to illustrate austerity because her language was dominantly marked with sorrow and stillness. Nevertheless, as dark as the reader might perceive the meaning of the poem, there is certainly a thin layer of optimism present within it that they should be aware of.
Boulton, M. (1955). The Anatomy of Poetry. Great Britain: Latimer, Trend & Co Limited.