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Good Flowers. Mockingjays, Dandelions, Tiger Orchids, and Roses: Nature and its Symbolism.

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Presentation on theme: "Good Flowers. Mockingjays, Dandelions, Tiger Orchids, and Roses: Nature and its Symbolism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mockingjays, Dandelions, Tiger Orchids, and Roses: Nature and its Symbolism

2 Good Flowers

3 Sego Lilies Probably the most significant dystopian flowers are the sego lilies of Matched. They’re described as beautiful white flowers that entrance Cassia’s plant-loving mother. They cost her her job, send Cassia out on her great adventure, and finally save Society. They are an image of beauty and nourishment but also the farmers’ rebellion.

4 Cassia’s Hill Cassia is drawn to flowers and trees as her mother is. “Flowers bloomed everywhere in colors we were not allowed to wear: pinks, yellows, reds, almost startling in their boldness. They drew the eye; they scented the air” (Matched 119). In contrast to the three pills are images of nature: sea, sky, plants, grass, red stone or red fish. Cassia treasures a cottonwood seed, with “mystery in it after all, in that little brown core.” (29).   Her romance with Ky develops in the last wilderness, despite the government’s attempts to pave it over. Ky teaches her to write with water droplets on leaves, and they bury a poem in the dirt together. The wilderness is where they kiss and declare their love. Cassia describes it as “the forest where the trees screen us and the birdcalls cover our voices. The entire Hill is complicit in our embrace.” (Matched 274) The government chops down the maple trees because they’re too uneven, like ordinary, natural plants. The saws sound like screams. They also clear and pave a path on the Hill, the last wild place around. By the trilogy’s end, all memory of the maple trees has been eradicated, and the hill is “bulldozed. Burned. Butchered…They’ve killed the Hill” (Reached 183). 

5 Delirium and the Wilds “Someday all the Wilds will be razed, and we will be left with a concrete landscape…a world of metal and gears, and people going tick tick tick to their deaths (Pandemonium 288). When she escapes, Hana steps into nature and feels reborn. “The air smells like spring, like wet earth and new growth. Birds call in the trees” (Requiem 374) Lena and her mother both race into the wilderness, seeing “broad, flat leaves like hands reaching for us” (Delirium 437)

6 Uglies: The Forest as Freedom
Uglies Graphic novel: Shay’s Story

7 Katniss “Katniss” is of course the cattail root, as she tells us. But it is a heavily nourishing plant, important to Katniss who sees herself as the provider for her family. “leaves like arrowheads” (Hunger Games 52). Of all the nourishing plants in the world, Katniss is probably the most arrowlike—a perfect match for our heroine. The roots don’t look like much, but are as nourishing as a potato (Hunger Games  52). Katniss, from District Twelve, likewise doesn’t look like much, but she’s just as good, it turns out, as any of the children from the wealthier districts. The plants of the forest are part of Katniss: “As long as you can find yourself, you’ll never starve,” her father teases (Hunger Games 52). While this is literally true, Katniss survives by keeping herself grounded—remembering who she is and what she cares for.

8 Everdeen Everdeen is also two letters off from “evergreen,” fitting well with the plant names of the outer districts.  Evergreen pines are eaten several times in the series, offering another wholesome plant in a world of starvation. Like the katniss plant, evergreens are sharp and pointed, in this case with rough needles and pinecones to defend themselves. They, like our heroine, thrive in areas of low nutrition. Evergreens symbolize a new beginning and reincarnation of the world into a newer, better year. This is a perfect symbol of Katniss Everdeen, remaker of the world. Suzanne Collins notes, “Katniss Everdeen owes her last name to Bathsheba Everdene, the lead character in Far from the Madding Crowd. The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts” (Jordan). Bathsheba, like Katniss, struggles between two such different men, one gentle and chaste and one more violent, temperamental, and experienced in romance.

9 Dandelions For Katniss, it will always be, as she says, “the dandelion that reminded me that I was not doomed,” the single flower she saw blooming in the school yard (Hunger Games 32). The one she saw in District Twelve was the first dandelion of the spring, and as such, the promise of hope and a season of food for Katniss and her family. Its tiny flower, blooming in the deadened schoolyard of District Twelve, reminds her that nature has power even in the ugliest of places. It gives her the courage to enter the forest alone and there she learns to feed her family. The fiercely jagged tooth shapes bordering its leaves give it its original French name of “Dent de Lion,” (lion’s tooth) later corrupted to “dandelion.” With a bright yellow lion’s head, it corresponds to Buttercup the cat and so the humble, natural Katniss herself. While it’s the leaves that are edible as a salad plant, the dandelion’s milky sap has long associated it with milk and nourishment in people’s minds. There is a folkloric tradition that placing dandelion leaves under a girl’s pillow will make her dream of her future husband, once again linking Peeta and Katniss’s romance through the dandelion that began it all. To Katniss, Peeta is a dandelion, her symbol of hope. Dandelions are as yellow as her candlelight dress, with pointy petals like a sun’s rays. They resemble a kind of fire, but a tiny, natural, life-sustaining one. They feed people rather than destroying them. Katniss calls him “the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses” (Mockingjay 388). And this is what they both mean to her.

10 Rue “Rue is a small yellow flower that grows in the meadow” (HG 99) like the dandelions of hope and survival. The rue is a small, hardy, evergreen plant; like our heroine Katniss, it flourishes with few nutrients. The rue plant was called the “death herb” as wreaths of it were laid on corpses’ necks to protect them (echoing Katniss’s decorations of flowers). It was called Herb-of-Grace because people sprinkled holy water with its brushes. Rue’s short life becomes a blessing and grace for Katniss. Its bitter acidic taste created the English verb “rue,” to sorrow or wish that something had never happened. Katniss indeed regrets the tragedy of Rue’s short life whenever she thinks of her through the series. Rue’s most famous literary reference is probably Shakespeare, as mad Ophelia hands the murderous King Claudius flowers, saying, There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. We may call it “herb of grace” o' Sundays.—Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference [for a different reason]. —Hamlet IV:v: Katniss echoes this moment when she gives Snow a white rose, the artificial Capitol flower that has always in her mind been linked with blood and death.

11 Primrose Everdeen The Primrose has a variety of medical uses. It’s also a softening agent in hand creams, contrasting with prickly Katniss. The very word—with the Latin prim or prime, meaning “first,” means the early or youthful rose. Prim is indeed a youthful girl in the spring of her life. This is how Katniss sees her—not a burden but a beautiful flower that she must protect. Like Prim herself, the plant is cheerful, lovely, and bright, often thriving in areas other plants don’t want. It will grow nearly everywhere, turning even ugly little patches of fairly useless dirt into gardens. Prim, too, thrives in an ugly, destructive environment. Primroses were used to protect children, as Prim herself does at the end of the final book, for “no evil spirits can touch anything protected by these flowers.” Dreaming of primroses meant sorrow and grief, and seeing them bloom out of season was a death-omen. The evening primrose represents eternal love, memory, youth, hope, and sadness. The nickname “prim” suggests proper behavior—Primrose follows the rules while rebellious Katniss does not. This nickname echoes her gentle goat, Lady.

12 Buttercup “The world’s ugliest cat” survives the three books— significant when Buttercup is read as the rough part of Katniss herself. The buttercup flower represents ingratitude and childishness, a good match for Buttercup’s personality. In the bomb shelter of District Thirteen, Katniss watches Buttercup bat a dancing light and realizes she has indeed become the cat, chasing the dangling image of Peeta. As the series ends, Buttercup returns with the spring just as Katniss takes the first steps to reclaim her life and goes hunting again. Though she screams at Buttercup, lashing out at him as she blames herself for the tragedies that surround her, Katniss and Buttercup finally cry together and reconcile, Buttercup protects Katniss through the night and Katniss heals him, finally loving the wild part of herself that has returned to defend her and love her in turn. Across the world, cats and lions are considered feminine, while in the Bible, the lion symbolizes courage, strength, and power, all traits Katniss finds within the wild part of herself. Katniss also thinks of herself as Catnip, the one who drives cats crazy just as she loathes Buttercup. In flower folklore, catnip brings courage.

13 Bad Flowers

14 Snow’s Roses Snow’s roses provide no nourishment, but only serve to conceal the blood-drenched scent of his breath. In fact, roses represent blood in folklore because of their deep red color. Snow rules a world of order and artificiality. His hybrid hothouse roses are “lush pink, sunset orange, and even pale blue” (Mockingjay 354). To Katniss, they’re like plant mutts, unnatural and changed. She describes entering the garden at last but “not touching, because I have learned the hard way how deadly these beauties can be” (Mockingjay 355). The greenhouse is a place of man’s power over nature, taming the environment and reshaping it for pleasure. Snow’s garden, like his dungeons, represents a place where flowers and flowerlike children are imprisoned and changed to suit his purposes. The white rose Katniss plucks there is a symbol of her own lost innocence, along with the innocence of Peeta, Rue, Prim, and all the others that have been lost. A white rose also represents martyrdom. By insisting he wear the rose to his death, she is blaming Snow for all the tragedy. It’s no wonder Coin is happy to pin it on him, literally and figuratively. Cassia’s newroses are similarly artificial, “hardy, showy, bred for durability” (Matched, 143) with a blunter scent. Surrounded by them, Cassia’s mother misses real wildflowers.

15 Tiger Orchids The white tiger orchids of the Uglies’ world mean death and destruction of the environment. A greedy Rusty genetically engineered them to make them hardier “to trade them for lots of stuff” but the plant became too successful and “turned into the ultimate weed” (Uglies 181). Further, Tally is nearly burned alive when she wanders into the orchid field. The old growth forest is strong enough to stop it, but the cultivated land where “The Rusties had already broken its back” is much more vulnerable.

16 The Apple “The devil stole into the Garden of Eden. He carried with him the disease—amor deliria nervosa—in the form of a seed. It grew and flowered into a magnificent apple tree, which bore apples as bright as blood.” (Revised Book of Genesis, Delirium 24) Nature with its red of knowledge and danger takes the blame for amor deliria nervosa but science has created the true evil and repression of their abusive society.

17 Birds as Freedom

18 Delirium and Birds “I’d thought that nothing and nobody was free in Portland, but I was wrong. There were always the birds,” Alex comments (Delirium 229). He adds that racing joyfully on her bike, Lena reminds him of those birds.

19 Cassia’s Birds On page one of Matched, Cassia dreams of flying, with wings that are not “white or feathered: they’re green, made of green silk (Matched 3). She hopes her green dress and Matching will offer her an escape. However, her lovely green dress is not an escape into freedom, just into obedience and conformity. Ky gives Cassia a piece of a Dylan Thomas poem that speaks of “birds of the winged trees flying my name” (Matched 257). Actual birds soar into the heavens all around them, and Ky kisses Cassia. Later, a little girl makes Cassia the first piece of art for her new world—a bird model fashioned from her scrap of green dress and crushed glass, shattered the way Cassia shattered hers to find freedom. Holding it, Cassia learns that others long to create as she does. She finds love and freedom, for, “In Ky’s eyes is such complete love and hunger that it goes through me like the sharp, high note of a bird in the canyon” (Reached 258)

20 Prim and Rue as Birds Katniss always pictures Rue with her arms spread, ready to take flight. The rue plant’s older Roman name Ruta means to set free, because this herb cures some diseases and poisons, as Rue herself cures Katniss’s tracker jacker stings. Prim is Katniss’s “little duck,” a gentle woodland creature needing protection.

21 Peeta Mellark Melark might be a portmanteau (or squashing-together) of “meadowlark,” a nature symbol like so many names of District Twelve. The lark is a symbol of merriment and joy as it sings to welcome the daybreak. It symbolizes Peeta’s freedom of expression. His last name also resembles “malarkey,” a word for misleading speech or foolishness, like “tomfoolery” or “fiddlesticks.” Katniss notes how Peeta always makes people feel better: “Ironic, encouraging, a little funny, but not at anyone’s expense” (M 299). Though Peeta jokes and lifts Katniss’s spirits, he’s not excessively foolish—but that’s what Katniss must come to realize. Before the Games, she easily dismisses him as dead weight. In time, however, she comes to value him and even his laughter. “This is why they’ve made it this far. Haymitch and Peeta. Nothing throws them,” Katniss thinks as the men joke loudly to distract suspicious Peacekeepers (CF 156).

22 Dark Omens Birds come to symbolize freedom in a world of tyranny and oppression: Tris tattoos them on herself as she enters the Dauntless faction. However, crows or ravens (symbolically considered the same) are ill omens. Both are black, but more importantly, after wars the birds would scavenge battlefields and eat the flesh of the dead. Thus they came to mean death and dark times. When Tris chooses them to represent her family, she may sense the darkness that’s coming. Cassia, too sees “a thick cluster of black birds” near a poisoned lake, and immediately discovers her poems are gone.

23 Tris’s Great Fear Tris’s great fear is a flock of crows tearing her apart. In the simulation vision, first one crow clings to her with fragile feathers and stubborn claws (perhaps her mother, still clinging to her despite everything) Then a flock of hundreds of crows attack, drawing blood and choking her with feathers. Tris has hundreds of former faction members from Abnegation. They are the leaders, the adults ruling the system. And if she reveals she’s Divergent, they may be the ones to kill her. However, as Four reveals, crows certainly represent something else. When he sees her tattoo, which he identifies as crows, he believes her family is tied to her hallucination (Divergent 248). Tris suspects the “terror and helplessness” are what she really fears (Divergent 251). By this point, Tris’s family is dividing and entering danger. In the next chapter, Peter and Molly attack her family through Tris and her fear comes true (Divergent 243). Later, Tris dreams her mother is cooking a crow for dinner. Tris wakes to discover Al has killed himself. If a dead crow represents the first of her friends to die, then the crows indeed are loved ones and dark omens combined. By book’s end, Tris is killing crows in her simulation and reclaiming her power. The author commented, “No, the crows doesn’t symbolize anything in particular. They’re just a scary, uncontrollable force.” However, she added, “I don’t really think of things in symbolic terms as I write.” ( In fact symbolism doesn’t have to be deliberate—if it’s open to interpretation, strong meanings (not always evident to the author) can appear.

24 Other Nature Symbols

25 Gale A mighty wind that can blow down houses and mighty trees. Gale as a revolutionary is just such an uncontrolled force as he demands the deaths of everyone in the Capitol and in District Two. As an unrestrained gale, he harms both sides in the war. Granger has a different take: “Gale, the man of the woods, free and unbound except for his family obligations, is an embodiment of Nature, a ‘gale force wind’ of spirit and the experience of natural beauty.” (“Unlocking ‘The Hunger Games’”) Sweet gale or myrica gale (also known as bayberry) is a bushy shrub with bitter leaves. It’s versatile for many rural uses just as Gale himself is an excellent trapper, hunter, and gatherer: The branches can be used for beer making, and the cones, for candlewax, the leaves for scenting sheets, the bark for tanning skins.

26 Gale For his last name, the hawthorn is a thorny shrub in the rose family. It is called Crataegus Oxyacantha from the Greek kratos, meaning hardness (of the wood), oxcus (sharp), and akantha (a thorn). A “hard, sharp thorn” is a good description of Gale himself. The hawthorn was one of the Three Sacred Trees beloved by fairies (oak and ash being the others). These three trees combine to make magic, rather like the threesome who become the heroes of Panem. As a fairy tree, the hawthorn carries many superstitions—harming the tree leads to death, but those who care for nature will be rewarded by the fairies. Those who destroy Gale’s home find themselves caught in the fury of his retribution with savage fighting and deadly traps. At the same time, some country villagers believe hawthorn blossoms still bear the smell of the Great Plague of London, thanks to their aroma of decomposition. The bushes are associated with death and graves, as the unlucky thorns were said to spring from dead men’s dust.

27 Madge Undersee and Mags
Both variations on Margaret, these first names mean “pearl.” Pearls are a symbol of hidden value in the story, with Peeta’s gift and Effie Trinket’s comment that the children of District Twelve may have unexpected talents because “If you put enough pressure on coal, it turns to pearls” (Hunger Games 74). Katniss indeed discounts Madge as rich and worthless, and Mags as elderly and frail. But she’s proven wrong in the story. Madge’s aunt died in the Games, and her pin goes on to win Rue’s trust and make Katniss the Mockingjay. Madge is finally killed because like Katniss, she is a child of the humble District Twelve. Mags too is a survivor, veteran of a previous Game and very handy with making fishhooks, swimming, and scavenging food. She sacrifices herself to save Katniss and her friends.

28 President  Snow Actual snow is of course frigid and can kill, in the same way katniss can nourish. Snow is the enemy of food plants, flowers, harvests, and growth, though it does far less to inconvenience those living in cities.

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