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Understanding “Marigolds”

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1 Understanding “Marigolds”

2 Who is the author? Eugenia Collier (b. 1928) is an award-winning writer and critic best known for her 1969 short story "Marigolds," which won the Gwendolyn Brooks Prize for Fiction award.

3 Setting/Geography What is the setting of the story?
a poor section of rural Maryland What is the social setting/time period of the story? the United States in the midst of the Depression More? Dust everywhere, dirt roads, shanty/ramshackle homes colored dull gray, yards and roads colored brown Describe the weather/season. Late summer Consider the hour it’s just after 4 A.M. What are some characteristics of time just before dawn? Four o’clock in the morning is a time when few people are awake and it is still mostly dark. It is a time when a person who is awake can easily feel “alone in the world.” The early hour tends to isolate Lizabeth and makes the reader wonder what she plans to do. How does all of this affect our character(s)? “smoldering emotions of that summer swelled” (8; parag. 58).

4 Setting/Geography Continued…
Describe Miss Lottie’s house? the most wretched, and her “queer headed” son on the porch adds to the impression of lowliness What does this tell us about her character? house is a reflection of her social standing, which is probably lower than Lizabeth’s How does all of this affect plot? The setting acts as an intrinsic part of the characters motivations for behaving in the manner in which they do.

5 Conflicts characters encounter
Person vs. person Boxers, a debate Person vs. self Liar, Liar with Jim Carey Person vs. nature Castaway, Survivor Man Person vs. society Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Person vs. machine or technology Matrix Person vs. the supernatural Haunted Mansion

6 Conflicts… In most stories one of the opposing sides is human.
Almost always the central character engaged in the conflict is the one with whom readers identify, for they want to see how and why the tension is resolved. This character, whether hero or villain, is called the protagonist. The force opposing the protagonist is called the antagonist.

7 Word origins Pro--for, in front of Anti--against Agonistes--actor

8 Character Who is our PROTAGONIST? Is she a ROUND or a FLAT character?
How does she illustrate the complexities found in real people? She is confused, she acts before thinking How old is Lizabeth? Why is her age significant in the story? 14-going-on-15 How old is Lizabeth as she narrates her story? How does this affect the point-of-view, tone and mood of the story?

9 Character continued… Who is the ANTAGONIST? Who is Miss Lottie?
She is a big frame woman; she has smooth, reddish-brown skin. She has Indian-like features. She is very unemotional in her facial expression. She didn’t like intruders and she never left her yard nor did she have any visitors. What conclusions can you draw from her description about the likelihood that Miss Lottie will punish the children for their actions? She won’t punish them because she is very old and she moves slowly. Why do you think the children “pick on” Miss Lottie? They know that she is powerless and that she won’t be able to do anything to them because she can’t catch them.

10 Character continued… Describe Miss Lottie’s son, John Burke.
“ageless…in a mindless stupor…but he would become enraged” (5, parag. 20). Is he ROUND or FLAT? How is he important to the story? He adds to the setting of decay and limits Miss Lottie’s freedom to break away and find a better life.

11 Internal Conflict/Person vs. Self
Central Conflict Identify the conflict Lizabeth struggles with following the attack on Miss Lottie. She is torn between feeling sorry for attacking Miss Lottie and feeling that she somehow had a right to attack her. What feelings are at the root of her conflict? Deep down, Lizabeth knows she behaved childishly and she is angry at herself for doing so. Summarize the conversation that Lizabeth overhears. She overhears her father crying and her perception of her father changes drastically. How does the sound of her father’s crying affect her? It makes her feel confused, helpless, and angry. Internal Conflict/Person vs. Self

12 Plot Development Exposition: … Falling Action Resolution/ Denouement
Rising Action Climax Falling Action Resolution/ Denouement Exposition:

13 Plot Development Rising Action: … Falling Action Resolution/
Exposition Rising Action Climax Falling Action Resolution/ Denouement Rising Action: Identify how the story changes. At the top of page 78, starting with “I was loafing…” to “…Y’all got ‘em all while they was still green.” It shifts its focus from present daydreams to past events, and characters and dialogue are added.

14 Plot Development Climax:
Exposition Rising Action Climax Falling Action Resolution/ Denouement Climax: The climax occurs when Lizabeth returns to Miss Lottie’s garden and destroys it. (p.84) Here is where Lizabeth loses control and strike out as a result of the conflicts she has been struggling with. How does Lizabeth change in the moment she comes face to face with Miss Lottie? What does she recognize in Miss Lottie’s face? Lizabeth realizes that as hard as her life is, Miss Lottie’s life is much more difficult and without hope – she is able to feel compassion for Miss Lottie.

15 Plot Development Falling Action: … Falling Action Resolution/
Exposition Rising Action Climax Falling Action Resolution/ Denouement Falling Action:

16 Plot Development Resolution Denouement: … Falling Action Resolution/
Exposition Rising Action Climax Falling Action Resolution/ Denouement Resolution Denouement:

17 Symbol Interpret what marigolds symbolized to Miss Lottie?
For Miss Lottie, the marigolds were a symbol of beauty and hope in an otherwise hopeless environment. What do they symbolize for Lizabeth as a child? They symbolize the beginning of her life as an adult. Why are the marigolds important to the adult narrator, Lisabeth? They may serve as a reminder of her past and her lack of humility as well as the beginning of her adult life.

18 Critical Thinking Why does Lizabeth destroy the flowers?
She is disturbed by her father’s frustration and by her own changing emotion Why does Miss Lottie never plant marigolds again, despite Lizabeth’s “wild contrition” – her sincere remorse? Lizabeth’s destruction of the marigolds also destroyed Miss Lottie’s last hope and desire to create beauty. Lizabeth “defeated” Miss Lottie. What do you think the narrator means at the end of the story when she says that she too has planted marigolds? She has also tried to create beauty amid ugly circumstances. She has tried not to get depressed even in hopeless situations. What does the narrator mean when she says “old fears have a way of clinging like cobwebs”? People keep irrational childhood fears even after they’re old enough to know that the fears foolish. What type of literary device is this? simile What were your reactions when you finished reading the story?

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