What Did the Marigolds Symbolize to Lizabeth? Exploring the Depiction of Flowers in “Marigolds” by Eugenia Collier

Marigolds are not just mere flowers for Lizabeth – they hold a much deeper meaning for her. These bright yellow and orange blooms represent something poignantly significant in Lizabeth’s life. In her eyes, the marigolds symbolize hope, beauty, and the possibility of a better tomorrow.

For Lizabeth, these marigolds aren’t just a pretty sight; they are iconic of her aspirations and dreams. Looking at these beautifully vibrant flowers, she feels encouraged to envisage a future that is bright and hopeful, free from the harsh realities of her present. The marigolds symbolize something she yearns for, but is not yet capable of articulating – a life of joy, happiness, and comfort.

As she gazes at the marigolds, she feels drawn to their cheerful and sunny personalities, and a sense of confidence wells up inside her, convincing her that hope is not lost. To Lizabeth, these marvelous blossoms are not just a source of beauty, but also a promise of a better and brighter future – a future that is worth striving for. The marigolds represent everything that she wants in life, and she is determined to achieve that vision.

The significance of marigolds in literature and culture

Marigolds have long been an important symbol in literature and culture, representing various meanings and themes, including the following:

  • Promoting positivity: Marigolds are often associated with positive energy, joy, and happiness. In cultural events, such as the Day of the Dead in Mexico, marigolds are used to create intricate altars to honor ancestors and promote positive feelings.
  • Celebrating milestones: Marigolds are also used to celebrate milestones in life, such as a birthday or anniversary. In many cultures, a garland of marigolds is used to adorn the head of the celebrant as a symbol of honor and respect.
  • Enduring strength: Marigolds are known for their beautiful, strong, and resilient nature. In literature, they are often a symbol of perseverance and endurance through hardships.

One well-known literary work where marigolds have a significant role is “Marigolds” by Eugenia Collier. The story is set in rural Maryland during the Great Depression, and revolves around a young African American girl named Lizabeth. She encounters many challenges as a child, including poverty and racism, and takes out her anger and frustration by destroying her neighbor’s marigolds. However, towards the end of the story, she realizes the significance of these flowers and uses them to symbolize hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

Yellow colorPositivity, joy, happiness
Orange colorCourage, strength, endurance
BeautyRespect, admiration, honor

Overall, marigolds are a powerful symbol that can represent various meanings depending on the context they are used in. From promoting positivity to celebrating milestones and representing enduring strength, marigolds have a significant place in literature and culture.

The historical uses of marigolds for medicinal purposes

The marigold plant, also known as Calendula officinalis, has been used for centuries for medicinal purposes. Here are some of the historical uses:

  • Wound healing: Marigold has been used to promote skin healing and prevent infection in wound care. It is believed to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe and protect the skin.
  • Oral health: Marigold has been used in traditional medicine to alleviate toothaches and improve oral health. Its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties may help reduce swelling and pain associated with oral infections.
  • Gastrointestinal issues: Marigold has been used to treat digestive issues, such as ulcers, gastritis, and diarrhea. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that can help reduce inflammation and infection in the gut.

In addition to these uses, marigold has also been used to treat a variety of other ailments, such as menstrual cramps, skin conditions, and respiratory issues.

Marigold can be consumed in various forms, including teas, tinctures, and topical creams. Its medicinal properties can also be found in supplements and herbal remedies. However, it is important to note that while marigold may have various health benefits, it should not be used as a replacement for medical treatment.


The marigold plant has a rich history of use in traditional medicine for its various health benefits. Its medicinal properties have been used to treat a range of issues, including wound healing, oral health, and gastrointestinal problems. While marigold can be a valuable addition to a holistic health approach, it should always be used in conjunction with medical treatment as needed.

Benefits of Marigold for Medicinal PurposesHow It Works
Wound healingAntimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties soothe and protect the skin
Oral healthAntiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties reduce swelling and pain associated with oral infections
Gastrointestinal issuesAnti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties reduce inflammation and infection in the gut

Table: Benefits of Marigold for Medicinal Purposes and How It Works

The Symbolism of Flowers in General

Flowers have been used as symbols for centuries, often carrying deep meaning and significance beyond their physical beauty. They have been used to express emotions, communicate cultural traditions, and convey messages in various settings, including weddings, funerals, and religious ceremonies.

Common Symbolism of Flowers

  • Roses: often associated with love and romance
  • Lilies: symbolize purity and innocence
  • Sunflowers: represent loyalty and adoration

The Power of Color

The colors of flowers also carry their own symbolism. For example, red flowers symbolize passion and love, while blue flowers are associated with peace and tranquility. White flowers often represent purity and innocence, while black or dark-colored flowers may symbolize death or mourning.

The meanings of colors can vary across cultures and religions, so it’s important to understand their significance in the context of the specific setting and audience.

The Language of Flowers

In addition to color and type, flowers can also be used to convey messages through a system known as floriography or the “language of flowers.” In this system, specific flowers and their arrangements are used to convey coded messages that only the sender and receiver understand. For example, a bouquet of red roses could signify passionate love, while a bouquet of yellow roses could symbolize friendship or apology.


As with the symbolism of flowers as a whole, the meanings behind the language of flowers can vary across cultures and time periods, adding to the complexity and richness of the floral symbolism.

The Role of Nature in the Short Story “Marigolds”

Nature plays a significant role in the short story “Marigolds” by Eugenia Collier. The story is set during the Great Depression in a poor African American community, and the barren landscape suggests the hopelessness and despair of the time. However, even amidst this desolation, the author uses nature to symbolize hope and the possibility of renewal.

What Do the Marigolds Symbolize to Lizabeth?

  • Symbol of Beauty – Lizabeth is drawn to the bright, orange marigolds that bloom in Ms. Lottie’s barren garden. The marigolds become a symbol of beauty and life amidst the poverty and hopelessness of the community.
  • Symbol of Destruction – Lizabeth’s rage and frustration at her family’s poverty and her own powerlessness to change her situation lead her to destroy the marigolds. The act of destruction is a symbol of her own despair and hopelessness.
  • Symbol of Regret – After destroying the marigolds, Lizabeth feels a sense of regret and guilt. The marigolds, which once symbolized hope and beauty, now symbolize the destruction and despair that she feels.

Nature as a Symbol of Hope and Renewal

Despite the poverty and despair that the characters in “Marigolds” face, the author uses nature to symbolize hope and the possibility of renewal. The blooming marigolds in Ms. Lottie’s garden represent the resilience of life, even in difficult circumstances. The arrival of rain at the end of the story also symbolizes the possibility of new growth and renewal.

Furthermore, the author uses the changing seasons to symbolize the cyclical nature of life. The arrival of autumn and the falling leaves represent the end of one cycle, but also the beginning of a new one.

The Contrast Between Nature and Human Suffering

In “Marigolds,” the barren landscape and the poverty of the community stand in sharp contrast to the beauty and resilience of nature. This contrast emphasizes the suffering and despair experienced by the characters, while also highlighting the possibility of hope and renewal that nature represents.

Elements of NatureSymbolism
MarigoldsBeauty, Destruction, Regret
RainNew Growth, Renewal
Autumn, Falling LeavesThe End of One Cycle, The Beginning of a New One

Overall, the use of nature in the short story “Marigolds” highlights the themes of hope and renewal, even in the midst of suffering and despair. The marigolds, in particular, serve as a powerful symbol of beauty, destruction, and ultimately, regret. By contrasting the beauty and resilience of nature with the hardship of the characters’ lives, the author highlights the possibility of hope and new beginnings amidst difficulty.

The Impact of Poverty on the Characters in the Story

In the short story “Marigolds” by Eugenia W. Collier, poverty is a dominant theme that affects the lives of the characters. Set during the Great Depression in the United States, the story explores how poverty can impact different aspects of a person’s life, including their emotions, relationships, and perspectives on the world.

  • Lack of opportunities: Poverty limits Lizabeth’s opportunities in life, leading her to feel helpless and frustrated. She is unable to pursue her dreams or break out of the cycle of poverty, leaving her feeling trapped and hopeless.
  • Desperation: The characters in the story are driven to desperation due to their poverty. Lizabeth’s father is unable to find work and provide for his family, leading him to drink and become abusive. This desperation also drives Lizabeth to destroy Miss Lottie’s marigolds, as a way to release her anger and frustration.
  • Impact on relationships: Poverty affects the relationships between the characters in the story. Lizabeth’s mother is forced to work long hours and is unable to spend time with her family. Lizabeth and her brother are left to fend for themselves, leading to resentment and a sense of isolation.

One of the key symbols in the story is the marigolds, which represent hope and beauty in the midst of poverty and despair. Lizabeth’s destruction of the marigolds is symbolic of her loss of hope and her inability to see any beauty in her life. However, the final scene of the story suggests that there is still hope for Lizabeth and her family, as they begin to see the marigolds in a new light.

ThemeExample in the Story
Lack of opportunitiesLizabeth’s inability to pursue her dreams due to poverty
DesperationLizabeth’s father’s inability to provide for his family
Impact on relationshipsLizabeth’s mother’s long work hours affecting her relationship with her family

In conclusion, “Marigolds” demonstrates how poverty can have a profound impact on the lives of individuals and communities, shaping their experiences and perspectives. Through exploring the themes of poverty and hope, the story raises questions about the nature of the human condition and the way we interpret the world around us.

The theme of maturity and coming of age in “Marigolds”

One of the prominent themes in “Marigolds” is the idea of maturity and coming of age. Throughout the story, we see how Lizabeth grapples with the complexities of growing up in a world that is both confusing and cruel.

As Lizabeth witnesses the destruction of Miss Lottie’s marigolds, she begins to understand the weight of her actions and the importance of empathy. This realization marks a significant moment in her coming of age, where she starts to empathize with not only Miss Lottie but also her own mother, who she had been at odds with before.

  • The destruction of Miss Lottie’s marigolds symbolizes the destruction of innocence and the harsh realities of the world.
  • Lizabeth’s actions and subsequent remorse highlight the importance of empathy and understanding in a world plagued by injustice.
  • The story emphasizes the need for individuals to recognize their own actions and the impact they have on others, especially as they navigate their own maturity.

Lizabeth’s journey towards maturity is further highlighted by her decision to act maturely in the face of adversity. When her father returns home in a drunken rage, Lizabeth chooses to handle the situation calmly, demonstrating her newfound sense of responsibility.

The following table shows Lizabeth’s actions and their significance in her coming of age:

Destroyed Miss Lottie’s marigoldsRealized the weight of her actions and importance of empathy
Showed maturity in handling her father’s drunken rageDemonstrated responsibility and self-awareness in the face of adversity

In conclusion, “Marigolds” is a powerful representation of the struggles that come with maturity and coming of age. Through Lizabeth’s journey, we are reminded of the importance of empathy, responsibility, and self-awareness in navigating the complexities of life.

The use of metaphors in the story to convey deeper meanings

One of the most striking literary devices that the author, Eugenia W. Collier used in the story was the use of metaphors to convey deeper meanings. Through the use of metaphors, Collier painted a vivid image in the reader’s mind and effectively communicated the emotional state of the protagonist, Lizabeth.

One metaphor that stood out in the story was the symbolism of the marigolds. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the marigolds represent hope and beauty in the midst of despair.

  • The marigolds were the only spot of beauty in Lizabeth’s world of poverty and ugliness.
  • They also represented the innocence that Lizabeth was losing as she transitioned into adulthood and began to understand the harsh realities of life.
  • The destruction of the marigolds represented the final loss of innocence and hope for Lizabeth, and the acceptance of the bleakness of her reality.

Another metaphor used in the story was the symbol of the door. The door represented the possibility of escape and a brighter future for Lizabeth. The closed door represented the hopelessness of her situation and the feeling of being trapped.

Additionally, the number 7 was a recurring motif in the story. Collier used this number as a metaphor to represent the different stages of life.

Age of LizabethEvent in the StoryThe Significance of 7
7Lizabeth becomes aware of the poverty and ugliness of her worldAge of reason and awareness
14Lizabeth experiences the loss of innocence and destruction of the marigoldsTwice 7, a sign of maturity and growth
21Lizabeth returns to her old neighborhood and reflects on her pastThree times 7, a sign of wisdom and reflection

The use of metaphors in the story was effective in conveying the emotional turmoil and growth of Lizabeth. It gave the story depth and helped the reader to understand the complex emotions of the protagonist.

The Relationship Between the Protagonist and Her Brother in the Story

“Marigolds” by Eugenia Collier is a short story about a young girl named Lizabeth who grows up in poverty during the Great Depression. Throughout the story, Lizabeth has a complex relationship with her younger brother, Joey, which is affected by their difficult circumstances.

  • At the beginning of the story, Lizabeth is frustrated with her brother for being childish and naïve about their situation. She resents having to take care of him, but also feels responsible for him and protective of him.
  • However, as the story progresses, Lizabeth begins to empathize with Joey and see the world from his perspective. She realizes that he is not just a burden, but also a source of joy and innocence in her life.
  • In the end, Lizabeth’s love for her brother is what prompts her to destroy the marigolds, which had come to symbolize her feelings of anger and hopelessness. By destroying the flowers, she is able to let go of her negative emotions and embrace a more hopeful outlook on life.

The Symbolic Importance of the Marigolds to Lizabeth

Throughout the story, the marigolds symbolize Lizabeth’s feelings of frustration, anger, and despair. She sees them as a physical manifestation of the poverty and hopelessness that surround her life.

However, as the story progresses, Lizabeth’s relationship with the marigolds becomes more complex. She begins to see them as a symbol not just of her own despair, but also of the beauty and resilience of life.

The Theme of Growing Up

“Marigolds” is a story about the challenges of growing up and coming of age in difficult circumstances. Lizabeth’s experiences with poverty and familial conflict force her to confront the harsh realities of life at a young age.

However, the story also shows how Lizabeth is able to find hope and resilience in the face of adversity. By destroying the marigolds and embracing a more positive outlook on life, she is able to take a step towards maturity and personal growth.

The Role of Imagery in the Story

MarigoldsDespair and hopelessness
Joey’s SwingingInnocence, joy, and freedom
The Empty LotBarrenness and poverty

“Marigolds” is a story that makes extensive use of imagery to convey its themes and messages. The marigolds themselves are an example of this, as they symbolize both despair and hope.

Other examples of powerful imagery in the story include the image of Joey swinging in the yard, which represents innocence and freedom, and the empty lot where the marigolds grow, which symbolizes the barrenness and poverty of Lizabeth’s life.

The effects of social inequality and racism in the story

Toni Cade Bambara’s short story “The Lesson” explores the harsh realities of life for poor African American children during the 1960s in New York City. The story deals with themes of social inequality and racism, which are evident throughout the narrative. For the protagonist, Lizabeth, the marigolds symbolize the hopelessness and despair that people living in poverty experience as a direct result of these societal issues.

  • Education Divide: Throughout the story, the divide between the rich and the poor is highlighted by the students’ visit to an expensive toy store in the city. This divide also manifests in education, where schools in poorer neighborhoods receive less funding and resources than those in wealthier areas. This disparity in education has a detrimental effect on Lizabeth’s perception of herself and her future.
  • Racism: Racism is present throughout the story, evidenced by the white salesperson’s hostility towards the young African American students who visit the store. Racism is also evident in the tenement buildings, which are a result of redlining policies that denied African American families access to housing in certain areas of the city.
  • Poverty: Poverty is a significant issue in the story and affects Lizabeth’s sense of hope for her future. The marigolds symbolize the ugliness of poverty and the belief that some people cannot escape it. Lizabeth’s family lives in a small, cramped apartment without even a proper bed, and her mother works multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Lizabeth’s growing sense of hopelessness and despair is evident throughout the story’s progression. She becomes disillusioned with her community and the people in it, even taking her frustration out on the neighbor’s family garden – including the symbolic marigold flowers. Through Lizabeth’s experience, the story highlights the devastating effects of social inequality and racism on individuals and communities alike.

Effects of social inequality and racism in “The Lesson”
Education divide leaves poorer neighborhoods disadvantaged.
Racism is evident in the store and in housing policies.
Poverty affects individuals and communities, making escape seem impossible.

In conclusion, the marigolds in Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson” symbolize the hopelessness and despair that come as a result of social inequality and racism. Lizabeth’s experience highlights the devastating effects that these issues have on individuals and communities, and serve as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to create a more equitable society.

The Importance of Setting and Atmosphere in “Marigolds”

The short story “Marigolds” by Eugenia Collier takes place in a rural African-American community during the Great Depression. The setting and atmosphere play a vital role in the narrative by creating a sense of hopelessness, desperation, and destruction, which reflect the characters’ emotions. The destructive and bleak setting brings forward the themes of poverty, hopelessness, and loss of innocence.

  • Symbolic Marigolds: The marigolds, in the story, symbolize hope, beauty, and the potential for a better future amidst the oppressive environment of poverty and racism. The narrator, Lizabeth, understands the symbolic importance of the flowers only after she violently destroys them in anger, reflecting the loss of innocence and hope in the face of despair.
  • Contrast: The juxtaposition of the barren, dusty landscape with the vibrant, colorful marigolds creates a striking contrast. This contrast highlights the adversities the characters face and the impact of oppression on their own perception of beauty in life.
  • Atmosphere: The story’s atmosphere is heavy with hopelessness and desperation, which reflects the difficult circumstances of the characters. Lizabeth’s changing emotions towards the adults in the story highlights the complexity of human nature and the struggle to survive in a bleak environment.

The setting and atmosphere of “Marigolds” play a significant role in providing context and depth to the story. The detailed and vivid descriptions of the environment allow the readers to experience the struggles and emotions of the characters, creating a world that enhances the narrative’s impact.

Another aspect of the setting that adds to the atmosphere of the story is the use of minor characters. The minor characters like Miss Lottie, her mentally challenged son, and the children in Lizabeth’s neighborhood allow the readers to understand the impact of the Great Depression on wider society. Their struggles and despair contribute to the overall atmosphere of hopelessness and magnify Lizabeth’s growing awareness of the terrible situation around her.

Symbolism of marigolds to Lizabeth

HopeThe marigolds represent a beacon of hope in a bleak and destructive environment for Lizabeth. She realizes their symbolic importance after she destroys them.
InnocenceLizabeth’s destruction of the marigolds symbolizes the loss of her and the other children’s innocence in the face of the struggles their parents and society control.
BeautyThe marigolds represent a glimpse of beauty amidst the oppressive environment of poverty and racism. Lizabeth and the other children see the flowers as a symbol of beauty and hope.

The marigolds in “Marigolds” represent the hope, innocence, and beauty the characters struggle to retain in the face of the adversarial environment. Eugenia Collier uses symbolism to indicate the broader perception the readers should take from the story, not just interpreting the tale at face value.

FAQs: What Did the Marigolds Symbolize to Lizabeth?

1. What were the marigolds used for in “Marigolds” by Eugenia W. Collier?
In the story, “Marigolds,” the marigolds symbolized hope, innocence, and childhood.

2. What did Lizabeth’s dad say about the marigolds?
Lizabeth’s father said that the marigolds were the only beautiful things in their yard and that they reminded him of his own childhood.

3. Why did Lizabeth destroy the marigolds?
Lizabeth destroyed the marigolds because she was overwhelmed with emotions and anger towards her family’s poverty and her chaotic world.

4. Did Lizabeth regret destroying the marigolds?
Yes, after realizing the significance of the marigolds, Lizabeth deeply regretted her actions.

5. What did the marigolds symbolize to Lizabeth after she destroyed them?
After she destroyed the marigolds, Lizabeth realized that they symbolized love and beauty, and they also represented a form of hope that anything was possible.

6. How did the marigolds impact Lizabeth’s growth and maturity?
The marigolds represented a turning point in Lizabeth’s development. She learned that she could not destroy beauty and hope and that she needed to accept her impoverished surroundings.

7. What message did the author intend to convey through the marigolds?
Eugenia W. Collier used the marigolds as a metaphor for hope and beauty in the midst of despair, and to show that even in the most difficult circumstances, people can find something to cling on to and move forward.

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