What Do the Glass Roses Symbolize? Understanding the Meaning Behind Tocher’s Iconic Creation

Have you ever heard of the glass roses? These elusive and mysterious symbols have made their way into literature and pop culture for generations. But what exactly do they represent? Personally, I believe that the glass roses represent an individual’s pursuit of beauty in the face of adversity.

Think about it – glass is a fragile and delicate material that can shatter at any moment. And yet, someone took the time and effort to create a rose out of this material. To me, this represents the ability to find beauty and strength even in the midst of chaos.

Furthermore, the fact that these roses are made out of glass adds an element of transience to their symbolism. Just like a glass flower can break at any moment, the beauty that we find in life can be fleeting. Therefore, the glass roses represent the importance of cherishing and appreciating the moments of beauty and strength that we encounter in life, even if they are temporary.

Literary Analysis of “The Glass Roses”

“The Glass Roses,” written by Alden Nowlan, is a short story that explores the themes of masculinity, tradition and the struggle to break free from societal expectations. The protagonist, Stephen, is conflicted with his father’s expectation for him to be a “man,” and his own desire to transcend traditional gendered roles. Throughout the story, the symbol of glass roses is used to represent Stephen’s internal struggle.

  • Symbolism of Glass Roses: The glass roses, crafted by Stephen’s crush and coworker, Leka, represent a delicate and fragile beauty that is unseen in the harsh and rough landscape of the woods. They also symbolize the idealizations of femininity, a characteristic that Stephen is attracted to but cannot conform to. The glass roses serve as a constant reminder of Stephen’s struggle between his duty to be a “man” and his own desires to be himself.

The glass roses also represent the tension between Stephen and his father, who values masculinity and strength above all else. Stephen, like the glass roses, is seen as fragile and weak in the eyes of his father. Stephen’s father emphasizes physical strength and manual labor while disregarding Stephen’s love for reading and desire for something different. The glass roses, similar to Stephen, are beautiful but are deemed useless and undesirable in his father’s eyes.

Overall, the symbol of the glass roses in “The Glass Roses” serves as a representation of the struggle to break free from cultural norms and expectations. The glass roses are a reminder of Stephen’s internal struggle for personal identity, masculinity, and the pressures to conform.

Symbolism in Canadian literature

In Canadian literature, symbolism is often used to convey deeper meanings and themes. One common symbol used by Canadian authors is the glass rose. This delicate and fragile flower has different connotations depending on the context in which it is used.

  • Fragility and vulnerability: The glass rose is often used to symbolize fragility and vulnerability. As a material, glass is easily shattered and can break with the slightest touch. Similarly, the glass rose represents the delicate nature of human emotions and relationships. In the short story “The Glass Roses” by Alden Nowlan, the protagonist Stephen struggles with the idea of masculinity and toughens up by working in the woods with his father. However, he realizes that being tough does not mean ignoring his emotions and ends up breaking the glass rose that he had kept as a symbol of his own vulnerability.
  • Artificiality: Since glass roses are not natural, they also represent artificiality. In Canadian literature, this artificiality can refer to the way in which society imposes norms and expectations, forcing individuals to conform and be something they are not. In Michael Ondaatje’s novel “In the Skin of a Lion,” the character Alice reflects on her job of making glass eyes for dolls and realizes how this perfectly captures her feelings of not being able to express herself and the artificiality of her life.

The use of the glass rose as a symbol has become a hallmark of Canadian literature, with many writers employing it to convey their ideas and themes. Its beauty, fragility, and artificiality have resonated with readers, making it a timeless symbol that will continue to be used in Canadian literature for years to come.

Character Analysis of the Protagonist, Stephen

Stephen is the main character in the short story “The Glass Roses” by Alden Nowlan. He is a fifteen-year-old boy who lives in a rural community in Canada during the 1930s. Throughout the story, Stephen experiences a lot of emotional turmoil as he struggles with his identity and beliefs.

Symbolism of the Glass Roses

  • The glass roses in the story symbolize fragility, beauty, and artificiality. They represent the idea that things can appear beautiful and perfect on the surface, but in reality, they are fragile and easily broken.
  • Stephen’s father, who is a rough and tough man, values strength and masculinity. He believes that Stephen should be “manly” and work in the lumber camps. However, Stephen is drawn to the delicate beauty of the glass roses, which represents his desire to be more sensitive and artistic.
  • The glass roses also symbolize Stephen’s conflict with his father and his attempts to reconcile his own identity with his father’s expectations. Stephen feels torn between his desire to be like his father and his longing to be true to himself.

Stephen’s Internal Struggle

Stephen’s internal struggle is a major theme in the story. He is torn between his desire to please his father and his longing to be true to himself. Stephen is a sensitive and artistic boy who is just discovering his own identity, but his father does not understand or appreciate his interests. Stephen’s father sees him as weak and unmanly because he is not interested in working in the lumber camps.

Stephen’s internal conflict is highlighted in the scene where he breaks the glass roses. Stephen is angry with his father, but he also feels guilty for betraying his expectations. Breaking the glass roses represents Stephen’s attempt to reconcile his true identity with his father’s expectations.

Stephen’s Relationship with his Father

Stephen’s relationship with his father is strained throughout the story. Stephen wants to make his father proud, but he also wants to be true to himself. His father values strength and masculinity above all else, which puts a lot of pressure on Stephen to conform to his expectations.

The table below summarizes Stephen’s relationship with his father:

CharacterStephenStephen’s Father
ValuesSensitivity, artistic expressionStrength, masculinity
ExpectationsTo work in the lumber camps and be “manly”To be strong and independent
ConflictTorn between his desire to be true to himself and his desire to please his fatherStruggles to understand Stephen’s sensitivity and artistic nature

Ultimately, Stephen’s internal conflict and his strained relationship with his father highlight the difficult journey of self-discovery that many teenagers experience. The glass roses symbolize the delicate balance between who we are and who we want to be, and the struggle to reconcile those two identities.

The Role of Masculinity in the Story

In “The Glass Roses” by Alden Nowlan, masculinity plays a significant role in the story, particularly in the character of Stephen, the protagonist.

  • Stephen’s father expects him to become a “real man” and work in the woods, but Stephen feels more of a kinship with his mother and her delicate glass roses.
  • Stephen’s interactions with his father and other men in the story reveal deep-seated societal expectations of what it means to be a man.
  • Stephen struggles with feelings of inadequacy and a belief that he is not living up to his father’s expectations.

However, it is important to note that the story does not entirely condemn masculinity or traditional gender roles. Instead, it presents a nuanced exploration of the complexities of gender and identity.

The glass roses themselves can be seen as a symbol of the tension between traditional notions of masculinity and sensitivity. The fragile and delicate nature of the glass roses represents femininity and vulnerability but also points to the inherent value and beauty of such qualities.

Traditional MasculinityAlternative Masculinity
Physical strengthEmotional intelligence

The story ultimately suggests that true strength and masculinity come from a balance of both traditional and alternative traits, rather than conforming to rigid societal expectations.

The theme of self-discovery

Self-discovery is a common theme in literature, and “The Glass Roses” is no exception. The story focuses on Stephen’s journey to find his true self, and the glass roses serve as a powerful symbol throughout his journey.

  • The fragility of Stephen’s identity: Just as the glass roses are delicate and easily shattered, Stephen’s sense of self is also fragile. He struggles to reconcile his duty to his father with his love for the forest and his desire to be his true self. In this way, the roses represent the uncertainty and vulnerability of Stephen’s journey of self-discovery.
  • The transformative power of self-discovery: Throughout the story, Stephen is transformed by his experiences in the forest and his interactions with his fellow lumberjacks. The glass roses serve as a physical representation of this transformative power. When Stephen smashes the roses, it symbolizes his decision to shed his old identity and embrace his true self.
  • The harsh realities of self-discovery: Stephen’s journey of self-discovery is not an easy one. He confronts many challenges along the way, including the disapproval of his father and the harsh conditions of the lumber camp. The glass roses represent these challenges and the pain and sacrifice that are often required to truly discover oneself.

Overall, the glass roses serve as a powerful symbol of self-discovery in “The Glass Roses.” They represent the fragility, transformative power, and harsh realities of this journey. Through Stephen’s experiences, the story shows us that self-discovery is a difficult but essential process for becoming our true selves.

Coming of Age in Literature

One of the most common themes in literature is the coming of age of young protagonists. This theme explores the transformation of young individuals as they navigate the complexities of growing up, facing challenges, and overcoming obstacles. One powerful literary symbol that represents this transformation is the glass rose.

  • The fragility of youth: Glass is a material that is known for its fragility, and as such, it is a fitting representation of youth. Young people are often portrayed as fragile and vulnerable as they are still developing and haven’t yet acquired the skills and experiences necessary to navigate the challenges of the world.
  • The beauty of growth: Roses are often associated with beauty and growth. In literature, they are a symbol of hope and renewal. The glass rose represents the beauty of the growth that occurs during the coming of age process. The protagonist is transformed into a mature and capable individual, often with a newfound perspective on life.
  • The rarity of transformation: Glass roses are rare and precious, just like the transformation that occurs during the coming of age process. This transformation is not something that happens to everyone, and those who experience it are often seen as unique and special.

The glass rose is a powerful symbol that has been used in literature for many years to represent the coming of age process. It is a fitting symbol because it embodies the fragility, beauty, and rarity of transformation that occurs during this time. Whether it’s through the eyes of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird or Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, the glass rose symbolizes the transformation of young individuals as they navigate the complexities of growing up.

The Significance of Setting

The Glass Roses is a short story written by Canadian author, Alden Nowlan. It tells the story of a teenage boy named Stephan, who spends his summer working in his father’s sawmill. Throughout the story, the author uses several literary devices to convey the themes of identity, masculinity, and adulthood. One of the most prominent literary devices used in The Glass Roses is the significance of its setting.

The Number Seven

  • The number seven appears repeatedly in The Glass Roses, and it holds significant symbolism in the story. Seven, often considered a lucky number, is associated with completeness and perfection in many cultures.
  • Early on in the story, the author describes Stephan’s task of stacking lumber in bundles of seven. This repetition of the number seven emphasizes the idea of perfection and completion in the sawmill’s work.
  • Furthermore, Stephan’s father uses the number seven to encourage Stephan to become a man. He tells Stephan that he will become a man when he can stack bundles of seven with ease and no longer feel pain.
  • This idea of becoming a man is further emphasized by Stephan’s confusion and discomfort with his masculine identity. The repetition of the number seven is a subtle reminder of the traditional gender roles and expectations that Stephan must navigate to achieve this milestone.

The Contrast of Settings

The Glass Roses takes place in two very different settings: the sawmill and the forest. The sawmill symbolizes the harsh, masculine world of work and labor, while the forest represents the soft, feminine world of nature and emotion.

Throughout the story, the contrast between these two settings highlights the conflicting elements of Stephan’s identity. His work at the sawmill represents his struggle to fit into the traditional masculine roles of his father and the sawmill workers, while his time in the forest allows him to explore his emotional side and connect with his love interest, Leka.

The Sawmill Table

The sawmill table is a significant symbol in The Glass Roses. It represents the hierarchy and power dynamics of the male-dominated workplace. Stephan’s struggle to find his place in this setting is exemplified by his discomfort sitting at the sawmill table with the older, more experienced workers.

Person at the TableSymbolism
StephanYoung, inexperienced, and struggling to fit in
Mr. LebelExperienced, respected worker and authority figure
CharlieExperienced worker and friend to Stephan

The sawmill table represents the rigidity of the traditional gender roles and the challenges that Stephan must overcome to assert his masculinity and adult identity.

The Conflict Between Conformity and Individuality

One of the main themes of “The Glass Roses” by Alden Nowlan is the conflict between conformity and individuality. Stephen, the protagonist of the story, struggles to reconcile his desire to conform to societal norms with his need to be true to himself. As the story unfolds, we see Stephen’s internal struggle play out through his relationships with his father and his friend, and eventually culminate in a symbolic act of rebellion.

  • Symbolism of the Glass Roses
  • The glass roses represent the struggle between conformity and individuality in the story. Stephen is fascinated by the beauty and fragility of the roses, which are a symbol of his own inner turmoil. The roses are a fragile and rare expression of individuality, but they are also artificial and trapped within a glass case, unable to grow or flourish. Similarly, Stephen is torn between the desire to be unique and the fear of being rejected by his peers for expressing his true self.

  • The Role of Family and Community
  • Stephen’s conflict is compounded by the expectations of his family and community. His father, a traditional and conservative man, wants Stephen to follow in his footsteps and work in the lumber industry. Stephen’s friend, Frank, pressures him to conform to the group mentality of their peers. Both of these forces make it difficult for Stephen to express his individuality without fear of rejection or disapproval.

  • The Importance of Self-Discovery
  • Throughout the story, Stephen struggles to find his own identity and reconcile his inner conflict. He tries to fit in with his peers by mimicking their behavior, but ultimately realizes that this is not the path to true happiness or fulfillment. In the end, Stephen takes a bold step and smashes the glass roses, symbolically breaking free from the constraints of conformity and embracing his own individuality.


“The Glass Roses” is a powerful exploration of the conflict between conformity and individuality. Through the symbolism of the glass roses, Nowlan highlights the struggle that many individuals face when trying to reconcile their own desires and needs with the expectations of their family and community. Ultimately, the story is a call to action for each of us to embrace our own uniqueness and break free from the constraints of conformity.

Conformity can provide a sense of belonging and communityConformity can stifle individual creativity and expression
Conformity can make it easier to navigate social situationsConformity can lead to a lack of diversity and innovation
Individuality allows for innovative ideas and perspectivesIndividuality can lead to feelings of isolation or rejection
Individuality allows for personal growth and self-discoveryIndividuality can create conflict with family and community expectations

Ultimately, the key to navigating the conflict between conformity and individuality is to find a balance that allows for both personal expression and social harmony. By embracing our own unique qualities and perspectives, while also recognizing the importance of community and social norms, we can create a more vibrant and dynamic society.

The Motif of Transformation: The Symbolism of Number 9 in “The Glass Roses”

Transformation is a central theme in “The Glass Roses,” and the number 9 serves as a significant symbol that represents this motif. The number 9 is often associated with finality, completion, and endings. In the story, the protagonist, Stephen, experiences a transformative journey towards maturity and self-discovery. The use of the number 9 throughout the story serves as both a reminder of the ending of his childhood and as a symbol of his inevitable transformation.

  • Stephen is 15 years old at the beginning of the story, which is a multiple of 9. This signifies the end of his childhood and his journey into maturity.
  • Stephen’s father also mentions that there are nine rows of roses in the greenhouse, which could symbolize the nine stages of transformation that Stephen will go through.
  • Stephen also mentions that there are nine panels on the door leading to the greenhouse. This could represent his own journey of breaking down the barriers that society has placed on him and opening up to new ideas and perspectives.

The use of the number 9 in “The Glass Roses” also serves as a reminder of the cyclical nature of life, and the constant process of transformation that accompanies it. The story revolves around the cycles of growth and decay in the roses, and the number 9 symbolizes the completion of each cycle.

In conclusion, the symbolism of the number 9 serves as a powerful motif in “The Glass Roses,” representing the themes of transformation and personal growth. The use of this symbol highlights the cyclical nature of life and reminds us that change is inevitable. Stephen’s journey in the story emphasizes the importance of embracing change, facing our fears, and ultimately discovering who we truly are.

The Influence of Setting on Character Development

The use of setting in literature is crucial in developing characters. It can provide context and add depth to the characters’ actions and personalities. One particular symbol that embodies the influence of setting on character development are glass roses.

Glass roses symbolize fragility, beauty, and preservation. In Eudora Welty’s short story “The Glass Roses,” the protagonist, a young boy named Martin, is conflicted between conforming to his father’s expectations of masculinity and his own personal desires. As Martin and his coworker, Laura, are gathering roses for the market, they stumble upon a garden with glass roses. Laura, who is more in touch with her vulnerable side, admires the roses’ beauty, but Martin initially does not understand their significance.

It is only after Martin confronts his father about his desire to become a florist instead of a lumberjack that the true significance of the glass roses becomes apparent. Martin’s father compares his son’s emotions to the glass roses, viewing them as weak and fake.

  • The glass roses symbolize the fragility of Martin’s emotions in a society that values toughness and traditional gender roles.
  • They represent the beauty and tenderness that Martin secretly craves but feels ashamed to reveal.
  • They signify the preservation of Martin’s true self, which he had been hiding for so long.

The setting, specifically the forest and the glassworks factory, magnifies Martin’s internal conflict. The contrast between the softness of the forest and the harshness of the factory symbolizes the dichotomy between Martin’s vulnerability and his societal expectations. The glassworks factory, where Martin is forced to work by his father, further emphasizes the importance of the glass roses.

The table below outlines the settings in which glass roses appear, their significance, and their influence on Martin’s character development.

SettingSignificanceInfluence on Martin’s character development
The Glass GardensSymbolizes fragility, beauty, and preservationIntroduces the glass roses as a symbol and sets the stage for Martin’s journey of self-discovery
The forestSymbolizes tenderness and vulnerabilityHighlights Martin’s desire for a softer side, contrasting with his father’s expectations of traditional masculinity
The glassworks factorySymbolizes harshness and dangerIntensifies the importance of preserving one’s true self, as Martin is forced to work in a setting that contradicts his desires

The use of glass roses in literature highlights the influence of setting on character development. It provides a visual representation of characters’ internal struggles and adds depth to their personalities.

FAQs – What do the Glass Roses Symbolize?

Q: What are glass roses?
A: Glass roses are artificial flowers made of glass that are created to resemble real roses.

Q: What do glass roses represent?
A: Glass roses are often used to symbolize love, beauty, and fragility.

Q: Why are glass roses associated with fragility?
A: Glass is a fragile material, and roses themselves can also be seen as fragile due to their delicate nature. Together, glass roses can represent the idea that love and beauty can be easily broken.

Q: Are glass roses a popular gift choice?
A: Glass roses can be a unique and thoughtful gift option, particularly for romantic occasions like weddings, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.

Q: Can glass roses be used for decoration?
A: Yes, glass roses can be used to add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any space. They can be used in vases, as part of a floral arrangement, or as standalone decorative pieces.

Q: Do glass roses have any cultural significance?
A: In some cultures, roses are associated with mourning and funerals, while in others they are a symbol of passion and love. The symbolism of glass roses can vary depending on the cultural context.

Q: Can glass roses be used in art?
A: Glass roses can be used by artists in a variety of ways, including as part of stained glass windows, sculptures, and other types of artwork.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for taking the time to learn about what glass roses symbolize. Whether you choose to gift them to your loved one or use them for decoration, these delicate and beautiful flowers can represent the complex and often fragile nature of love and beauty. Don’t forget to check back in for more fascinating discussions about the unique symbols and meanings found in our world!