When Jo and her mother Helen settle into their new apartment, Jo unpacks flower bulbs with which she wants to decorate their new home. These bulbs reveal a strong divergence in the attitudes of Jo and Helen. While Jo decides to face adversity by attempting to change her situation for the better, planting bulbs to enliven their run-down apartment, Helen is hostile to any effort at improvement. Instead, Helen advocates resignation, believing that trying to change their condition is senseless and bound to fail. In the end, Jo never plants her bulbs and rediscovers them, dead, months later when she is living with Geoffrey and is close to giving birth. The dead plants cause her to reflect on the chaos of life, leading her to conclude that life is a short-lived series of unpredictable events. The bulbs thus delineate the change that Jo undergoes between the beginning and the end of the play, as her youthful optimism transforms into a more contained, suspicious attitude toward life’s difficulties. While Jo does not reach the levels of cynicism and apathy that her mother embodies, the dead bulbs are a reminder—to her and to the audience—that even the best efforts do not always fare well in life, and that one is sometimes forced to face failure and misfortune before moving on.
Jo’s Flower Bulbs Quotes in A Taste of Honey
JO: I’m going to unpack my bulbs. I wonder where I can put them.
HELEN: I could tell you.
JO: They’re supposed to be left in a cool, dark place.
HELEN: That’s where we all end up sooner or later. Still, it’s no use worrying, is it?
JO: I hope they bloom. Always before when I’ve tried to fix up a window box nothing’s ever grown in it.
HELEN: Why do you bother?
JO: It’s nice to see a few flowers, isn’t it?
JO: See yourself. I’ve got to find somewhere for my bulbs.
HELEN: See yourself! Do everything yourself. That’s what happens. You bring’em up and they turn round and talk to you like that. I would never have dared talk to my mother like that when I was her age. She’d have knocked me into the middle of next week. Oh! my head. Whenever I walk, you know how it is! What a journey! I never realized this city was so big. Have we got any aspirins left, Jo?
JO: You know, some people like to take out an insurance policy, don’t they?
GEOF: I’m a bit young for you to take out one on me.
JO: No. You know, they like to pray to the Almighty just in case he turns out to exist when they snuff it.
GEOF [brushing under the sofa]: Well, I never think about it. You come, you go. It’s simple.
JO: It’s not, it’s chaotic—a bit of love, a bit of lust and there you are. We don’t ask for life, we have it thrust upon us.
GEOF: What’s frightened you? Have you been reading the newspapers?
JO: No, I never do. Hold my hand, Geof.