Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Flowers Symbol Analysis

Flowers Symbol Icon

Flowers in Alias Grace are directly related to women’s deaths. Grace has a recurring hallucination of a bloody Nancy Montgomery exploding into red flower petals. Grace’s mother’s teapot, which is covered in a flowered pattern, shatters on the day she dies, and Grace believes that her mother’s spirit destroyed the teapot as a kind of revenge. Finally, Mary Whitney’s handkerchief—the one which Grace may or may not have used to strangle Nancy—is decorated with blue “love-in-a-mist” flowers. These three women (Nancy, Mary, and her mother) are the three most important female figures in Grace’s life, and the fact that they are all linked to flower imagery suggests something important about the power of women. Flowers, because they are biologically linked to fruit and pollination, are a symbol of life; similarly, women, because of their ability to bear children, are often images of fertility. However, the role of flowers in this novel suggests that women have not only the power to create life, but also to embody death. Flowers, which bloom and then die, show that women can be vessels of both life and death. Grace makes a similar statement toward the end of the novel, when she discusses her possible pregnancy, saying that “it is strange to know you carry within yourself either a life or a death, but not to know which one.” The flower imagery in the novel suggests that, on some level, all women embody this dichotomy. This allows women to transcend the role of life-sustaining child bearers, imbuing them with a far greater and darker power.

The idea that flowers are linked toward women’s power is supported by the fact that flowers remain mysterious to male characters in the novel. For example, Dr. Jordan, when drafting a letter to his mother, realizes “he has never known much about flowers.” This phrase takes on added significance due to the way flower imagery operates elsewhere in the text, suggesting that women are privy to an exclusive and deepened understanding of life and death which does not extend to men.

Flowers Quotes in Alias Grace

The Alias Grace quotes below all refer to the symbol of Flowers. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Anchor Books edition of Alias Grace published in 1997.
Chapter 3 Quotes

All the same, Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word—musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor.

Murderer is merely brutal. It’s like a hammer, or a lump of metal. I would rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are the only choices.

Related Characters: Grace Marks (speaker)
Related Symbols: Clothing, Flowers
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Alias Grace quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Chapter 33 Quotes

It’s dark as a stone in this room, and hot as a roasting heart; if you stare into the darkness with your eyes open you are sure to see something after a time. I hope it will not be flowers. But this is the time they like to grow, the red flowers, the shining red peonies which are like satin, which are like splashes of paint. The soil for them is emptiness, it is empty space and silence. I whisper, Talk to me; because I would rather have talking than the slow gardening that takes place in silence, with the red satin petals dripping down the wall.

Related Characters: Grace Marks (speaker)
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire Alias Grace LitChart as a printable PDF.
Alias grace.pdf.medium

Flowers Symbol Timeline in Alias Grace

The timeline below shows where the symbol Flowers appears in Alias Grace. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...imprisonment in the Kingston Penitentiary. Grace describes walking around the walled-in prison yard, hallucinating about peonies growing from the gravel. Her hallucination expands: she sees Nancy Montgomery kneeling on the ground... (full context)
Chapter 7
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...mother, struggling to describe the landscape of Kingston because “he has never known much about flowers.” (full context)
Chapter 13
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
...pays for Grace’s family to immigrate to Canada. Aunt Pauline gifts Grace’s mother with a flowered teapot as a goodbye present. (full context)
Chapter 21
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...Her reluctantly agrees, swayed by Lydia’s “admiration” and feeling like “he’s been ambushed by a flowering shrub.” (full context)
Chapter 22
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...Jeremiah the peddler. Agnes helps Grace arrange Mary’s burial. After Mary is buried, Grace lays wildflowers on her grave every Sunday. (full context)
Chapter 23
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...possessions, but she brings with her an old shawl of her mother’s and a blue flowered handkerchief left to her by Mary Whitney. During the journey, the man sitting next to... (full context)
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...to a “shy and awkward” boy of fourteen named Jamie. She then spots Nancy cutting flowers in front of the house; Nancy waves to Grace but, Grace says, “she made no... (full context)
Chapter 27
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
...looks “forlorn,” Grace takes pity on him and shares a dream she had about red flowers. After sharing her dream, Grace tells Dr. Jordan that she’s decided she would like him... (full context)
Chapter 33
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...he’s gone.” On the edge of sleep, Grace has another vision of the red cloth flowers. She dreams that she is in Mr. Kinnear’s house, being chased, listening to a voice... (full context)
Chapter 35
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...that opened the novel, with Grace walking in the prison yard, seeing the red cloth flowers and Nancy bleeding and strangled. The dream ends the same way: with Grace in a... (full context)
Chapter 36
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...the next thing she can remember is. Grace says she found herself standing by the flowerbeds at the front of the house. She says, “I was thinking, I must open the... (full context)
Chapter 38
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...disrespectful.” She also puts on one of Nancy’s dresses and a bonnet, and even dabs rose water behind her ears, describing the smell as “a comfort of sorts.” While she is... (full context)
Chapter 43
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...and on one occasion hears her laughing. She also sees her dream/hallucination of the red flowers for the first time. (full context)
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...been seeing red spots, and when he pressed her she clarified that they were red peonies. “I suppose it’s the more usual thing,” Grace told Dr. Jordan, “to have eyes following... (full context)
Chapter 46
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
...my Penitentiary nightdress. A square of blood-stained petticoat. A strip of kerchief, white with blue flowers. Love-in-a-mist.” (full context)
Chapter 47
Storytelling and Power Theme Icon
Female Sexuality and the Nature of Women Theme Icon
Truth, Memory, and Madness Theme Icon
...to “some discreditable peepshow.” He then visits Mr. Kinnear’s and Nancy’s graves. He picks a rose from the bush growing over Nancy’s grave, “with some half-formed notion of taking it back... (full context)
Chapter 53
Social Class and Propriety Theme Icon
Gender, Ownership, and Power Theme Icon
Justice and Religion Theme Icon
...She is sitting on her “own verandah in [her] own rocking chair,” looking at the flowers in front of her house. She says, “On such days I think, This is like... (full context)