Before I Fall

by

Lauren Oliver

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Roses Symbol Icon

The central symbol in the world of Before I Fall is the long-stem roses with little notes attached, or “Valograms,” that are exchanged between students at Thomas Jefferson High school on Cupid Day and are used as a marker of a student’s status and popularity. The roses are passed out by “Cupids”—according to Sam Kingston, “usually freshman or sophomore girls trying to get in good with the upperclassmen.” This quotation from the novel’s first chapter demonstrates how powerful the roses are—just being a messenger who delivers them has the potential to elevate one’s social status. On Cupid Day, February 12th, the roses are handed out all day long, and those students who amass the most are seen as popular and high-status (Sam’s cool and sexy best friend Lindsay Edgecombe once got twenty-two roses, and this year is “going for twenty-five”) while those who get less than ten—or, heavens forbid, less than five—are left feeling humiliated, knowing that their low number of roses “basically means that [they’re] either ugly or unknown.” Sam Kingston notes that “sometimes people scavenge for dropped roses to add to their bouquets,” so desperate are Thomas Jefferson students to gather up as many Valograms as they can and publicly, physically assert their social status and thus their social capital.

The roses represent more than just what they symbolize in the world of Thomas Jefferson High, however. Overall the roses symbolize the petty anxieties and desperate attempts to change one’s image, status, or place in the world, which Sam Kingston and her fellow classmates engage in not just on the frenzied Cupid Day celebration, but every day of their lives. At the start of the novel, Sam herself is concerned about how many roses she’ll get, and from whom—she forces her boyfriend Rob Cokran to send her one, and when it arrives, she is grateful for it even despite the lukewarm note attached. By the novel’s end, however, Sam has lived Cupid Day over and over again, and she comes to see how pointless the roses are. On the fifth Cupid Day she re-experiences, she even rebels against the social order and protests, in her own way, the obsession surrounding the roses by dumping her plump bouquet of Valograms in the trash in front of all her classmates. As Sam learns the lessons of goodwill and empathy toward others and deliverance through repentance and changes in her once cruel, petty behavior, she sees through the sham of the Cupid Day tradition, and her lessening interest in the roses she acquires—who they’re from and how many of them there are—comes to symbolize her growth as a person.

Roses Quotes in Before I Fall

The Before I Fall quotes below all refer to the symbol of Roses. 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:
Fate vs. Agency Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperCollins edition of Before I Fall published in 2010.
Chapter 1  Quotes

“Last year I got twenty-two roses.” Lindsay flicks her cigarette butt out of the window and leans over for a slurp of coffee. “I’m going for twenty-five this year.”
Each year before Cupid Day the student council sets up a booth outside the gym. For two dollars each, you can buy your friends Valograms—roses with little notes attached to them—which then get delivered by Cupids (usually freshman or sophomore girls trying to get in good with the upperclassman) throughout the day.

“I’d be happy with fifteen,” I say. It’s a big deal how many roses you get. You can tell who’s popular and who isn’t by the number of roses they’re holding. It’s bad if you get under ten and humiliating if you don’t get more than five—it basically means that you’re either ugly or unknown. Probably both. Sometimes people scavenge for dropped roses to add to their bouquets, but you can always tell.

Related Characters: Samantha Kingston (speaker), Lindsay Edgecombe (speaker)
Related Symbols: Roses
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“I thought Cupid Day was one of your favorites.”

“It is. Or, I mean, it was.” I sit up on my elbows. “I don’t know, it’s kind of stupid, if you think about it.”

[My mom] raises her eyebrows.

I start rattling on, not really thinking about what I want to say before I say it. “The whole point is just to show other people how many friends you have. But everybody knows how many friends everybody else has. And it’s not like you actually get more friends this way or, I don’t know, get closer to the friends you do have.”

My mom smiles a tiny bit. “Well, you’re lucky to have very good friends, and to know it. I’m sure the roses are very meaningful to some people.”

“I’m just saying, the whole thing is kind of sleazy.”

“This doesn’t sound like the Samantha Kingston I know.”
“Yeah, well, maybe I’m changing.” I don’t mean those words either, until I hear them. Then I think that they might be true, and I feel a flicker of hope. Maybe there’s still a chance for me, after all. Maybe I have to change.

Related Characters: Samantha Kingston (speaker)
Related Symbols: Roses
Page Number: 271-272
Explanation and Analysis:

The wind shrieks, and I suddenly realize that Juliet's only a half inch from the road, teetering on the thin line where the pavement begins, like she's balancing on a tightrope.

“Maybe you should come away from the road,” I say, but all the time in the back of my head, there’s an idea growing and swelling, a horrible, sickening realization, massing up and taking shape like clouds on the horizon. Someone calls my name again. And then, still in the distance, I hear the throaty wail of “Splinter” by Fallacy pumping from someone's car.

“Sam! Sam!” I recognize it as Kent's voice now.

Juliet turns to face me then. She’s smiling, but it's the saddest smile I’ve ever seen.

“Maybe next time,” she says. “But probably not.”

Related Characters: Samantha Kingston (speaker), Kent McFuller (speaker), Juliet Sykes (speaker)
Related Symbols: Roses
Page Number: 323-324
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Before I Fall LitChart as a printable PDF.
Before I Fall PDF

Roses Symbol Timeline in Before I Fall

The timeline below shows where the symbol Roses appears in Before I Fall. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
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Popularity, Status, and Social Capital Theme Icon
Cruelty and Loyalty in Friendship and Love Theme Icon
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...supposed to get picked up for school, and was too busy worrying about how many roses she’d receive at her school’s Valentine’s Day celebration, Cupid Day, to even tell her parents... (full context)
Chapter 1 
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Cruelty and Loyalty in Friendship and Love Theme Icon
...times since the start of the school year) had better send her some Cupid Day roses. Sam commiserates, telling Lindsay that she herself had to sit next to her boyfriend Rob... (full context)
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Lindsay tells Sam that she is shooting for twenty-five roses this year—last year, she got twenty-two. Sam tells Lindsay that she’d be satisfied with receiving... (full context)
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During her first two class periods, Sam only gets five roses, but she tries not to stress about it—despite the fact that she sees one of... (full context)
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Cruelty and Loyalty in Friendship and Love Theme Icon
...to fifth period calculus. Cupids—underclassman girls dressed in playful costumes—come to class to pass out roses. Sam receives three—one from Elody, one from a girl named Tara Flute who is on... (full context)
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Sam joins Ally at their favorite table, and they compare rose bouquets—each of them has received nine so far, but both of them admit that one... (full context)
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...her on the side of the head and greets her, asking if she got his rose. Rob pulls his backpack off and unzips it, revealing half a dozen crumpled roses at... (full context)
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Elody arrives at the table and sets her bouquet down—she has twelve roses. As the girls tease her about having slept with people to get the roses, Ally... (full context)
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Cruelty and Loyalty in Friendship and Love Theme Icon
As Juliet exits the cafeteria, Lindsay wonders aloud if Juliet received her Valogram rose from the four of them. Ally says that she did—she herself was sitting right... (full context)
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Cruelty and Loyalty in Friendship and Love Theme Icon
...realizes that some people might think she deserved to die—that after she sent the mean Valogram to Juliet, dumped her drink on her at the party, cheated off Lauren Lornet, and... (full context)
Chapter 2 
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In calculus, when Sam’s roses get delivered, she feels a wild bit of hope that Rob’s note will say something... (full context)
Chapter 3
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Cruelty and Loyalty in Friendship and Love Theme Icon
...Her friends protest that Sam is supposed to lose her virginity tonight—Sam shows them the rose Rob sent her, pointing out how lame it is that he won’t say the words... (full context)
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Elody wonders out loud if Juliet Sykes killed herself because of their rose and the cruel note attached to it. Lindsay scoffs at this, but Ally worries that... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...it flaunt it,’” causing Daimler to blush. He asks Sam why she doesn’t have any roses—she tells him that she’s “over it.” (full context)
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...and heads for his desk. The Cupids come in just seconds later and begin delivering roses—Sam accepts her first three, and then when the blond Cupid prepares to hand her the... (full context)
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...few people gasp, and a couple girls tell Sam that she can’t throw out her roses—it just isn’t done. Sam tells the girls she can have them, if they want them,... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...how stupid Cupid Day actually is, and how the whole point is just to use roses demonstrate how many friends one has—even though the whole school of course already knows how... (full context)
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...a thin, pale, blond girl whom Sam recognizes as the Cupid who handed her Kent’s rose in math class—she realizes the girl is Juliet’s little sister. (full context)
Chapter 6
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...While Lindsay and Elody head to class, Sam goes off to the room where the roses are stored, planning on making some adjustments. Sam heads straight for the roses in a... (full context)
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After replacing Juliet’s one rose with a huge bouquet—and an added note which reads “from your secret admirer”—Sam leaves the... (full context)
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...must be about to tell their group about how Juliet got a massive bouquet of roses. All of a sudden, though, hands clamp down over Sam’s eyes, and she knows from... (full context)
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Rob asks Sam if she got his rose—she tells him that she cut fifth period. Rob indignantly says that he didn’t get a... (full context)
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...cafeteria. Sam watches her intensely, and Rob walks away. Juliet does not have a single rose with her, and Sam is deeply disappointed. Ally finishes telling the group all about the... (full context)
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As her friends raise their roses like glasses of champagne to cruelly “toast” Juliet, Sam leaves the cafeteria, looking for Juliet... (full context)
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...Sam. He tells her that it’s too bad she wasn’t in calculus earlier—she missed some roses. He pulls his special rose for her out of his bag and hands it to... (full context)
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...right. Sam assures Juliet that things will soon get better. She reminds her of the roses she got today, hoping to cheer her up, but Juliet’s eyes fill with hatred. She... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...Sam splits up with Lindsay and Elody and heads to the room where all the roses are being held. Afterwards, rather than heading to class, she wanders through campus, taking everything... (full context)
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...anxious as she awaits the Cupids’ arrival, knowing that Kent McFuller is getting an extra rose today. After class, Sam waits for Kent in the hall. He holds the rose out... (full context)
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...Sam how she knew about “the hero thing,” but she deflects, thanking him for his rose—she reveals that she gave all of her roses to Marian Sykes to take home and... (full context)
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...put his arm around her, but she steps away. He asks if she got his rose—she tells him she did. There is a single rose hanging from her messenger bag, and... (full context)
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...later, when Juliet Sykes walks into the cafeteria, Sam sees that Juliet has a single rose on her lunch tray, and is scanning peoples’ faces, seemingly looking for clues. Sam knows... (full context)