Brighton Rock

Flowers and Dolls Symbol Analysis

Flowers and Dolls Symbol Icon

It’s no coincidence that the primary female character in this novel is named Rose, or that Ida Arnold’s nickname is Lily. To Pinkie, women are not fully human. They are flowers or dolls or “polonys,” fine to look at but easily crushed and consumed. On the day Charles Hale is killed, Pinkie wins a doll at a shooting booth, portending both Hale’s demise and Pinkie’s eventual winning of Rose’s innocent affections. Later, on his wedding day, he thinks to himself that Rose “looked like one of the small gaudy statues in an ugly church,” remarking that “you could pray to her but you couldn’t expect an answer.” Pinkie and the men in his employ underestimate women’s abilities to think for themselves and act on their own instincts. Ida, far from a fragile flower, is very much Pinkie’s intellectual equal if not his superior, and Rose likewise often surprises him with her inner fortitude and courage. By writing women off either as delicate blooms or inanimate toys best left on the shelf and without agency of their own, Pinkie shows his hand: he is, in fact, a frightened and vulnerable boy, terrified of female power and, more specifically, the sex act, which, as a “bitter virgin,” he assumes will be not only ugly, but degrading and humiliating. Flowers and dolls thus symbolize Pinkie’s conception of women as vacant-minded, frivolous, and powerless—a darkly ironic misconception, given that “Lily” and Rose prove more resilient than Pinkie, who takes his own life, while both women emerge from the plot’s many twists with their lives intact.

Flowers and Dolls Quotes in Brighton Rock

The Brighton Rock quotes below all refer to the symbol of Flowers and Dolls. 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:
Catholicism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of Brighton Rock published in 1938.
Part I, Chapter 3 Quotes

She came out of the crematorium, and there from the twin towers above her head fumed the very last of Fred, a thin stream of grey smoke from the ovens. People passing up the flowery suburban road looked up and noted the smoke; it had been a busy day at the furnaces. Fred dropped in indistinguishable grey ash on the pink blossoms: he became part of the smoke nuisance over London, and Ida wept.

Related Characters: Ida “Lily” Arnold (speaker), Charles “Fred” Hale
Related Symbols: Flowers and Dolls
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
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Flowers and Dolls Symbol Timeline in Brighton Rock

The timeline below shows where the symbol Flowers and Dolls appears in Brighton Rock. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I, Chapter 3
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
The funeral is taking place in a bare, nondescript place. There are no candles or flowers and Ida, who is late, walks in in the middle of a clergyman’s generic sermon... (full context)
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
Sex and Shame Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
...that rap on their own during séances and voices from the great beyond speaking of flowers. Still, Ida thinks, flowers aren’t life. Life is relishing a Guinness now and then and... (full context)
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
...Hale is now ash, wafting down into the nice, suburban neighborhood, coating the trees and flowers. She gets on a tram, headed for London, and, as billboards flash by, the narrator... (full context)
Pride and Ambition Theme Icon
Innocence vs. Experience Theme Icon
...along the Strand and past the fountains of Trafalgar Square, which remind her of bright blooms of water, falling on the dusty bins below. The walk to Molly’s building is long.... (full context)
Part VI, Chapter 2
Sex and Shame Theme Icon
...naughty books never really taught him anything he didn’t know, except for some things about flowers, the raunchiness of which surprised him. (full context)