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
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.