Deacon King Kong


James McBride

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Flowers Symbol Analysis

Flowers Symbol Icon

In Deacon King Kong, flowers and plants represent the persistence of love between people, as well as a person’s capacity to persist and heal in the aftermath of hardship. Throughout the novel, Sportcoat is the character who is best with plants. However, Sportcoat has also been reeling with grief ever since the death of his wife, Hettie, who may have died by suicide (the novel never explicitly reveals whether Hettie’s death by drowning was intentional or an accident). Throughout the novel, Sportcoat helps others with plants, particularly Mrs. Elefante, who claims that pokeweed, a plant she and Sportcoat gather together, is good for the heart. Notably, the heart, is the human organ that people conventionally associate with love. Thus, Mrs. Elefante’s claim that pokeweed is good for the heart takes on literal and figurative meaning, referring both to its ability to improve a person’s cardiovascular health and to improve their emotional wellbeing.

Although Sportcoat enjoys the time he spends gardening and searching for plants, he never maintains any plants of his own, suggesting that his heart is still broken. At the end of the novel, Sportcoat has a conversation with an imaginary version of Hettie who tells him that he disappointed her during their marriage because he stopped growing flowers and took up drinking instead. As he began to drink more and garden less, Hettie stopped loving Sportcoat and eventually died by suicide. However, after learning of Hettie’s disappointment, Sportcoat swears off drinking and once again grows flowers in Hettie’s honor, symbolizing his enduring love for Hettie and his capacity to heal in the aftermath of her death.

Flowers Quotes in Deacon King Kong

The Deacon King Kong 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:
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Chapter 1: Jesus’s Cheese Quotes

“In the middle of the night, she shook me woke. I opened my eyes and seen a light floating ’round the room. It was like a little candlelight. ’Round and ’round it went, then out the door. Hettie said, ‘That’s God’s light. I got to fetch some moonflowers out the harbor.’ She put on her coat and followed it outside.”

Related Characters: Sportcoat (speaker), Hettie (speaker), Deems Clemens
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 3-4
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5: The Governor Quotes

Greed, he thought wryly as he dug into the earth. That’s the disease. I got it myself.

Related Characters: Tommy Elefante (speaker), Deems Clemens, Joe Peck, Mrs. Elefante
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20: Plant Man Quotes

“The man who come here to New York wasn’t the man I knowed in South Carolina. In all the years we been here, ain’t been a plant in that house of ours. Not a green thing hung from the ceiling nor the wall, other than what I brung in from time to time.”

Related Characters: Hettie (speaker), Sportcoat, Pudgy Fingers
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 285
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 26: Beautiful Quotes

Then he patted me on the back and said, “Look after them moonflowers behind the church for my Hettie.” Then he walked into the water. Walked right into the harbor holding that bottle of King Kong. I said, “Wait a minute, Sport, that water’s cold.” But he went on ahead.

First it come up to his hips, then to his waist, then to the top of his arms, then to his neck. When it got to his neck he turned around to me and said, “Sausage, the water is so warm! It’s beautiful.”

Related Characters: Hot Sausage (speaker), Sportcoat (speaker), Hettie, Sister Gee
Related Symbols: Flowers
Page Number: 370
Explanation and Analysis:
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Flowers Symbol Timeline in Deacon King Kong

The timeline below shows where the symbol Flowers appears in Deacon King Kong. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Jesus’s Cheese
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
...that the light belongs to God and that she has to leave to get some moonflowers from the harbor. Sportcoat lets his wife leave and doesn’t question her. (full context)
Community and Religion Theme Icon
Hettie’s funeral is a chaotic affair. No one knows where to put the flowers—this was Hettie’s job. Then Pastor Gee makes a joke at Hettie’s expense and arguments break... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Governor
Parental Figures and Masculinity  Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
...working in his mother’s garden, an activity that he enjoys. The garden is full of flowers and plants that Mrs. Elefante picked from lots all over the Cause District. As Elefante... (full context)
Chapter 20: Plant Man
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
...South Carolina. However, when she moved to New York, she didn’t get to be around flowers anymore. And then, when Sportcoat moved to New York, he turned into too much of... (full context)
Chapter 26: Beautiful
Substance Abuse Theme Icon
Love, Hope, and Redemption Theme Icon
Additionally, Hot Sausage tells Sister Gee the story of the moonflowers, which were mysteriously planted behind the Five Ends Church. He informs her that it was... (full context)