Marigolds

by

Eugenia Collier

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Lizabeth Character Analysis

Lizabeth is the narrator of the story. From an unspecified moment later in time, she remembers a difficult summer in rural Maryland when she lost her innocence and came of age. That summer, Lizabeth, her brother Joey, and their neighborhood friends are living in poverty, surrounded by dust and ugliness. The only splash of color is Miss Lottie’s marigolds, which the children hate because they’re too beautiful—they stand out against the ugliness of the town. One day, Lizabeth and her friends start decapitating a few of the marigolds, which makes Lizabeth feel ashamed. This marks the beginning of her transformation to adulthood, because she’s able to have complicated feelings about something that once would have felt simple to her. Lizabeth’s truly devastating moment of transition comes later, after she overhears her father sobbing—apparently he’s unable to find work, and his tears shake Lizabeth to her core, because she realizes that the world isn’t as stable or understandable as she once thought. In her bewilderment, Lizabeth takes out her rage on Miss Lottie’s flowers. She tramples and pulls them, destroying the entire garden, then looks up and sees Miss Lottie standing over her. But she sees Miss Lottie differently in this moment: she’s not a witch, just an old woman who grew dazzling marigolds. Lizabeth feels compassion for the first time in her life, an emotion that signals the loss of her innocence and transition to adulthood.

Lizabeth Quotes in Marigolds

The Marigolds quotes below are all either spoken by Lizabeth or refer to Lizabeth. 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:
Coming of Age Theme Icon
).
Marigolds Quotes

I don’t know why I should remember only the dust. Surely there must have been lush green lawns and paved streets under leafy shade trees somewhere in town; but memory is an abstract painting—it does not present things as they are but rather as they feel.

Related Characters: Lizabeth (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

Poverty was the cage in which we all were trapped, and our hatred of it was still the vague, undirected restlessness of the zoo-bred flamingo who knows instinctively that nature created it to be free.

Related Characters: Lizabeth (speaker)
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Miss Lottie’s house was the most ramshackle of all our ramshackle homes.

Related Characters: Lizabeth (speaker), Miss Lottie
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

For some perverse reason, we children hated those marigolds. They interfered with the perfect ugliness of the place; they were too beautiful; they said too much that we could not understand; they did not make sense.

Related Characters: Lizabeth (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Perhaps we had some dim notion of what we were and how little chance we had of being anything else. Otherwise, why would we have been so preoccupied with destruction?

Related Characters: Lizabeth (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Suddenly I was ashamed, and I did not like being ashamed. The child in me sulked and said it was all in fun, but the woman in me flinched at the thought of the malicious attack that I had led.

Related Characters: Lizabeth (speaker), Joey
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

“Ain’t no man oughtta eat his woman’s food day in and day out, and see his children running wild. Ain’t nothing right about that.”

Related Characters: Lizabeth’s Father (speaker), Lizabeth’s Mother, Lizabeth
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

The world had lost its boundary lines. My mother, who was small and soft, was now the strength of the family; my father, who was the rock on which the family had been built, was sobbing like the tiniest child. Everything was suddenly out of tune, like a broken accordion. Where did I fit into this crazy picture?

Related Characters: Lizabeth (speaker), Lizabeth’s Mother, Lizabeth’s Father
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

I gazed upon a kind of reality which is hidden to childhood. The witch was no longer a witch but only a broken old woman who had dared to create beauty in the midst of ugliness and sterility.

Related Characters: Lizabeth (speaker), Miss Lottie
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

For one doesn’t have to be ignorant and poor to find that life is barren as the dusty roads of our town. And I too have planted marigolds.

Related Characters: Lizabeth (speaker)
Related Symbols: Marigolds
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Marigolds LitChart as a printable PDF.
Marigolds PDF

Lizabeth Character Timeline in Marigolds

The timeline below shows where the character Lizabeth appears in Marigolds. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Marigolds
The Importance of Beauty Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
When Lizabeth recalls the town that she grew up in, the thing she remembers most is dust.... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Whenever Lizabeth remembers Miss Lottie’s marigolds, all the chaotic emotions of adolescence come flooding back. She’s transported... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Lizabeth grew up in a shantytown in Maryland during the Great Depression. As she remembers it,... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
As a child, Lizabeth and her friends were only vaguely aware of the extent of their poverty—they didn’t have... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
In her childhood, Lizabeth lives with her parents and her younger brother, Joey. Her older siblings have already left... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
During the summer Lizabeth and Joey spend most their days playing. They amuse themselves by doing things like drawing... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Lizabeth remembers the day that marked the end of her innocence. She is loafing under an... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
As the children begin to gather stones, Lizabeth hesitates. She’s torn between wanting to join in the fun and feeling that it all... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
Lizabeth wonders if, as children, they were not more aware of their poverty than she previously... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Importance of Beauty Theme Icon
Lizabeth throws a stone and cuts the head off one of the marigolds. Miss Lottie yells,... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Mad with the power of inciting Miss Lottie’s rage, Lizabeth runs out of the bushes and chants “Old lady witch, fell in a ditch, picked... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
Though the other kids are in a state of merriment after their fun, Lizabeth suddenly feels ashamed. She’s conflicted: the child in her says it was all in good... (full context)
Poverty Theme Icon
Lizabeth wakes in the middle of the night and hears her parents talking through the thin... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
Her father begins to sob, loudly and painfully. Lizabeth has never heard a man cry before—she didn’t know that men ever cried. She covers... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Finally, Lizabeth’s mother comforts her father by humming to him, as if he were a frightened child.... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Lizabeth lies awake even after her parents have stopped talking and gone to sleep. She feels... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Lizabeth runs as if the furies are after her, and Joey follows. She stops at Miss... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Lizabeth leaps into Miss Lottie’s garden and pulls furiously at the marigolds, destroying the perfect golden... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Lizabeth stops sobbing, opens her swollen eyes, and sees the age-distorted body of Miss Lottie standing... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Poverty Theme Icon
As Lizabeth gazes into Miss Lottie’s eyes, she sees a kind of reality that’s hidden from children.... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
Standing before Miss Lottie, Lizabeth feels ashamed and cannot express her thoughts aloud. Looking back on this moment, Lizabeth recognizes... (full context)
Coming of Age Theme Icon
The Importance of Beauty Theme Icon
Now, years later, Lizabeth lives far from the dust and squalor of her shantytown. She knows that Miss Lottie... (full context)