“Marigolds” by Eugenia W. Collier Essay

In the short story “Marigolds” by Eugenia W. Collier is about a 14-year-old girl named Lizbeth that is living in the time of The Great Depression. Early in the story, she is being a child, naive to the world around her but later in the story, she begins to realize that she is living in poverty once she hears her father crying. This leads her to destroy the Mrs lotties symbolic marigolds as an act of anger and sadness which is the start of womanhood for her. Lizbeth’s loss of innocence is shown through the destruction of the symbolic marigolds and the way she is characterized throughout the whole story as being childish but ultimately, is mature and responsible in the end.

Early on in the story, Lizbeth and a group of neighborhood children were throwing stones at Mrs lotties (a woman who lives in the neighborhood) flowers. As Mrs lotties son john burke began to yell at the children to go away, Lizbeth begins to grow angry and began to chant madly at Mrs. Lottie. “ Old witch, fell in a ditch, picked up a penny and thought she was rich!” ( Collier 3). This explains how childish Lizbeth was in the beginning, chanting hateful nursery rhymes and laughing about it. This shows Lizbeth’s innocence because at the moment she doesn’t have the knowledge that she is hurting Mrs. Lottie by throwing stones at her precious marigolds that she cares deeply about. Lizbeth doesn’t know that this is wrong because she has not experienced a life lesson like this. Early on, Lizbeth is describing her childhood and how carefree it was. “I was still child enough to scamper along with the group over rickety fences and through bushes that tore our already raggedy clothes…the girls in faded dresses that were too long or too short…” ( Collier 2). Lizbeth is describing in past tense basically how carefree her childhood was. They would wear ragged clothes and rip them even more. She was naive to the world around her not knowing that ragged clothes are not welcomed when you get older. Since Lizbeth is describing this as in looking back at, it means that right now because she is older, as in it is different for her right now. Having to care about what clothes you wear and worry about what others think. This clearly shows that lizbeth’s innocence is still present early on in the story.

Later on in the story, Lizbeth overheard a conversation between her father and mother about their poverty, while her father was crying. Lizbeth began to remember so many things, she found herself getting angry and upset. She started to remember “the need for her mother who was never there, the hopelessness of her poverty and degradation, the bewilderment of being neither child nor woman and yet both at once, the fear unleashed by my father’s tears. And these feelings combined in one great impulse toward destruction” (Collier 4). This explains why Lizbeth changed because she had just realized that her family is living in poverty. This drew her to destroy the only beautiful thing there had been at the moment, Mrs lotties marigolds. This represents lizbeth’s loss of innocence because she is seeing how the world around her really is. This shows of much she is growing into a woman by gaining experience to no longer be oblivious to the world around her, which is making her mature. Soon after she had just destroyed the marigolds, Lizbeth began to realize. “ this years have put words to the things I knew at that moment, and as I look back upon it I know that that moment marked the end of innocence…in that humiliating moment I looked beyond myself and into the depths of another person. This was the beginning of compassion, and one cannot have both compassion and innocence” (Collier 5). This shows that Lizbeth is realizing that she had changed, that she is not going to be the same person. This explains how Lizbeth has accepted that she had matured into a woman and is going to have to be responsible for her actions. She saying that she cannot be reasonable and wholesome. To conclude, the story “marigolds” shows how lizbeth’s loss of innocence is represented through the destroyed marigolds and her journey from being naive to being mature.