Marigolds (short story)
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"Marigolds" is a 1969 short story by Eugenia Collier. She reports that she wrote the story during a time when she was quite unhappy. She was a girl, Lizabeth, growing up in rural Maryland during the Great Depression.
Lizabeth, the narrator, tells this story from her childhood. The leader of her group of friends, Lizabeth takes part in throwing some stones at Miss Lottie's flowerbed of marigolds. Miss Lottie is the town outcast, and frustrating her is a common pastime for the children of the town. In their Depression-era town, her marigolds are described as one of the only spots of amazing colors. Miss Lottie, who obsesses over the marigolds, seems to confuse and amuse the children at the same time. Later that evening, Lizabeth overhears her unemployed father sobbing to his wife of his frustration and anger in not being able to provide for his family. Never has she heard her father cry nor has she considered the vulnerabilities of adults. As she wrestles with the fear and anger over their difficult situation, Lizabeth cannot sleep and, in the middle of the night, returns to Miss Lottie's flowerbed. There in the darkness she unleashes her fury on the marigolds, trampling them and uprooting them. When Ms. Lottie sees this, Lizabeth has nothing to say but to stare at what she has done. As her rage and sadness run their course, she looks up to see an equally devastated Miss Lottie standing over her. She then understands the difference between childhood and maturity and that one cannot have both compassion and innocence in them. It is at this moment that Lizabeth sees through the eyes of adulthood, with eyes of compassion, and she knows that her childhood (and the innocence that it held) was over.