What Do Mayella’s Geraniums Symbolize? Decoding the Meaning Behind Harper Lee’s Symbolism

Mayella’s geraniums may seem like an odd topic for literary analysis, but the truth is that they symbolize much more than pretty flowers. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, these flowers represent a fragile and desperate attempt by Mayella to bring order and beauty to her otherwise chaotic life. They serve as a stark contrast to the ugliness and violence surrounding her, painting a picture of a young woman who longs for something better.

For many readers, the geraniums are a symbol of hope. They represent the possibility for growth and change, even in the face of overwhelming adversity. Despite the fact that Mayella lives in poverty, surrounded by abuse and neglect, these little flowers demonstrate her resilience and determination to create something beautiful. They offer a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak world, reminding us that even the smallest acts of kindness and beauty can make a difference.

On a deeper level, Mayella’s geraniums might also be seen as a metaphor for her own struggle to break free from the chains of poverty and abuse. They are a tangible representation of her desire to escape her situation and create a better life for herself. They remind us that, despite their humble beginnings, plants have the ability to grow and flourish with the right care and attention. In the same way, Mayella too has the potential to rise above her circumstances and become more than what she was born into.

The significance of symbolism in literature

Symbolism plays a crucial role in literature. It is the use of symbols to represent an object, idea, or emotion. Symbols add depth, meaning, and complexity to the story, enriching the readers’ experience and understanding of the narrative. In this article, we will explore the significance of symbolism in literature and how it relates to the case of Mayella’s geraniums in To Kill a Mockingbird.

What do Mayella’s geraniums symbolize?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Mayella’s geraniums symbolize her desire for beauty and freedom in her oppressive life. Geraniums are a common garden flower, representing comfort and familiarity. However, Mayella’s geraniums are not just a form of ornamentation or aesthetic appeal; they represent Mayella’s longing for a better life. The geraniums are a symbol of her attempt to create something beautiful in a world of neglect and abuse.

  • Mayella’s geraniums are a symbol of hope. In a world of poverty and prejudice, Mayella’s geraniums offer a glimpse into her dreams of a better life. The flowers are a reminder that beauty and joy exist even in the darkest of places.
  • Mayella’s geraniums represent her desire for freedom. The flowers symbolize Mayella’s escape from the confines of her home and her abusive father. The garden is the only place where Mayella can control her environment and express herself.
  • The geraniums are also a symbol of Mayella’s vulnerability. She has created something beautiful, and she is afraid that it will be destroyed. Her fear of losing the flowers mirrors her fear of losing her identity and her dreams.

The power of symbolism in literature

The use of symbols in literature adds depth, meaning, and complexity to the story. Symbols convey abstract ideas and emotions, making them accessible to readers. Symbols also unify the narrative, connecting the themes, characters, and plot.

Mayella’s geraniums are an excellent example of the power of symbolism in literature. The flowers’ symbolic value unites various themes in To Kill a Mockingbird, such as oppression, innocence, and courage. Mayella’s geraniums are not just flowers; they represent a human desire for freedom, beauty, and hope.

The importance of interpreting symbolism

Interpreting symbols is a personal and subjective process that depends on the reader’s experiences and background. An interpretation of a symbol can vary from reader to reader, and every interpretation is valid. However, it is essential to analyze and interpret symbols in literature to understand the author’s intent and the themes and messages of the narrative.

Symbol Interpretation
Geraniums Hope, freedom, vulnerability
Mockingbird Innocence, purity, victimization
The tree Family, memory, loss

Uncovering the symbolism embedded in literature is a crucial step in comprehending the narrative’s meaning and significance. It allows readers to engage with the text on a deeper level and appreciate the author’s craft and creativity.

The character analysis of Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird

Mayella Ewell is the daughter of Bob Ewell and the alleged victim of the rape case in To Kill a Mockingbird. Her character is one of the most complex in the novel, and her actions and words speak volumes about the social, economic, and racial dynamics of Maycomb County. Here is an analysis of Mayella Ewell as a character:

What do Mayella’s geraniums symbolize?

  • Mayella’s geraniums symbolize her desire for beauty and order. She lives in a rundown shanty, surrounded by filth and poverty, with no mother to help her maintain order. Yet, there is a small patch of beauty that she has created, the geraniums. They are a testament to her desire for something better, something that she can control in her otherwise chaotic life.
  • The geraniums also symbolize Mayella’s desire for love and attention. She tenderly cares for them, watering them every day. She craves the attention and praise that she never receives from her father or anyone else in the community. The geraniums are a way for her to feel loved and appreciated.
  • The geraniums also have a sinister undertone in their symbolism. Mayella uses them to lure Tom Robinson into her home, pretending that she needs help tending to them. Her intentions are not innocent, and the geraniums become a tool of manipulation in her hands.

In conclusion, Mayella’s geraniums are a multifaceted symbol in To Kill a Mockingbird, representing her desire for beauty, love, and control, as well as her manipulative nature.

The Impact and Themes of Racial Discrimination in To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a powerful novel that explores themes of racial discrimination in the post-Civil War era. The book showcases the injustice and prejudice faced by the black community through the eyes of Scout Finch, a young white girl living in Maycomb, Alabama. Mayella Ewell, a young white woman, is also a key character in the novel, and her geraniums are used symbolically to represent the themes of racial discrimination prevalent throughout the book.

What do Mayella’s Geraniums Symbolize?

  • Isolation: Mayella’s geraniums are her only source of beauty and life. She lives in a small house with her abusive father and siblings, surrounded by poverty, violence, and neglect. The geraniums serve as a symbol of the isolation that Mayella experiences and how little beauty she has in her life.
  • Racism: Mayella’s geraniums hold a deeper meaning that reveals the book’s themes of racism. The geraniums are a symbol of white superiority and how it grips the minds of the people of Maycomb. Mayella’s father, Bob Ewell, believes that she is superior to Tom Robinson, who he accused falsely of rape. He disapproves of her relationship with Tom Robinson because of his skin color, and the geraniums represent his twisted ideology that white purity is superior to the beauty and life represented by the black community.
  • Hopelessness: Mayella’s geraniums are a symbol of the hopelessness that pervades the book’s narrative. The hopelessness experienced by Mayella is a reflection of a broader system of racism in which white people hold all the power, and black people are oppressed and powerless. The geraniums reveal that in this system, there is no hope for racial justice, and people like Tom Robinson will never get a fair trial. The geraniums embody Mayella’s realization of her own inability to affect change and her powerlessness when faced with the institutionalized racism facing her community.

The Impact of Racism in To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel that provides a powerful commentary on the impact of racism at the time of its publication and its continuing repercussions today. The racial discrimination embodied in the trial of Tom Robinson is a reflection of the wider systems of racism that oppress black people globally. Through the lens of Mayella’s geraniums, the author portrays the hopelessness and isolation that underscore the lives of those forced to live with racism. Racism affects not only its victims but also those who perpetrate it, as Bob Ewell’s character shows. His hatred and anger stem more from his own feelings of inadequacy and inferiority than any true animosity towards black people.


The geraniums symbolize the themes of racial discrimination prevalent throughout To Kill a Mockingbird. They embody the hopelessness, isolation, and racism faced by the black community at the time. The novel is a poignant reminder of the impact of racism, its far-reaching consequences, and the institutionalized power structures that permit its continuation. The power of the geraniums to symbolize these themes further emphasizes the importance of empathy and the ability to see the world from different perspectives.

Symbol Meaning
Isolation Mayella’s lack of beauty and life
Racism White superiority and racism in Maycomb
Hopelessness The oppression and powerlessness of the black community

To Kill a Mockingbird is a testament to the power of words to change minds and transform society. The geraniums symbolize the themes of isolation, racism, and hopelessness that pervade the book. They serve as a reminder that it is only through empathy and a willingness to understand and respect others that we can achieve true harmony and equality.

The Symbolism of Flowers in Literature

Flowers are often used in literature to symbolize various emotions, themes, and ideas. The use of flowers as symbols dates back to ancient times, where they were revered in religious and cultural ceremonies. In literature, the symbolism of flowers can be interpreted in different ways depending on the context and the author’s intentions. In Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the use of geraniums as symbols serves to convey several meanings.

Mayella’s Geraniums

In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Mayella Ewell’s geraniums are used as a symbol to represent her desire for a better life. Mayella is a poor and lonely character who lives in squalor with her abusive father. She longs for beauty and love, and her geraniums are the one thing she cares for and nurtures. They are a symbol of hope and a better future.

  • The geraniums also symbolize Mayella’s vulnerability. Just like the flowers need care and attention to grow, Mayella needs kindness and compassion to thrive.
  • The flowers can also be seen as a metaphor for Mayella’s innocence. Geraniums are often associated with purity and innocence, which is an ironic contrast to Mayella’s traumatic experiences.
  • Furthermore, the geraniums can be interpreted as a symbol of Mayella’s blindness to reality. She obsesses over the flowers as a way of escaping the harshness of her life, and she fails to see the truth about her father’s abuse and her own misguided actions.

Other Examples of Flower Symbolism

Flower symbolism is a common theme in literature across cultures and time periods. Some other common examples include:

  • Roses often symbolize love, passion, or beauty.
  • Lilies can represent purity, innocence, or rebirth.
  • Daisies may symbolize simplicity or youthfulness.
  • Sunflowers can symbolize happiness, loyalty, or faith.

A Table of Flower Symbolism

Flower Symbolism
Rose Love, passion, beauty
Lily Purity, innocence, rebirth
Daisy Simplicity, youthfulness
Sunflower Happiness, loyalty, faith

In conclusion, the use of flower symbolism in literature is a powerful tool for authors to convey complex emotions and themes. In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Mayella’s geraniums are a poignant symbol of her longing for a better life and her innocence. Flowers have been used as symbols for centuries and will continue to be an important part of literary symbolism.

The importance of setting in To Kill a Mockingbird

The setting of the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, plays a crucial role in the story as it reinforces the themes of racism, prejudice, and social inequality. Maycomb, a fictional town in Alabama, where the story is set, is described as a sleepy, small town that is deeply rooted in its traditions. This town’s conservative nature is pivotal in the story as it causes the characters to rely heavily on their beliefs and assumptions, leading to the eventual conflict that arises.

  • Symbolism: The setting also serves as a tool for symbolism in the novel. The prime example of this is the geraniums in Mayella Ewell’s yard. Mayella’s geraniums symbolize her desire for beauty and orderliness in her otherwise chaotic life. This symbolism is significant as it highlights the stark contrast between Mayella’s longing for a better life and the brutal reality of her existence.
  • Small town mentality: The setting of Maycomb is crucial in portraying a small town mentality, where rumors and prejudice circulate. The closed-off nature of the town’s inhabitants is evident as the outside world has little impact on their lives. This mentality reflects the social hierarchy of the time, where social classes were strictly defined, and people were not comfortable with those who did not fit into their social strata.
  • Southern Gothic: The setting also contributes to the Southern Gothic element that is present in the novel. The oppressive heat and humidity of the south create an uncomfortable and eerie atmosphere. The setting of Maycomb’s courthouse also adds to the Southern Gothic feel of the novel. The courthouse is described as a decaying and dilapidated building, symbolizing the corruption that exists within the justice system.

In conclusion, the setting of To Kill a Mockingbird serves as an essential element of the novel as it reinforces the themes and symbolisms present in the story. The sleepy town of Maycomb with its conservative beliefs, small-town mentality, and southern gothic atmosphere adds to the charm and depth of the novel, making it a timeless piece of literature that is still relevant today.

The Role of Women in To Kill A Mockingbird

The character of Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird represents the struggles and marginalized position of women in the Southern society during the Depression era. Women were expected to follow strict gender roles and norms that confined them to the domestic sphere and denied them opportunities for education and self-expression. Mayella’s character shows how these societal expectations can have severe consequences, not just for individual women but for their communities as well.

  • Mayella’s Geraniums
  • The Importance of Appearance
  • Objectification and Sexual Violence

Mayella’s geraniums symbolize her loneliness and isolation from the rest of her community. Her flowers are a way for her to express herself and to find some solace in a world where she is constantly reminded of her lowly position as a poor, white woman. However, the fact that she tends to the plants alone and refuses help from others, even from her father who abuses her, highlights the oppressive nature of her gender roles and how they restrict her independence and agency over her own life.

In contrast, the men in the novel are allowed to transgress these gender conventions in ways that reinforce their power and privilege. For example, Bob Ewell, Mayella’s father, is a violent alcoholic who is allowed to get away with his abusive treatment of his daughter and other members of the community because of his gender. Similarly, Tom Robinson is falsely accused of raping Mayella, not because of any evidence, but because of the way society views interracial relationships between a black man and a white woman.

Overall, Mayella’s character and the symbolism of her geraniums highlight the pervasive gender inequalities in Southern society during this time period. Women were confined to domestic duties and denied opportunities for education and self-improvement, leaving them vulnerable to abuse and neglect. This gendered oppression affected not just individual women, but entire communities and the justice system as well.

Gender Expectations
Men Allowed to transgress gender norms, which reinforces power and privilege
Women Confined to domestic duties and denied opportunities for education and self-expression

In conclusion, Mayella’s character and her geraniums symbolize the struggles and oppression faced by women in Southern society during the Depression era. The novel sends a powerful message about the dangers of patriarchal structures that deny women opportunities for growth and self-determination and the importance of fighting for gender equality in all spheres of life.

The significance of the trial scene in To Kill a Mockingbird

The trial scene in To Kill a Mockingbird is arguably the most pivotal moment in the entire book. It is during this scene that the themes of racial prejudice, justice, and innocence are examined at their most intense and emotional levels. However, it is not just the events of the trial itself that make this scene so significant – there are many smaller details and symbols that add layers of meaning to the story.

What do Mayella’s geraniums symbolize?

  • Throughout the trial scene, one recurring detail is the mention of Mayella Ewell’s geraniums. These flowers are symbolic of several things, including:
  • The geraniums represent Mayella’s desire for beauty and order in her otherwise dirty and disorganized life. She puts a lot of effort into nurturing these flowers – perhaps because they are one of the few things in her life that bring her joy.
  • The geraniums can also be seen as a symbol of hope. Despite the fact that Mayella comes from a poor and troubled family, she is able to create something beautiful and orderly. In a way, the geraniums represent the potential for a better life – both for Mayella, and for the wider community of Maycomb.
  • Finally, the geraniums can be interpreted as a metaphor for innocence and purity. Throughout the trial, Mayella is painted as a victim – someone who has been taken advantage of by Tom Robinson. The geraniums serve as a visual reminder of this innocence – they are a delicate and innocent flower, just like Mayella herself.

Overall, the significance of Mayella’s geraniums lies in the way that they add layers of meaning to the trial scene. Rather than being a mere background detail, they serve as a powerful symbol of hope, innocence, and a desire for something better.

The Relationship Between Atticus and His Children in To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic novel written by Harper Lee in 1960. The story revolves around the Finches, a family residing in Maycomb County, Alabama, during the Great Depression. Atticus Finch is a single father to two young children, Jem and Scout. Atticus serves as the moral compass for his children, and he is dedicated to teaching them right from wrong.

  • Atticus as a role model: Atticus is a loving and diligent father who models honesty, integrity, and courage for his children. Through his words and actions, he teaches his children the importance of treating others with kindness and respect, even if they have different beliefs or come from different backgrounds.
  • The impact of Atticus’s values on his children: Atticus’s values shape the way Jem and Scout see the world. They learn to stand up for their beliefs, even when others disagree with them. For instance, when Scout’s teacher criticizes her for learning to read at home, Scout proudly declares that Atticus taught her to read and encourages her classmates to write their names, too.
  • The importance of communication: Atticus communicates honestly and openly with his children, despite the difficult topics they address. Through their conversations about race and injustice, Jem and Scout learn the importance of empathy and community.

Mayella Ewell’s geraniums play a symbolic role in To Kill a Mockingbird. The Ewell family is portrayed as being dirty, lazy, and uneducated. Mayella, in particular, is shy and withdrawn. Her geraniums symbolize her desire for beauty and order in her otherwise chaotic life. She nurtures these plants, even though they are unlikely to thrive in the harsh environment of her home. The geraniums represent Mayella’s need for love and affection, something that she lacks in her relationships with her father and the rest of her family.

Character Values portrayed
Atticus Finch Honesty, integrity, courage, empathy, community
Jem Finch Growing sense of morality, empathy, courage
Scout Finch Candidness, curiosity, loyalty, honesty, empathy

Atticus’s relationship with his children is pivotal to the plot of To Kill a Mockingbird. Through his teachings, Jem and Scout are shaped into the principled and compassionate individuals they become. Atticus serves as a reminder of the power of kindness and the importance of standing up for what is right in the face of oppression and adversity.

The symbolism of color in To Kill a Mockingbird

Number 9: The Significance of Mayella’s Geraniums

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Mayella Ewell’s geraniums hold a significant symbolic meaning. Mayella’s flowers are said to “thrive in a window box; they are red, as red as Alabama clay outside, and not even Zeebo’s garbage collectors and the Maycomb Ladies’ Missionary Society can make them white.” (Chapter 17) This description of the geraniums suggests that they are bright and vibrant, much like Mayella herself would have been before her circumstances turned dire.

The number 9 is also significant in relation to the geraniums, as Mayella mentions in court that there are “nine hollyhock bushes” in the Ewell’s backyard. The number 9 is known to symbolize completion or the end of a cycle, which could suggest that Mayella’s situation has come to a climax, or that the end of her life as she knows it is near. It could also be interpreted as a foreshadowing of the ultimate resolution of the trial in which she falsely accuses Tom Robinson of rape.

Symbolism Interpretation
Geraniums Bright and vibrant, symbolic of the life and hope that Mayella had before her situation turned desperate
Number 9 Symbolizes completion or the end of a cycle, indicating that Mayella’s life as she knows it is coming to an end

Overall, the symbolism of color in To Kill a Mockingbird, including the significance of Mayella’s geraniums, adds depth and complexity to the novel’s themes of racism and societal inequality. By examining the way in which color is used throughout the story, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the characters and their struggles, as well as the larger social issues that the novel addresses.

The portrayal of poverty in To Kill a Mockingbird

In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, poverty is a recurring theme that plays a significant role in the lives of many of the characters. The author uses poverty to highlight the societal inequalities and prejudices that existed during the time of the novel.

  • Mayella Ewell: The Ewell family is one of the poorest in Maycomb and lives in a rundown house near the town dump. Mayella’s poverty is evident in the way she dresses and her overall appearance. Her only source of joy seems to be her geraniums, which symbolize her desire for something beautiful and alive in an otherwise bleak existence.
  • The Cunninghams: The Cunninghams are another poor family in Maycomb, but they pride themselves on their self-sufficiency and refusal to take charity. When Walter Cunningham is unable to pay back a debt to Atticus, he offers to pay in the form of labor instead.
  • The Robinsons: Tom Robinson is a black man who is also poor. He works for Link Deas and struggles to support his family. His poverty is used against him in court by the prosecution, who argue that he has a motive to attack Mayella Ewell because of his low status in society.

Lee uses poverty to show how class and race intersect in the fictional town of Maycomb, and how this intersection leads to the mistreatment and oppression of marginalized groups. The Ewells and Robinsons are both victims of poverty, but they are treated differently because of their skin color. The Cunninghams, on the other hand, are poor but are still considered part of the white working class, giving them a level of privilege and protection.

Overall, To Kill a Mockingbird is a powerful commentary on poverty and its effects on individuals and society as a whole. By highlighting the struggles of those who are marginalized and underserved, Lee challenges readers to examine their own beliefs and biases, and to work towards a more just and equitable society.

FAQs about What Do Mayella’s Geraniums Symbolize

1. What are geraniums?

Geraniums are flowering plants that belong to the Geraniaceae family. They have five petals and come in a variety of colors, including pink, white, red, and orange.

2. Why did Mayella keep geraniums?

Mayella kept geraniums as they are easy to care for and can grow in almost any environment. They also symbolize purity, hope, and innocence.

3. What do Mayella’s geraniums represent?

Mayella’s geraniums represent her desire for a better life and her yearning for love and affection, which she never received from her father.

4. Why did Scout notice Mayella’s geraniums during the trial?

Scout noticed Mayella’s geraniums because they were very different from the rest of her property. She noticed that Mayella took great care of them and they represented a glimpse of hope in an otherwise dreary and depressing environment.

5. What is the significance of Mayella’s geraniums?

Mayella’s geraniums symbolize the possibility of change and growth, and the potential for innocence in a corrupt society. They also represent Mayella’s longing for a better life.

6. What does the fate of Mayella’s geraniums symbolize?

The fate of Mayella’s geraniums a metaphor for the destruction of her dreams and innocence. The fact that they were destroyed by Bob Ewell shows that even the smallest glimpse of hope and purity cannot survive in a corrupted world.

7. How do Mayella’s geraniums contribute to the theme of the book?

Mayella’s geraniums contribute to the theme of the book by representing the power of hope and innocence in the face of corruption and racism. The destruction of the geraniums also symbolizes the inevitable destruction of innocence in the face of societal injustice.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read about what Mayella’s geraniums symbolize. Hopefully, this article has given you a deeper understanding of their significance and the role they play in the novel. Don’t forget to visit us again for more articles about literature and symbolism!