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Analysis of the Man Who Loved Flowers, Stephen King

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The short story from 1977 “The Man Who Loved Flowers” by Stephen King deals with a young man who’s appearance radiates happiness and love, but on the inside he is filled with sorrow and powerlessness driving to commit a murder.  

The short story takes place in New York on a warm and mild spring afternoon of May. New York is neatly described as very vivid and wonderful. A handsome young man is walking down the street, the sun is shining and the people on the street smile at the man who looks joyous and romantic on this fine day in the city of dreams.  The year is 1963, The Beatles are sky-high popular and revolution among colored and young people is blossoming. The man on the street is neatly though not starchily dressed as he is wearing a light grey blazer and a fine shirt with the upper button undone. His hair is short and black and looks like any pretty man in New York. He is looking self-confident but not in an arrogant or narcissistic way. A wry smile is planted on his face and he is radiating good vibes wherever he goes. The people on the street greet him as he walks by and he modestly returns the regards by waving back at them. An interesting fact is that the main character is nameless, which scares the reader. Had his name been John or George, you could identify him, but this guy could be any guy in any city in any street. So to sum up, he looks very normal and acts as a socially competent person, which is a common trait for psychopaths. One of the ways to become mental ill is when you lose somebody you love. It has been ten years since the main character lost his love Norma and he clearly misses her a lot, because all he ever thinks of is her: “He loved to see her eyes light up with the surprise and joy when he bought her a surprise” (page 176, line 23) Here it is also clearly visible that he greatly detached from reality as he speaks of her in present tense even though she is dead.

The story starts out around four o’clock and is chronologically narrated until it ends at around ten o’clock. It is a frame story as he ends in the same state of mind and movements as when he started. “He began to smile. A bounce came into his step as he walked on down Seventy-third Street.” (page 180, line 26) Time passes through the story until the sun has set. When the sun is on the sky, the narrator is happy all along, positive adjectives and idyllic descriptions of the city and the man are brought forward, but when the evil of darkness shrouds the city, he too becomes an evil man and the description of setting gets dark and spooky. On top of that, the setting changes from lit-up to shadowy. It is symbolic and can be related to werewolves, who seem nice at day, but all a sudden turn mad and untamed. The aforementioned man is the main character and the narrator type is 3rd person limited, which is symbolic, because the main character is limited to himself. He is unable to feel empathy, which is also shown when the radio tells about all the tragedies in the world and he thinks: “None of it seemed real, none of it seemed to matter” (page 176, line 13). That is also a well-known psychopath characteristic.

It is a brilliantly composed short story because it is such a different experience the first and second time you read it. Small clues are to be found in the story such as the hand in the pocket and the news on the radio telling the reader that he is the actual murderer, but it is not dwelled on for long and the brief sadness interrupted by the humor of the radio presenter’s poor pronunciation. The clues are not obvious when told and the term set-up pay-off can be used to describe the method of narrating. In the story, there are some clear contrasts and day/night and in love/madness are definitely worth mentioning. It is a common saying that the difference between love and madness is subtle and it is interesting that the reader not at first notices that the main character is mad and instead confuses the feeling with love, but so does the main character himself. He calls himself “Love”, but he commits crimes of madness and evil making the contrast even greater.

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