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"Life isn't like that The seasons return every year each with its own flowers." As seen in this quote from "Flowers in Season" a short story by Andre Maurois, changing seasons and changes in one's life are the key ideas. The title alone gives some indication of the subject of this story; the different seasons produce different flowers, implying a changing of seasons in this story. In this story, the stages of a person's life are compared to the changing seasons, two people and their losses and the tragedy that has overcome their lives. Etienne and Gabrielle who were both tragically widowed at a young age, have been living in their pasts began to discover a hope for a new future within each other.
Etienne and Gabrielle are both utterly consumed by their pasts, and the past is their complete focus. "He would have replied that he would be coming every Thursday until the day of his death, which he hoped would not be too far distant." (Maurois p.301).
Etienne's grief and loss completely ruled his thoughts, and even his actions were influenced by a dead person. "Each time he brought different flowers, showing as much imagination to charm the dead woman as he had formerly to please the living."(Maurois p.302). In his heart she was very much alive and a part of his daily routine. Even when he began to share a cab back and forth from the cemetery with Gabrielle he was hesitant in thinking of their dead spouses feelings toward such an action. "That would be better .But they-do you think they would approve?" (Maurois p.309).
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"No,' he said, it isn't true that everything is finished for you. Life isn't like that The seasons return every year, each with its own flowers. It isn't healthy or wise to
Give one's self up to an obsession with the past. That deflects memories from the role they should play in our lives Yes, yes. They are meant to make us live, not to prevent us from living '" (Maurois p.311).
The main conflict also gives way to the theme as well, the conflict in this story being man vs. self. An inner struggle between a men's conscious and his feelings. He longs to be loved again, to move on to a better future, but his conscious prevents happiness. He feels it is his duty to pay respect to his wife by mourning her forever. "Never again! He had to say Never again' to love, for the idea of remarrying, even of courting another woman, seemed to him a sacrilege. How could he repeat to another woman words that he had found for this one?"(Maurois p.303). He could not bring himself to justify any kind of fulfillment outside of his wife; he vowed never again to be contented as he had been with her. But his feeling began to betray him, feelings he could not control. He found himself waiting for the woman in black, planning his visits around the times she would be there instead of concentrating on paying his respects he became distracted by her.
"After that he saw her every Thursday. Sometimes she came before he did, sometimes later, but she kept faithful to Thursday. It can't be because of me,' he told himself. Yet he would wait for her arrival with some faint emotion."(Maurois p.304).
He had been so devoted to staying focused on his wife, until this woman came along, and his basic humanity took over. He knew he couldn't stand to be alone any longer, but he wouldn't admit it, because to him it was an act of betrayal.
The focus being that one can not live their entire life living in the past because they will miss their present and possibilities of the future. This is exactly what the main character, Entienne Carlut began to realize as the story progressed. He resisted his need to move on, until he knew it was necessary to move on. He realized, as he said, that memories are not meant to prevent one from living but are meant to make them live. He realized that living in his past was unhealthy and barred him from a happy future. He went from a depressed and bitter man to an anxious and hopeful individual with dreams for the future. He realized that he could love his wife and honor her memory without it wholly ruling his life and decisions.
The changing flowers are another illustration of the theme of change in the story. The flowers went from a symbol of mourning to a symbol of a bright and hopefully happy future, as they began to change color and meaning to the two people. Not only did the flowers meaning began to change but the graveyard did as well. A graveyard is often considered a place of sadness, and is thought of as dark and gloomy, but it soon became a place of anticipation and hope for a new beginning. Even the world around them began to change as their feeling for each other evolved.
"He spoke with some difficulty, unable to confess his real thoughts or emotion aroused in him by the presence, so close, of this female body. The sun had come out and the gilded Invalides dome was sparkling.
How beautiful it is now!' he said, Do you ever feel what I feel- a kind of black bitterness because the world is still beautiful while-'" (Maurois p.309).
The characters began to slowly change from their melancholy states to a more exuberant hopeful couple'. They were reluctant to give into that change; both still felt strongly for their dead spouses and would never give up on them.
"No, I don't believe it. The sad thing is not sorrow itself but the possibility that one could stop being sad. Only I have sworn to be faithful.' I too,' he said, almost fiercely. The pain is still the pain of love.'"(Maurois p.312).
While they were starting a new relationship they vowed they would never forget the past.
They had gone from being completely consumed by the past, to accepting that the past had a specific place within the present. Etienne had a revelation when he discovered that because he was so concentrated on his wife he was going to miss an opportunity at a new life. He realized the theme of the story that one can not live in the past. So many new opportunities and new experiences will come along but if your too busy looking back, you'll miss them.