The oppression of tyranny breeds either rebellion or its counterpart, conformity, as was the case for the character Helen Winning in the story "Flower Garden" by Shirley Jackson. The static, intrinsic traits of the Elder Mrs. Winning, which are influential to the outcome of the story, are developed in detail by Jackson's use of description and dramatic scenes. The elder Mrs. Winning is characterized as a woman with an authoritative, domineering personality who is unyielding in her convictions.
The elder Mrs. Winning is a sovereign matriarch in her household. After a morning breakfast, as the two Mrs. Winnings "[linger] over a pot of coffee . . . [sitting] together silently" (490?91), the younger Mrs. Winning tries to initiate a conversation. With a curt response, the elder Mrs. Winning cuts her off and "[begins] to move indicating that the time for sitting was over and the time for working had begun" (491). Through this description Jackson demonstrates that the elder Mrs. Winning is accustomed to initiating action, taking charge, and setting the pace for the day's routine. Jackson also develops the trait of leadership in the character of the elder Mrs. Winning by describing the reaction and thoughts of the younger Mrs. Winning in this scene. Jackson states that, "Young Mrs. Winning, rising immediately to help, thought for the thousandth time that her mother-in-law would never relinquish the position of authority in her own house until she was too old to move before anyone else" (491). With this statement Jackson unfolds characteristics of supremacy and power in the personality of the elder Mrs. Winning. While describing another event, a typical af...
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... after a big storm, the elder Mrs. Winning asks Helen, ". . . did it wake you?" (509). With this question the elder Mrs. Winning is apparently showing an interest in Helen's potentially interrupted sleep which is a type of worry that was absent in her character in the dramatic scenes that came prior to this event.
Portraying an image of respectability by her own insolent standards, the character of the elder Mrs. Winning falls short of being honorable. In reality, her characteristics are despicable. The elder Mrs. Winning is a despotic, narrow-minded woman. Her ideals are immovable, and she is overwhelmingly invasive. She exemplifies absolute self-righteousness.
Jackson, Shirley. "Flower Garden." Introduction to Literature: Reading, Analyzing, and Writing. 2nd ed. Ed. Dorothy U.Seyler and Richard A. Wilan. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1990.
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