7 Powerful Uses of Flowers in Fiction

They might pass you by as just another detail, but the flowers you read about and see on screen have more meaning than you think.

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If you’ve ever sent someone flowers or gathered a bouquet for a loved one, perhaps you put thought into what their favorite flowers are. Or you did some research on what different flowers mean. They’re a great way to let someone know you’re thinking of them or to show appreciation. In fiction, however, the use of flowers is much more creative. They become symbols of love, threats, and even physical barriers for characters. Let’s take a look at some of the most powerful ways flowers appear in fiction.

The Hunger Games: Katniss and Rue 

hunger games flowers

Katniss surrounds and covers Rue with wildflowers potentially to show the capitol that they are responsible for her death. She also does this to honor Rue and give her a respectful, proper death rather than just leaving her body out in the woods. In fact, the bed of flowers makes it look like Rue is sleeping. Katniss did this out of pure intentions which makes it all the more meaningful. It’s an incredibly powerful moment and one of the first acts that wins the respect of the other districts for Katniss.

The Hunger Games: President Snow and Roses

hunger games

At one point in the series, Finnick Odair explains the theory about why President Snow keeps roses around him. It’s said that he uses the scent of the roses to mask the constant smell of blood coming from his mouth sores. While rising to power, he poisoned his rivals to maintain that power and consumed the poison himself to avoid suspicion. He used antidotes to survive, but the mouth sores were a consequence of the frequent consumption. Roses effectively became Snow’s symbol – he always has one on his lapel and he eventually uses them as a warning to Katniss and the rebellion.

It’s fascinating how flowers can be used so differently, but equally as powerfully, in the same series.

Midsommar: The May Queen Dress

midsommar flowers

True to A24’s incredible psychological horror thrillers, Midsommars trippy and shocking series of events doesn’t let you catch a break until the very end – and even then, you don’t necessarily feel relieved. As Dani gets crowned May Queen, and everyone she traveled to Sweden with is dead or taken into the cult, there’s a lingering discomfort as a viewer. She wears an enormous dress and crown made of forget-me-nots, sweet peas, buttercups, cornflowers, and Persian jewels. But the bright, festive colors contrast with the feeling we have after nearly 3 hours of horror which makes the flowers feel eerie. Dani even smiles at the end despite experiencing trauma after trauma the entire film. It’s a genius use of flowers which we typically associate with innocence and positivity.

Twilight Series: Edward and Bella in the Meadow

twilight flowers

The famous meadow filled with violet, yellow, and white wildflowers holds tons of meaning in the Twilight series. We only see the meadow during momentous scenes: When Bella tries to relive memories with Edward after he leaves her in New Moon, when the two sit in the meadow in Eclipse as Edward asks her to marry him, and again at the end when they’re finally engaged. Then, we don’t see the meadow until the very end of Breaking Dawn when Bella shows Edward her thoughts for the first time and symbolizes the beginning of the rest of their lives together. The state of the meadow is great visual storytelling. The dead, barren meadow in New Moon shows how Bella feels dead inside with Edward’s absence while the luscious, almost magical, meadow in the other scenes represents blissful times. These are the scenes that come post-win against the newborn army, post-engagement, and after they convince the Volturi that Renesmee isn’t an immortal child. 

Howl’s Moving Castle: The Secret Garden

howl's moving castle

Though this is a brief scene, it’s compelling and emotional. This is personally one of my favorite animated movies ever – something about it hits home without fail every time. There’s a moment in the story when Howl changes both physically and character-wise. He remodels his home to include space for Sophie and the Witch of the Waste which is a big moment in his development. But the most heartwrenching moment is when he takes Sophie through the magic door of his castle into a seemingly endless field of flowers. Sophie is in awe of its beauty until Howl says he’s setting things up so they can live a comfortable life. That’s when she realizes what he said – so they can live a comfortable life. Without him. It’s a sad scene also filled with love and is made so much more meaningful by the fact that he gives away his secret garden. 

The Lightning Thief: The Lotus Hotel and Casino

the lightning thief

If you’ve read the Lightning Thief or seen the movie, you know the infamous casino scene. It seems fun with endless partying, food, and no worries. That is until we realize it’s a trap. The casino keeps people there with desserts that look like lotus flowers which intoxicate the victim making them want to stay forever. Rick Riordan does an amazing job adapting Greek mythology for his series, modernizing old legends to make them apply in present times. The lotus flower is one of many fantastic details he included along Percy, Annabeth, and Grover’s journey. This version comes from a myth about a tribe called the Lotus-eaters who were addicted to the fruit of the tree. When Odysseus ran into the tribe during his travels, some of his crew tasted the fruit and never wanted to leave. 

Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Rose

beauty and the beast

When we think of a rose, what comes to mind is probably love. It cemented itself in society as a romantic flower, so it makes sense that it’d be the centerpiece for Beauty and the Beast. A spell that can only be broken with true love? What better symbol than a rose that slowly dies to run out the clock before the Beast is stuck that way forever. Beyond its importance in love, however, this iconic Disney movie manages to add to the rose’s meaning. It also holds an immense amount of tragedy and anger. Each time a petal falls we can feel the Beast’s desperation to save himself, but also how he inches closer to giving up. The rose keeps us in suspense as we watch Belle and the Beast’s relationship develop. Beauty and the Beast put an interesting twist on our traditional understanding of what a rose represents.

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