What Is the “Marigolds” Story’s Theme?

Eugenia Collier wrote a short story called Marigolds. Lizabeth starts a friendship with Ms. Lottie, an older woman in the novel. This all takes place in rural Maryland during the Great Depression.

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Marigolds is set during the Great Depression, which was a time of great turmoil across the country. Lizabeth is a 14-year-old girl who watches her mother work hard at home as her father struggles to find job. She lives in a poor neighbourhood and faces daily challenges such as hunger and a lack of resources. As she learns about the stress her parents suffer on a daily basis, she develops bitterness and hostility. She lashes out at Ms. Lottie’s marigolds one day. She destroys them and discovers Ms. Lottie was present when she did it.


Poverty is the first theme introduced in Marigolds. Lizabeth’s parents are overworked and continuously concerned about the family’s well-being. She overhears her father sobbing about his incompetence. He is concerned about feeding his family. Lizabeth is enraged because their absence at work is so noticeable, and she takes it out on Ms. Lottie’s beautiful marigold garden.

From the beginning, poverty is embedded into the fabric of the plot. Lizabeth not only lives in poverty, but it also has an affect on her decisions. She is enraged by her poverty, especially after seeing her father’s struggle with poverty.


Throughout the story, Lizabeth displays embarrassment. She talks about the guilt she felt when Ms. Lottie noticed what she had done while standing over the marigolds. Ms. Lottie was trying to grow something lovely in the midst of poverty, she later realises. Lizabeth understands she stomped all over this attempt to combat ugly with beauty.

Lizabeth isn’t the only character that feels this way. Her father is equally embarrassed. Lizabeth is alarmed when she hears her father crying. She’s never seen or heard a man weep before, and it really bothers her.


Throughout Marigolds, Lizabeth matures. Lizabeth feels compelled to throw pebbles at the marigolds alongside her brother at the start of the story because she does not want to be a coward. She lacks the strength or maturity to confront him and tell him that she does not want to damage the marigolds. She will be able to look back on this period of her life and see how immature she was. She admits that the experience transformed her.

Compassion and innocence

By the end of the story, Lizabeth believes that the only way to develop compassion is to lose one’s innocence. Lizabeth comes to have compassion for Ms. Lottie as a result of her loss of innocence and aggressive deed. People who are innocent are blind to the suffering of others. Lizabeth gained compassion in the instant she understood what she’d done in a fit of rage. She discovered she wasn’t the only one who had problems.


Ms. Lottie plants the marigolds in the hopes of luck and prosperity. Her flowers represent how she envisions the future to be. When Lizabeth burns the flowers, she may also be destroying herself.


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