Mayella Ewell’s Red Flowers
Caring for my flower beds and potted plants today, I couldn’t help but reminisce sadly as I pruned the plants on my porch. They are a vivid red and reminded me of the red flowers cared for by Mayella Ewell in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
The red flowers in the novel were the only beautiful things in Mayella Ewell’s life.
Mayella Ewell was the poor, ignorant girl who falsely accused Tom Robinson of taking advantage of her. Her accusation came after she tried to reach out to Tom for affection, but was politely rejected. Her rejection was especially painful because her abusive father discovered the two at just the wrong moment, and after Tom fled the scene, Bob Ewell gave Mayella a vicious beating.
Those flowers were essential to Harper Lee’s characterization of the tragic girl. When asked if Tom had any previous interactions with the girl, Tom told of times that he helped her chop fire wood or do small tasks around their home. He recollected seeing her water and care for the red flowers. They were the one bright spot in the Ewell’s dirt-swept front yard, just as Tom’s visits were probably the one bright spot in Mayella’s day.
Tragically, as Tom’s life was turned upside down by the guilty decision of the jury, Mayella had to return home to the same sad, lonely existence she had come from, with only her red flowers to brighten her life. I have wondered, if Mayella were a real person, would the flowers hold the same importance to her after Tom mentioned them in the trial? Would they still be something she cared enough to tend to? Would they still be beautiful to her?
Fortunately we can learn from the lessons from Harper Lee’s writing and hopefully not have to make choices out of ignorance and fear, as Mayella did. We can see genuine beauty in the crimson of flowers and disregard prejudices and misconceptions about those who are different from us.
As you encounter others and their lives, take note of the small things they do to make their world more beautiful. Look for the red flowers in those that you meet. Find the red flowers growing in the hearts and yards of all those around you, and you will find the bright spots in those who may not seem so approachable.
If you intend to find beauty in all those you meet, that beauty will readily show itself in all situations.
By: Melanie A. Peters