Song of Solomon
by Toni Morrison
The Velvet Roses
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Whenever they surface, the velvet roses make us a little queasy, and NOT because they remind us of Valentine’s Day, but because they remind us of the opposite of Valentine’s Day (a.k.a. where love goes to die a slow and painful death). Their presence in the novel points to the suffocated, sheltered, and stagnant lives to which Lena and Corinthians Dead are assigned. The girls can’t even have real flowers. They can’t even go out and play in sunshine. The only time Lena gathers real flowers, her brother pees her on, and the flowers die. They are doomed to creating velvet replicas of nature within the tomblike walls of their home.
These roses also bring to light everything Lena and Corinthians will never be able to do (that is until Corrie breaks free): they cannot have babies because they are not married. They cannot get jobs, unless they want to work as a maid. They cannot fall in love, because their father will not permit it unless they fall in love with a suitable man, and there aren’t too many of those around. The only "proper" means of passing their time as educated, affluent women is to make fake flowers. The roses are also significant because, when Robert Smith flies off of Mercy hospital, the only red on the snow visible is that of the spilt velvet roses, and not of Mr. Smith’s blood, heightening both Mr. Smith’s mythical status and calling attention to the girls’ stiff, plastic lives.