Pieces of the Puzzle
By Neisha Chetty
I treat the Dollanganger series as a puzzle. Virginia has already created a picture of what she wants us to see, she has worked out the plot and the why – a total picture. She took that whole picture broke it up into pieces, fragmented it, scattered them throughout the series and gave it to us to solve.
When assembling any puzzle, there is only ONE logical way the pieces link up for the picture to emerge.
However the problem lies in that we don’t know the whole picture. And well Virginia died. So we have to use her themes as framework in order for us to gain the whole perspective : –
1. Vengeance and Hatred vs Understanding and Peace
“When you seek to destroy someone emotionally, you kill what he loves best.” Cathy- Petals on the Wind
“…turned to bitter, hard thoughts of revenge. When you set out to defeat someone, the best way was to think as they did.” Cathy – Petals on the Wind
2. Appearance vs Reality Truth versus Facade
“Chris coloured all his animals realistically, I decorated mine with polka dots ..” Cathy (Flowers in the Attic). As you can gauge, Chris’s interpretation of the story would be more realistic and to this series that is extremely important.
3. History repeats itself
4. For everything that seems mysterious there is a logical, rational explanation
5. Intention versus Action The act of incest is wrong
There are others but I am only going concentrate these.
There are three theories presented to me of Corinne’s intentions behind poisoning her children..
One is that she wanted to make them a little sick which I can dismiss. If they get ill, you need to take them to the hospital and tell the doctors to treat them for arsenic poisoning to save them. She wouldn’t want to be implicated in any way so onto the next…
The next is that she wanted her children dead because of codicil and the inheritance but that doesn’t make total sense because she let the other three children still live on …even when Cathy was continuously blackmailing her. Surely a woman with so much wealth could have done away Catherine, or did she see that her children were of no threat to her inheritance and through Olivia she would still retain her wealth ?
And the other … This one. Here is Corinne’s confession and the reason that she poisoned them.
“I loved them! I didn’t want to give them the arsenic-but my father made me! He told me they should never have been born! He tried to tell me they were so evil they deserved to die, and
that was the only way I could make amends for the sin I’d committed when I married you!” Corinne- Petals on the Wind
What did her father do to convince her children were so evil that didn’t deserve to live? How do he manage to override her natural instincts as a mother? Or did he appeal to them rather than override them? How were the children evil? What did she see everything she entered the northern room when she looked at her children? When she looked at the twins? When she saw her two elder children? Why was she buying Catherine children’s clothes? What did Malcolm tell Corinne to make her think how big her sin was ?
Look at this quote
“Yes, Mother, I do hate you.” “You wouldn’t if you understood-” I laughed, hard and bitterly. “Dearest Mother, there is not one thing you could tell me to make me understand.”
What is it that Corinne could possibly tell Catherine that could make her understand?
Was there something more than inheritance ? “Why was everybody doing bad things to everybody else and calling the excuse “inheritance”?”- Bart – If there be Thorns
What was the awful truth ? Remember, this is before Garden of Shadows.
“There has to be an awful truth hidden back in the past to warp Malcolm’s brain so he could override our mother’s natural instincts to keep her own children alive.” Christopher (SOY). The true antagonist of the books is Malcolm.
Do we not see the truth because we want to hold on to our hatred for Corinne ? “It’s too late for understanding or forgiving our mother, and, to be honest, I don’t want to find understanding—for if I do, I might have to forgive her.” Catherine – Seeds of Yesterday
This quote from Garden of Shadows tells is that sometimes the truth is hidden and we have to search for it
“My father always taught me that when something was terribly wrong, there was a reason. And the reason was always hidden. If one wanted to know the truth, one should search for it.” Olivia GOS “But Olivia” he had cautioned me,” when you search the shadows to find that truth, often you find things more horrible, more painful than you would imagine. ”
This is how I work on solving the mystery and piecing together the puzzle.