The Spanish Moss Theory – Part One
By Neisha Chetty
Firstly, these books are understood when read in series. They are extremely rich in symbolism and are riddled with sub-textual meaning . The Dollanganger series is a mixture of all the other genres, with the correct proportions of each to give you the perfect story There is so much to these books that it would take me an entire book to explain each and every thing, Although these books may appear to be “simple as you think they are more complex than you can imagine.” This book is an extraordinary example of implicit or sub-textual meaning. *Book 1 – Flowers in the Attic The first book “Flowers in the Attic” uses fairytale- like tones to give the illusion of innocence but beneath the surface is the undercurrent of a shadowed truth. . …I remember the line from V for Vengeance “Artists use a lie to tell the truth”. Virginia Andrews certainly did, in the series, using her prime narrator. Every one pretty much read the books and they know of the story and it controversy. It is told in the naive narrative view by Cathy. Everyone knows that too, of course! So this is more a symbolic and sub-textual analysis rather than a review. In fact this is more Chris’s story. Besides the obvious understanding of the attic (1) being a place where stuff no longer needed is stored, the attic can represent :- (2) The Dollanganger (Foxworth) family history and legacy (3) The “way” of humanity. Way meaning its history and pattern. The family actually mentioned (4).The subconscious mind maybe many of you have heard of the saying “The Attic of my mind” where things are recorded and stored and never forgotten. (5) Using the biblical view can also represent a higher place (heaven) or the Garden of Eden”. The philosophical view ties these two together. (6). The universe or the universal view – macroscopic where the book needs to be understood in all its different levels of symbolism – the ineffable.
Knowing that, any one reading it further should a). Gain a better understanding of Cathy and Chris (draw a character analysis because knowing these two characters unlock the secrets to the subsequent mystery). Favoured child vs the envious child The realist vs the idealist “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. b). Pay attention to their family history. -Lost Colony -Civil War -Winslow demise and the rise of the Foxworths -the portraits -clothes -furniture -Doppelganger and it’s meaning c). Nature -the wind -the colours green (most importantly), red, purple, white, black, yellow, blue – the sun – the rain – the moon – the leaves – the seasons -flowers and trees -mountains d). Perspective Knowing this lays down the foundation to understanding the subsequent books. **Book 2 – Petals on the Wind The second book, my word, is the second book the trick in this whole series Many read it and say it is just a soap opera but the trick :- Cathy changes from naive (innocent) to the Unreliable (Mad) narrator. Yes, she is unaware that she subconsciously kills – spanish moss love that clings and clings until it kills. Malcolm’s killer (bad) genes. Pay attention to the green blanket, towel, grass, garden and yes of course the wind. Pay lots of attention to the Flowers in the Attic passage “Then Cory spoke up. As always, he was the one to ask the most difficult questions to answer. “Where has all the grass gone?”
“God took the grass to heaven.” And thusly, Carrie saved me from answering. “For Daddy. Daddy likes to mow the lawn.”” Cathy’s to Chris (Flowers in the Attic) “The Wind – dead souls whispering “I’ve got another goodie-whispering winds like dead souls trying to tell us something.” Bob Dylan wasn’t kidding when he stated that the answer my friend is blowing in the Wind. Love that clung and killed … Cathy the Killer a). Julian’s Death Julian couldn’t feel her hand on his chest. If Julian was paralysed, he couldn’t move his hand. Remember this (Petals on the Wind)… “Chris made the call to Madame Marisha for I was deathly afraid he’d pass away any moment and I might miss the only chance to tell him I love him. And if that happened I would be cursed and haunted all my life.” She doesn’t get a chance to tell Bart she loves him, that’s why she doesn’t have his picture in Seeds of Yesterday although we know that’s she had pictures from the Greenglenna paper of him toasting her mother in her scrapbook of revenge, she doesn’t ever keep a photo of Bart. Further evidence . Julian’s room “I stood in the dim, greenish light from the lamp covered by a GREEN towel.”… (Petals on the Wind) Pay attention to this.. “The two of them pulled Cory from my arms and wrapped him in a GREEN BLANKET.” (Flowers in the Attic) The colour of her dad’s cadillac is GREEN. “The body of Bart Winslow was found on the on the floor of the library with the skeletal grandmother still clutched in his arms – both suffocated by the smoke and not the flames. I stumbled over to fold down the GREEN BLANKET and stared into his face to convince myself death had come into my life” (Petals on the Wind) b). Bart’s Death Now onto Bart … and the burning of Foxworth Hall .. Cathy (Petals on the Wind) “I looked at the dormer windows of the attic and saw the fallen slat from one of the black shutters had been replaced. There wasn’t a scorch mark anywhere or signs of fire. The HOUSE HADN’T BURNED!. GOD HADN’T SENT AN ERRAND BREEZE TO BLOW THE CANDLE FLAME UNTIL IT CAUGHT A
DANGLING PAPER FLOWER ON FIRE. GOD WASN’T GOING TO PUNISH OUR MOTHER OR THE GRANDMOTHER, NOT FOR ANYTHING!” Sounds familiar ????
Cathy was the one who went to the attic with a lit candle.
Before coming down to avenge her mother. Corrinne couldn’t have set the fire merely because it was mere minutes between the time she left the library to the time they discover Foxworth hall (which is large and would take some time to burn). Corinne did however sent him back into the house. You should question why did Bart go back into the house ?!!! And his peculiar demise where he couldn’t get out. I must also stress here, that there are clues in the book to state that Bart Winslow knew who Cathy was from the beginning. Her letters to Corinne- he had them. He knew of Malcolm’s affair with Alicia. “And one great big secret I’ve never heard before is that Malcolm Neal Foxworth, the good, pious, saintly gentleman, had a love affair after he had heart trouble. Now before his heart trouble, I happen to know he had at least one, possibly, but no more.” Oh! He knew more than 1. 1 had shot an arrow into the sky, not knowing it would hit a bulls-eye!” (Petals on the Wind) He also knew who Cathy was when she kissed him in Flowers in the attic. That’s why he constantly mentions that kiss to Corinne, to tell her that her children have found a way out. You can find that in the book. c). Paul’s Death Paul’s Death in the chapter named “Reaping the harvest”. Cathy is called by Paul who tells her his impotent and suggests that she should go to her brother. Directly after that chat she writes “And so like Momma, we’d written our scripts too, Chris and I. And maybe ours is no better than hers”. That suggests that they are engaged in a sexual relationship between them. And a year later, they are at the river when Cathy tells Chris she had sex with Paul. If she was sleeping with Chris, why did she sleep with Paul? The answer is Paul lived on like the grandfather preventing them from living solely as husband and wife. She married Paul, to inherit the Sheffield name so she can pose as Mrs. Christopher Sheffield and to give her illegitimate son, Bart the cover of having a father and to inherit his money so they can find a secluded place to live. Pay attention to Paul’s story about Julia and how she could have drowned herself in shallow water. We can understand her holding Scotty down but how did she manage to drown ? Remember Catherine, you’ll learn from “If there be thorns” doesn’t like men who smoke like her grandfather did. Bart, Julian and Paul smoked.
d). Carrie’s death At Carrie’s funeral “And the poison on her doughnuts hadn’t been just a trace, but heavily laced.. Pure arsenic” If it was heavily laced when she consumed them, Carrie would have died within hours. As with Mickey who was given a dose accordingly with body weight he died after several hours. Equate that with a person and a heavily laced dose and the same “Mickey effect” would arise. But from what evidence we see, Carrie has been steadily dosed over a long period of time. Hair falling out, feeling ill and going pale. It takes her many days before she eventually dies. Remember that when Cathy and Paul host a dinner party for Alex and Carrie, the same night the following happens :- after Chris calls her when she is bed with Paul, she runs to Carrie’s room. “And yes just like Cory, I could hear the wind blowing and howling like a wolf searching for me, wanting to blow me away too, just had it blown Cory and made him only into dry dust. Quickly I ran to Carrie’s room, wanting to protect her. For it seemed to me, in my nightmarish state, it was more likely that the wind would take her before it got me .. ” I can’t express even how important this statement. In her nightmarish state she (subconsciously) poisons her own sister. That’s why Carrie never explicitly states she took arsenic and she is never confronted and nor does she verbally state she committed suicide. Remember Catherine thinks she is Corinne sometimes and then she hates herself. Once you understand that Cathy is a killer, you start to understand Chris, why he couldn’t abandon Corinne, why he had to become a doctor and why it had to be his sister. “Oh, golly! I was greatly disturbed, kind of numb feeling inside. So many accidents. Two brothers dead and daddy ,too, all from accidents. My bleak look met with Chris. He wasn’t smiling.”
Cathy (Flowers in the attic) “Out of the four Dresden Dolls only two were left. And one would do nothing. He had taken an oath to preserve life and keep alive even those who don’t deserve to live ” The defective family gene that lead them to become killers, Chris binds himself to an oath that forbids him to become a killer. Chris plucked it out and held it, just staring down at a dead maple leaf as if his very life depended on reading its secret for knowing how to blow in the wind. No arms, no legs, no wings … but it could fly when dead. (Flowers in the Attic). He figured out the secret.
The Thomas hood poem O’er the earth there comes a bloom, — Sunny light for sullen gloom, Warm perfume for vapours cold, — I smell the Rose above the mould:” Literary devices using the narrative techniques. The character that is the key to unlocking the mystery is the other protagonist, Chris. He is also the prime protagonist. Cathy repeats the murdering family legacy whilst Chris is the change in the pattern. Throughout our history there will be suffering, death, destruction and despair but there will come one person who will change that, save and unite humankind and show them the way – kind of like Neo in The Matrix, John Connor in Terminator, Mallory Ringess in Neverness or Paul Atreides in Dune. ( Andrews was big into science fiction and her very first novel was sci -fi Gods of Green Mountain). That’s why this story begins with Cathy and Chris, and not other people in their family. Andrews chose this because of that change in the pattern – Chris and his relevance to his family and humanity. Andrews goes to great length to show how two people with different ideals suffering the same fate reacting differently. She is building us up for what shapes the human experience. One pins his hopes on reaching his goal of becoming a doctor (which he ultimately does), he doesn’t go forth with great expectations and isn’t idealistic, the other wants a mountain full to make up for what she has lost and when her dreams don’t materialise, it fuels her plans for revenge.
“Before you begin on the journey of revenge, dig two graves.” – Proverb.
One grave is reserved for the one seeking revenge. It is essential to keep this in mind :- “She said you kept the embryo, one with two heads. I’ve seen that thing in your office in a bottle. Paul, how could you keep it? Why didn’t you have it buried? A monster baby! It isn’t fair-it isn’t-why, why?”” Cathy to Paul (Petals on the Wind) Why did Paul keep the deformed embryo ? Does it make sense ? Or does this shed some light ? “And every time he swatted a fly, or killed a spider, Paul, Chris would long to have John Cuff microscope. And once he said he wanted to be the Mouseman of the Attic, and discover for himself why mice die so young.” “Do mice die young?” asked Paul seriously. “How did you know they were young? Did you capture baby ones, and mark them in some way?” Chris and I met eyes. Yeah, we’d lived in another world back when we were young and imprisoned, so that we could look at the mice who came to steal…..” Cathy to Paul – Chris’s graduation – (Petals on the Wind)
Remember the embryo would serve Chris more than Paul. This story unearths the human clay. It is a story of human suffering, betrayal and most of all hope.