Flowers in the Attic

Mya Washam, May 2017

I recently finished Flowers in the Attic By V.C. Andrews. It was published in 1979. Both my grandmother and mother have read it. I have owned the book for three and a half years but hadn’t gotten past page 100 until roughly a week ago. In some ways I think this was because I tried to read it at too young of an age and it seemed boring to me. But, once I picked it up again I could barely put it down.

The story takes place in a second story room and the attic of Foxworth Hall, a glorious mansion tucked back in the Virginian mountains. In the beginning of the book the story takes place in Gladstone, a suburban town full of children, but are taken away after a terrible tragedy. The room at Foxworth Hall is locked from the outside to keep prisoners in. Within the room there is a small stairwell that leads to the attic and schoolroom. The Attic is full of wild mice, vintage furniture, chests, and clothes. The windows in the attic open up on the roof where two characters like to spend time during summer nights when the room gets stuffy and hot. Inside the locked room are two beds for four children, a bathroom and a folding gaming table to eat upon. The floors are wooden and the walls are dark. The windows are covered by drapes and are to never be opened for fear that the prisoners would be seen by anyone outside.

           Chris, Cathy, Cory, and Carrie are the Dollanganger siblings and the main characters of the book. They all look the same, stunning golden blonde hair, sharp blue eyes, and beautifully pale skin.

Chris being the oldest and as well portrayed as the smartest. He dreams of being a doctor and spends his days in the attic studying Gray’s Anatomy. He is very happy-go-lucky and remains optimistic throughout their imprisonment that they will be freed. He is also a very daring character, leaving their second story prison many times to steal from their mother. Although in the beginning Chris is shown to be fascinated by his mother, even obsessed with her in the end his feelings are completely different. I believe he feels a bit lonely, always talking about how he has no man to teach him about growing up, no one to help him through the difficulties of adolescence. Chris is incredibly handsome, with blue eyes, blonde hair, and a strong jaw. Many times it is mentioned that he looks remarkably like his father, who is not present during the novel because he died in a car accident.

Cathy is the second oldest, three years Chris’s junior. She is an extremely talented ballerina and she practices dancing up in the attic after Chris installs a ballet bar. Along with dancing Cathy is a very well singer, actress, and crafter. Unlike Chris she a pessimist and always thinks the worst of their mother and the situation they had found themselves in. She is hot tempered and always speaks her mind. On the contrary she is also a very caring, motherly figure. She plays the role of Cory and Carrie’s momma and takes care of laundry, housekeeping, and continuing to keep the twins happy. Both Chris and Cathy love to read and would spend hours reading the same book together. Although Chris liked to rush through a book only scanning the lines Cathy loves to read the same lines over and over to really get a feel for the emotion in the words.

Cory is Carries other half and never wants to be without her. Cory is extremely gifted at music and is able to play any instrument properly without any training. Although his favorite instrument is the banjo. Him and Carrie spend long days sitting in front of the television writing lyrics for songs plucked on Cory’s banjo. Cory is sweet, sensitive, and has a huge heart. He is also a very creative child. He loves to draw, color, and create creatures to hang up out of construction paper.

Carrie on the other hand is destructive, loud, messy, disobedient, and difficult. She is everything that Cory is not. She throws fits about everything, especially if it isn’t her idea. She bites, hits, kicks, and screams at the Grandmother, Cathy, and Chris when she doesn’t get her way. Carrie is extremely protective of Cory. Although she is very hard to handle she can also be very sweet. She clings to Cathy as if she was her mother and writes letter to her once Chris and Cathy teach the twins to write.

The Grandmother is a bitter old woman who hates everyone and everything. She is extremely religious and must think everything about the human body is sinful. She has a short temper and finds joy in inflicting pain on other people. Although the Grandmother is evil and wicked we later find out there are much more terrible souls living in Foxworth Hall.

Corrine Foxworth, once Corrine Dollanganger married her half uncle and had children with him. Corinne is a selfish, greedy, and narcissistic person. She is easily influenced and only does things when they benefit her. Corrine spends days having great adventures in the city, on the beach, or at grand parties. Corrine makes many new and old friends. She shops endlessly and always has new, glorious clothing to wear. She always looks stunning and healthy. Corrine is first portrayed to be the perfect mother, but we find out how badly she has betrayed her children at the end of the story. I have never hated a book character more than I hate Corrine Foxworth. Then there’s the grandfather. We never hear much about him except that he was the most evil man alive. He is extremely wealthy, greedy, and shows no remorse for torturing living creatures. He has a whole room full of exotic animal heads that he killed himself. Of course he can’t partake in those activities now since he is very ill. He is confined to a wheelchair for most of the book except near his death he is bedridden. He is said to look just like Corrine’s late husband with blonde hair and blue eyes. Except now the hair is yellowy white and the blue eyes are mean and cold.

This story is full of regret, greed, and sorrow. I feel so much pity for the siblings who are confined to their prison for three and a half years. Only one summer night are Cathy and Chris able to escape to swim in a lake not far from the house. The whole story starts when the siblings father dies. Corrine has no other way to support them and is already deep in debt. The IRS is coming to take everything away from them in a matter of days. She comes up with a great plan though, everyone will be okay! After many letters written to them Corinne’s parents finally agree to let her and her children live in their home…or so the children are told. Once they arrive at the Grandparents house they are led up to a room and locked in, except Corinne gets to stay in her own room without a locked door. She tells the children that soon, maybe only a few days, she would bring them down to meet their grandfather. He would love them immediately and forgive Corinne for her sins. After a few days pass the children are still locked away and they soon learn that the grandfather will never meet them. He forgave Corinne on one condition: that she never had children with her late husband. The grandmother then gives her 17 lashings with a whip, one for each year she was married. Corinne reassures the children that they will only be here a few more weeks. The grandfather is very ill and will be dead soon. Weeks become months and they siblings grow farther from their mother. She is always out having fun and has been visiting her children less and less. The grandmother gives the children strict rules to follow. They are not allowed to undress in front of, sleep in bed, or be in the bathroom with the opposite sex. They are not allowed to scream or cry or run around for someone might hear them. They are to pray before they eat and before they sleep. When they pray they are supposed to ask God to forgive them and their mother for the sins they have committed. As Chris and Cathy grow older new feelings emerge and they are left feeling confused about their own bodies. With no parents to tell them what’s happening to them they are left alone to figure it out for themselves. A year has passed and the grandfather still has not died. Mother brings them gifts every time she sees them to try and make up for the childhood they are missing out on. The twins barely grow from lack of sunshine and have nearly forgotten who their mother is. Cathy and Chris are more parents to them than their mother will ever be. One fateful day the grandmother walks in on Cathy undressed in front of Chris. They have not done anything wrong, but she sees it as sinful and terribly wrong. As punishment Chris is to cut off Cathy’s favorite part of herself, her long, blonde hair. After he refuses the grandmother promises to starve them until he does. During the night the grandmother sneaks into their room and pours tar in Cathy’s hair. It takes a whole day for Chris to clean it out. Cathy’s hair is left thin and stringy, very unlike its former state. The children survive on cheese, crackers, and milk for two weeks since the Grandmother has kept her promise and not brought them any food. Chris suggests he cut off the top part of Cathy’s hair and then she hold the rest up in a scarf so it looks as if all of it is gone to fool the Grandmother. Even after he does so she does not return to bring them food. After the remaining snacks they had left is gone they are forced to only drink water. The children become weak and nearing death. Chris finds two dead mice for them to eat. Just as they are about to salt and pepper their next meal the Grandmother finally brings them food. As they grow older Chris and Cathy start to have romantic feelings towards each other. Although they try to keep it hidden in fear of going to hell they soon kiss. Regretting it immediately they try to forget it and assure each other that kissing should be nothing sinful. They’ve been locked in the attic for two years and each time Corinne comes to visit the grandfather is “taking his last breath” for all they siblings know he could live forever. One day their mother comes to visit them bearing “great news’. She has remarried. Furious, Cathy screams and yells at her mother for keeping them trapped in the room, for betraying their father, for never visiting. Corrine becomes extremely angry with her own children. She blames them for stressing her and making her feel bad. For they should feel bad for her, she is always worrying about them and thinking of gifts to bring them. Her gifts mean nothing to them anymore. Chris and Cathy learn to live without their mother and soon stop loving her. One night after talking back to the grandmother Chris is severely whipped. Although he stays strong and doesn’t cry while she punishes him Cathy screams for him, feeling every blow to his back. After hearing Cathy the grandmother drags her into the bathroom and whips her as well. It’s been three years and they must make a plan to escape here. Chris makes a wooden copy of the master key their mother carelessly places when she visits them. He sneaks into their mother’s room when she leaves the house with her new husband. He takes small amounts of money from them that they won’t notice. One time he allows Cathy to go by herself. She opens Corinne’s door to find her new, much younger husband sleeping in a chair. Intrigued by how handsome he is Cathy dares to kiss him and then retreats to the room. One night Chris overhears him and Corinne discussing a dream he had. It was a dream about a young girl with long, blonde hair sneaking into the room and kissing him on the lips. Infuriated with Cathy for being so furious Chris heads straight back to the room and screams at Cathy. She tries to apologize but nothing can silence his yells of “You’re mine Cathy, mine and nobody elses!” Filled with rage Chris rapes Cathy on the old mattress in the attic they used to read books on. Although Cathy insists she wanted it Chris feels terrible for hurting her. They admit that they know they shouldn’t feel romantically attracted to each other, but they can’t help but want to. After Cory falls extremely ill Corinne and the grandmother are forced to take him to a hospital. Days later they return to the rest of the children still locked away. They announce that Cory had pneumonia and died. He has already been buried, under a fake name. Grief stricken, Carrie refuses to eat and falls ill as well. Fearing that they will all die soon Chris and Cathy plan to escape soon. Chris searches through all the health and medicine books to find out what is making Carrie so ill. He finds out that it could be rat poisoning. When it is mixed with sugar water it is undetectable. The grandmother has been poisoning them! By sprinkling the poison mixture on their powdered donuts. They always let Cory eat most of them since he loved the donuts so much. That’s why he died so much sooner than them. Just to test this theory they feed Cory’s pet mouse, Mickey a bit of powdered donut. No less than a few minutes Mickey is dead. The children make a plan to escape the next morning. They will use the key to walk right out the front door before anyone is awake. Just to make sure they have enough money Chris will sweep everything valuable from Corinne’s room. He takes an incredibly long time and Cathy begins to worry. He comes back nearly an hour before dawn. He reports to Cathy that nothing was left in their mother’s room. Everything was gone. She and her husband had completely disappeared! He then ran through the house looking for anything. He saw the grandmother in her room, praying for God’s forgiveness and bald! Her steely gray hair had been a wig the whole time! He went to the grandfather’s room to barge in on him and tell him about their existence, but he wasn’t there. His room was empty as well. Confused and angered Chris tried to unlock the safe in the library. Upon hearing people approaching the room he hides behind a loveseat. Two people enter the room and sit down to have a discussion. They talk about how strange it is that Corinne took such a long time to move out of the house. Considering her father had been dead a year! Chris finally escapes from the library to tell his sister all the news. Cathy is furious to hear this. They want their mother to pay, to go to jail, to rot! First they have to get Carrie to a doctor. So they walk out of their room, with their luggage and what money they have. They exit the grand front doors and walk down the road all the way to the train station. They take a train south to florida and as the train rolls down the tracks they catch a glimpse of an old woman peeking through the curtains of a house they will never have to see again.

I absolutely loved this book! It provoked so many emotions and thoughts on what is right and wrong. I have never before felt so angered by fictional characters. I wanted Corinne to suffer,  to go to jail, have her fortune taken away from her, and to rot. I hated her more than any one person outside of the book. The terrible thing about this book is that it made me wish for Chris and Cathy to be together. They seemed like such a perfect pair but, they should never have a romantic relationship. They’re brother and sister! This book was beautifully written. I could picture everything so clearly and feel everything that the characters felt.