The loss of innocence aligns with the realization that there are restrictions in the world, limits exist; these limits are the loss of autonomy. Some of these limits are traps set by others, the shortcomings of those who set them a way to control the people they place within them. The loss of innocence for the three young women in How Far She Went, The Flowers, and Frozen is a central theme. The characters have burdens of familial restraints and outsider rage, and these create barriers in which they find themselves an unconsenting prisoner. The restrictions of adulthood replace the freedom of childhood in these coming of age allegorical dilemmas. The protagonists in these narratives learn to embrace their strength and desires as they grapple with the lessons which others try to impart on them as they learn that the dangers of an outside world that will never fully accept them.
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The characters experience a shift as their external environment clashes into their freedom to be who they are. Elsa's parents shelter her from the outside world in Frozen; they tell her to fear her feelings and curb her powers. "Conceal, Don't Feel." These lessons mislead her, and she learns to close up and not work through her feelings with people close to her. When these feelings boil over she acts in extremes that are ultimately more painful to the one person, her sister, who wants more than anything to understand her. The restraints of Myop in The Flowers comes as a result of the traumatic experience of seeing a corpse. "It was the rotted remains of a noose, a bit of shredding plowline, now blending benignly into the soil." (Walker 120). This noose is a literal restriction around a man's neck which allows him to breathe. The witnessing of this restraint speaks to the lack of freedom that Myop has to exist. In How Far She Went, the restraints come in the form of a nearly violent lesson. A girl's grandmother has to protect her from the men out to harm her. "They crouched there then, the two of them, submerged to the shoulders, feet unsteady on the slimed lake bed." The two are protected by this hiding spot, restrained from danger and also from complete freedom. The women eventually get away from the men, but these restraints come with a hard lesson: their freedom does not exist. The landscape that these lessons take place in is familiar and becomes unfamiliar as these experiences unfurl.
The external environments change drastically as an important setting for these lessons to take place. Elsa's kingdom turns to ice, the white ice lacking color and signifying a threat to life, "A palace made of ice." The characters admit that the ice is beautiful but the unnatural circumstances frighten them, they feel endangered by the unfamiliar. A familiar landscape is once a place of childhood delight, "She had explored the woods behind the house many times." (Walker 119). The woods suddenly turn into a dark rotting place with the advent of Myop's discovery of a body that she nearly trips over underneath the leaves. In the struggle to run away from bad men, the women in How Far She Went go on a journey from the comforts of a car to the sludge of the dark lake as day turns into night, "one streak of light still stood reflected on the darkening lake." As their situation becomes more dangerous, the environment darkens. The use of color and light in these texts signifies the contrast between darkness and light, the divide between two worlds.
The two worlds that all three protagonists come to terms with is the one of childhood freedom and adult responsibility. The realities and dangers of the world outside the bubble of childhood creates unforgettable lessons. Elsa nearly kills her sister when the ice goes towards Anna's heart. The girl nearly loses her innocence, and her grandmother asks, "Did they mess with you? With your britches? Did they?" (Hood 186). The girl was not physically harmed but she understands they could have raped her, and the consequence of her dog dying abolishes her naivete. In Myop's world, "...Summer is over." (Walker 120). Something is lost: life, innocence, and they gain friendship and knowledge in all of these cautionary allegorical tales. The lesson that the danger of the outside world is close and impending, a timeless lesson.
The dangers that live close to home are a surprising revelation for the young women in these stories. Anna learns the man she loves is using her and that her sister has powers that can quite literally kill her. The relationships that she trusts as stable are not stable, and they trap her in their dangers as her heart nearly gives out, and she is a prisoner in her palace. When Myop learns that her backyard is not safe, the evil of the outside world is right outside the walls of her home. Her playground is no longer safe, and the flowers become ones put on the grave, the flowers of a funeral in an unjust death. Evil correlates with death, or with the fear of death. The dog dies because evil men shoot him. Anna nearly dies when a man greedy for more power refuses to help save her, and Myop walks on a body killed because of racism and hate. Outside forces of evil have brought these events into fruition.
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The convergence of two worlds is what informs the journeys of these women as they grapple with the concepts of freedom and restraints. To indeed be free is not an option for any of these women. They must navigate the challenges of their gender and race in order to find a way to survive. Elsa must compromise her powers in order to allow the other people in her life safety; as a leader, she must put her own needs aside and take care of her family and the kingdom. Myop can not be free because of the color of her skin, and she will be subject to prejudice because of racist ideologies in the place where she grows up, in order to survive she will have to play by the rules and not put herself in danger or anger clan members. Even then, her safety is never guaranteed. The girl will always be in danger because of the nature of her sex. She will learn how to hide and run from men again and again as they attempt to hunt her down. The outside world presents a constant danger that threatens the existence of these women. They find a way to survive as the lessons they learn to change how they view their surroundings forever.
- “Frozen.” Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, 2015.
- Hood, Mary A. How Far She Went Stories. Univ. of Georgia Press.
- “The Flowers.” In Love and Trouble Stories of Black Women, by Alice Walker, Women's Pr., 1984.
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