Flowers in the Attic is a novel by V. C. Andrews first published in 1979 and adapted into a film in 1987.It is a gruesome story of lies, secrets, betrayal and triumph. Flowers in the Attic is the story of Cathy Dollanganger and her brothers and sister Christopher, Cory and Carrie. Following the death of their father, their mother takes them to live with their rich grandparents, who had disowned her and written her out of the will of her dying father. The Grandmother, a mean-spirited, overly-zealous religious fanatic, reveals the shocking truth about their mother's disinheritance, and that they must remain quiet and out of sight if they do not wish to be punished simply for being alive. As time goes by, the children suffer, locked up, abandoned and left to die by a selfish mother and a hateful grandmother.
The book provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: And Grandparent. First, the grandmother is this to both Corrine and her four grandchildren. Then, it's not long at all before Corrine herself to start acting this way towards them.
Alliterative Family: The man's name is Christopher, with his wife Corrine and there four children; Christopher Jr., Cathy, and twins Cory and Carrie.
Brother-Sister Incest: Shown with Chris and Cathy. The four children themselves are from this kind of union; Their parents were at first said to be half-uncle and half-niece, but the final book in the series revealed that they were actually half-siblings.
Chekhov's Gun: The cookies, or more specifically, the arsenic-laced sugar topping. They were donuts in the book, cookies in the film.
Fallen Princess: Deconstructed. Corrine comes from vast wealth and gave it all up to marry her husband but once he's dead she won't work and returns to her family, hoping to be rich again. She ends up trying to kill off her own children just to get her inheritance.
The Ghost: Grandfather. He's never seen in the books (aside from a quick mention from Chris when he sneaks out), though he does make a couple of onscreen appearances in the film.
Gilded Cage: The children's attic prison initially comes across as this when they are fed regularly and frequently given expensive presents. It becomes a nothing more than a cage, however, when their mother increasingly neglects.
Hypocrite: Of the super-religious type. The Grandmother takes the incestuous relationship her daughter had committed, and used it as an excuse to starve, abuse, lie, blackmail, dehumanize children,and commit outright murder, among other things. Also, it is mentioned once that the grandfather feels like he is entitled to act however he wants and do whatever he wants because he funded a church.
Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Initially played straight with the Dollanganger family, but eventually subverted as the family breaks down.
Hulk Speak: Cory and Carrie don't speak good "'cause Momma don't like them no more."
In the Blood: The Grandmother believes incest runs in the Dollinganger family. It does.
Innocent Blue Eyes: Initially played straight with the Dollanganger family, but eventually subverted as the family breaks down.
Insufferable Genius: Christopher wants to be a doctor, which apparently involves knowing everything there is to know about everything in the world. It gets to the point where Cathy snaps and screams at him for it.
Intimate Haircut: Cathy gives Chris one and it leads to him raping her in a fit of desperation.
Karma Houdini: None of the people responsible for the children's imprisonment and Cory's death receive any punishment. In the film, Corrine is exposed and killed on her wedding day, making The Grandmother's and her accomplices' escape from justice all the more baffling.
Only in the movie though, the Grandmother gets some retribution from Cathy later, and Corrine later is forced to admit her children's existence, and what she did to them in front a large group of people, only to spend the remainder of her life trying to regain their love.
Loser Kids Of Loser Parents: The grandmother thinks that the kids, especially Chris and Cathy, are somehow incestuous by nature because they were inbred.
Mama Bear: Averted with Corrine, who doesn’t give a rat's crap about her kids. Played Straight with Cathy, who is a surrogate mother to her little brother and sister.
Promotion to Parent: Chris and Cathy become surrogate parents for their much younger twin siblings Cory and Carrie. They called it a game, with Chris as the daddy, Cathy as the mommy and Cory and Carrie as the children. It becomes more serious when it is made clear that their real mother doesn’t seem to want them any more.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Chris and Cathy's incestuous love. The Grandmother wanted to prevent such a thing, but she actually pushed them together by locking them up for years, isolated from the rest of the world and other kids. One of the most primal instincts of human nature is to find a suitable mate for reproduction. Since Chris and Cathy were the only members of the opposite gender nearing sexual maturity, cooped up together for years, they naturally gravitated toward each other, siblings or not. It did not help that they had to play the roles of parents for their little brother and sister and that the Grandmother never seemed to leave them alone about it.
Spoiled Brat: Corrine quickly becomes this when she gets a taste of the good life again.
A Taste of the Lash: Corrine is whipped to atone for her time spent "living in sin." For looking out the window, and then speaking out against Grandmother, Christopher and Cathy get whipped with a willow switch.
Traumatic Haircut: Grandmother catches Chris staring at Cathy naked and demands this as punishment. The children refuse and actually get her to back off but instead she drugs Cathy in her sleep and pours tar on her head. They managed to remove the tar with chemicals and Cathy fools Grandmother by wearing a scarf over her head.
The Unfavorite: Even before the imprisonment, Corrine was harsh on Cathy.
Unnamed Parent: The grandparents are only known as The Grandmother and The Grandfather.
Wig, Dress, Accent: Chris one night when he sneaks out of the room, just as a party is being held in the house.
The film adaptation provides examples of:
Adaptation Dye Job: Grandmother has grey hair in the books (and it turns out to be a wig) but is red-haired in the film.
Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Cathy calls her oldest brother Christopher throughout the whole film, which comes across as a little strange. It's not explained that since the father was Christopher as well, he was called Chris while Jr. was Christopher.
Adaptation Induced Plot Hole: The movie is set in the 1980s while the book was set in the 1950s. As a result Corrine going back to her rich family for money instead of finding a job herself is a little strange since there were less housewives and stay-at-home mothers in the 80s than there were in the 50s. Also Chris and Cathy are aged up to around fifteen and sixteen (they are fourteen and twelve respectively in the book) so one wonders why they didn't work either.
Corrine does have rather expensive tastes, and few jobs would give her a high enough income. And she put it all on credit cards.
Dawson Casting: This was one of the problems with the film adaptation. The actors playing the elder children are the size of full-grown adults but *act* as though they're relatively young children. This even breaks the plot - the male lead is large enough to physically overpower the abusive grandmother, which would make escaping from the large, empty mansion trivial.
Incest Subtext: The scene with the father giving Cathy her music box when she's alone in her bed, topped off with giving her a ring in a posture that looks very like a proposal. Cathy and Christopher's relationship is relegated to subtext at best.
Traumatic Haircut: Done more directly in the film, where Grandmother knocks Cathy down and cuts her hair off.
Unnamed Parent: The grandparents are only known as The Grandmother and The Grandfather. In the film, the father's name is never given.