Even if Cathy's not an Unreliable Narrator
(aka she's not overtly lying), that doesn't mean she's not an Infallible Narrator
, and thus the passage of time still impacts her telling of the story. Within the Framing Device
, Cathy wrote Flowers
many years after the events took place. There are several scenes written in a way that's odd at first glance, but which make a lot
of sense in the context of Cathy remembering and retelling that event.
- In the very first chapter of Flowers, a police officer tells the Dollanganger family their father has died. The officer is long-winded, very confusing, tells the the graphic details of the accident in front of all the party guests and the children, and weirdly over-emphases that the crash was not Chris Sr's fault. If taken at face value, the officer has absolutely no idea how to talk to grieving family and is bad at his job to the point of farce. But if you assume the scene, as Cathy tells it, is the result of her piecing together her memory of that day, it suddenly makes a lot of sense. Perhaps the details of the crash were actually told to them later on. The insistence that the crash wasn't her dad's fault was probably from Cathy's internal monologue at the time. And Cathy—as a child, experiencing the most traumatic event of her life up to that point—melded the details together in her head over the years.
- In the scene in Flowers when the Grandmother whips Cathy, Cathy describes the Grandmother's outfit in great detail, down to how there are 17 stones in her broach. This is what is called a screen memory—fixating on an unimportant detail to divert from the traumatic main point and make it more bearable.
- The scene where Chris rapes Cathy. Chris calls it rape, and in the scene itself it pretty clearly is. But Cathy—beginning later that same night, and going all the way into Petals—frames it as closer to Questionable Consent. This is a realistic (if disturbing) depiction of one of the ways people cope with trauma: by telling themselves it wasn't really that bad. In If There Be Thorns that event is brought up again, when Jory reads that scene in Cathy's transcript of Flowers in the Attic. Jory views it as rape, and is absolutely horrified that his father could do something like that. Cathy is our main narrator, and she personally has more or less retconed it—but this scene with Jory makes it very clear that that's Cathy's thing, and that the series as a whole is not reconig it.
- Olivia is convinced from day one that Cathy and Chris are on an incestuous trajectory. She is paranoid about it, but she also sets up the situation that is the catalyst. Much has been said by fans about how her incest prevention scheme really sucks and she Didn't Think This Through. People seem to frequently forget that the book itself is aware of this, points it out, and offers a very plausible, in-character explanation for why:
Do you think we can live in one room, year after year, and not see each other? You helped put us here. You have locked this wing so the servants cannot enter. You want
to catch us doing something you consider evil. You want Cathy and me to prove your judgment of our mother's marriage is right! Look at you, standing there in your iron-gray dress, feeling pious and self-righteous while you starve small children
- Cory is occasionally inferred to be quite sickly and is the first (and only) to die from the arsenic. Studies have shown that inbreeding can lead to weaker immune systems, allowing for more difficulty with illness. Chris and Cathy have the advantage of being older, and one can only assume that Carrie was the healthier twin. With that in mind, it's not surprising that Cory didn't last long.
- While Chris and Cathy's relationship is questionable (Westermarck Effect), there is some evidence for their parents' attraction to one another. Long Lost Relatives separated in early childhood and reunited—in some cases, unknowingly—later in life have reported a powerful (though not always sexual) attraction to one another. There is a theory that there may be an instinct to recognize persons with whom one shares a close genetic bond, and—lacking other social contexts—this instinct might be interpreted by the brain as a romantic or sexual attraction. Corrine and Chris Sr. were separated when Chris was three and Corrine was an infant, only to be reunited when both were in their teens. Although they believed themselves to be uncle and niece, they may have actually recognized their closer kinship but misinterpreted the attraction as Love at First Sight.
- As punishment for her incestuous marriage, Corrine receives forty-eight deep whip cuts, going all the way down to her ankles. Yet, very soon after, Cathy describes her playing tennis, and wearing shorts and backless dresses. Not only does Corrine show no lasting injury (in Real Life, that many lashes can cut flesh from bone), but no one outside the family seems to notice the hideous, crippling scars that should have come from such a whipping?
- As noted on the headscratchers page, she could have used makeup or the lacerations weren't deep. However, it's not said what kind of whip Olivia used, in which case, she could have lashed with some kind of switch, something that could leave a cut but not bad enough as to where it would leave behind scars.
- A lot of the drama goes out of the book when you remind yourself that these kids have had a rope ladder since the very first night. Almost as soon as they're locked in, Cathy begins to worry about what would happen in the event of a fire, and she and Chris make a Bedsheet Ladder to stash under the bed. They then spend the rest of the book coming up with excuses not to use the ladder. At their most desperate moment, during which the children are being starved and Chris is reduced to feeding the twins his blood to survive, the excuse is that Cathy and Chris are too weak to climb down the ladder with the twins on their back. This doesn't explain why either Cathy or Chris doesn't escape alone to summon help for the others. The fact that immediately after this scene, Cathy and Chris use the ladder to escape and go skinny-dipping makes it even more What the Hell, Hero?
- Here's the thing about abuse. Cathy and Chris were still holding onto hope that their mother would come for them. Sixteen years of affection doesn't just magically go away. And from their perspective, their situation isn't ideal but it could be worse. They have beds to sleep in and regular food - and the attic is a decent playing spot. If they escape, where do they go? They're two teenagers with no money and a pair of young children to also take care of. It's not until they realise that Corey was poisoned do they leave - because they know their lives are in danger. Yeah they could always have escaped, but they were at first hoping their grandfather would die soon and they'd get the inheritance. It's not getting out of the house that's the problem - it's what they do and where they go afterwards. When they do decide to escape, they make sure to steal plenty of things so they'll have money.