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Literature / Petals on the Wind

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They were such brave children to withstand such suffering. Such clever children to escape such terror!note 

Petals on the Wind, written by V. C. Andrews, is the sequel to Flowers in the Attic, published in 1980. Adapted into a TV movie of the same name by The Lifetime Network in 2014.

The plot picks up immediately after the events of the first novel after the Dollanganger children escape from the attic. The kids are adopted by Paul Sheffield, a kindly doctor who puts them each through school. Cathy finally fulfills her dream of becoming a world-famous ballerina, using her fame to fuel her revenge against her mother while becoming embroiled in a series of tempestuous love affairs, including her Will They or Won't They? relationship with her brother Christopher. Everyone Has Lots of Sex, until tragedy strikes, hardening Cathy's resolve to expose her mother's murderous lies and claim victory over her own past.


Tropes associated with the novel include:

  • Adapted Out: The opening scenes of the movie are of Paul's funeral, thus eliminating not only the rest of the children's growing up years, but him from the story.
  • Agony of the Feet: Julian breaks Cathy's toes after she returns to him. Cruel in the first place, even moreso given that she's a ballerina.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Carrie's health problems should not have lingered on as long as they have. Being so young, she would have thrived after treatment for her sunlight deprivation, malnutrition, and arsenic poisoning compared to her older siblings. Instead, however, her growth is stunted and she's forever dainty and pale.
    • Being a doctor, Paul should have rushed Cathy to an OB-GYN when she said she hadn't menstruated for more than two months. That one act could have avoided a lot of drama at her audition.
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  • "Awesome McCool" Name: Madame Zolta Korovenskov.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Paul notes that the time of Julia's pregnancy was probably the only time in their marriage when they were genuinely happy and that whatever problems they had afterwards, she was always a loving and devoted mother to their son.
    • Cathy sees her pregnancy as a chance to reconcile with Julian; it doesn't work, he still kills himself after finding out. She sees her second pregnancy as the final thing to ensure Bart leaving her mother for her; it also doesn't work, as though while he might have done this, he's killed before he can.
  • Bastard Boyfriend: Cathy's love interests tend to have unsavory characteristics. Julian's a Jerkass Domestic Abuser with few redeeming qualities who rapes Cathy, Bart Winslow has many Jerkass moments, which also include raping Cathy. Paul was unfaithful to his wife and raped her, eventually driving her to drown his son and almost kill herself, and Chris is dangerously obsessed with Cathy and gets violently upset when Cathy tells him to move on.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Trampy and bitchy Yolanda is, in Cathy's own words, one of the most beautiful women she's ever seen.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Cathy plays the innocent blonde Betty to Yolanda's sultry raven-haired Veronica when it comes to Julian and to a lesser extent, Chris.
    • Cathy's other roommate April is also a "Betty"-type to Yolanda, even though they never explicitly vie for the same man, but Cathy mentions that the boys at the dance academy ignore the virginal April in favor of the promiscuous Yolanda.
    • Cathy's a constant Archie to several of her men. First, Chris is the Betty and Paul is the Veronica. Once Cathy lands Paul, he becomes the Betty and Julian becomes the Veronica. After Julian dies, both Chris and Paul become the Betty and Bart Winslow becomes the Veronica.
    • For Bart Winslow, Corrine is the Betty and Cathy is the Veronica.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Carrie's private boarding school turns out to be a hellhole where her fellow students torment and very nearly kill her.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Cathy continues to struggle against Chris' advances, which eventually grow strong enough to drive her to other men.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Cathy's main goal is to get revenge on her mother for what she did to her children.
  • Cartwright Curse: Cathy, and how. Julian, Bart, Paul. She even bitterly lampshades this at the end of the book, wondering why Chris isn't afraid to get together with her, given that "behind me lay a trail of dead men".
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: As tortures go, it's pretty light, but Cathy finally does get to inflict some physical pain on the now-senile and disabled grandmother.
  • Crippling the Competition: In the movie, Julian does this on Cathy's behalf, putting glass in Yolanda's shoes so that Cathy will have to replace her in the lead role.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Jory is named for his father and uncle Cory, while Bart is named for his father as well.
  • Dead Man's Chest: Cory's ultimate fate.
  • Death by Adaptation: The movie starts with Paul's funeral, rather than him dying at the end of the book shortly after finally marrying Cathy.
  • Death by Sex: Trampy Yolanda dies in the car accident that crippled Julian, not long after taunting Cathy about how she has replaced her in their bed. The womanizing Julian dies too, although that's suicide due to despondency over his injuries.
  • Destroy the Abusive Home: When Corrine sets fire to Foxworth Hall, she starts it in the room where the children were imprisoned.
  • Didn't Think This Through: After Paul's venomous sister visits Cathy and tells her horrible things about Paul, namely, that Julia is still alive, she runs off and impulsively marries Julian. Only afterwards does she confront Paul and learn that the woman was lying (or at least, putting a spin on things), meaning she's now trapped in a loveless marriage to an abusive cheat.
  • Disposing of a Body: Hinted at in the book. Cathy reveals she found a room connected to the attic and the main stairway with a strange smell in it. When Corrine runs away to start the fire, she chose that room specifically to start it in.
    • In the tv movie this is made explicit when Cory's body is in a trunk and Corrine directly tells Chris they have to get rid of the body.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Cathy has sworn revenge upon her mother, resulting in several good examples of revenge tropes. The victim of Cathy's Misplaced Retribution is Bart Winslow. With whom she sleeps with and who is the father of her second son, Bart. All of this without ever telling Winslow the truth until it's too late. Later, Cathy attempts a Reunion Revenge at Foxworth Hall.
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • Julian (whose pickup line is "What are you worried about? I won't rape you") is emotionally, physically and sexually abusive toward Cathy, including a memorable scene where, in a fit of rage, he breaks several of her toes.
    • Paul Sheffield was emotionally abusive toward his late wife and, as previously mentioned, he also raped her on several occasions.
  • Driven to Suicide: Paul's late wife, Julian after an accident leaves him paralyzed and unlikely to even walk again, much less dance, and Carrie after her mother rejects her.
  • Ephebophile: Paul, given that Cathy's underage when he begins lusting after her, and just barely of age (and might still not be) when they consummate their relationship.
    • Cathy is well-aware that Julian is attracted to very young girls, enough to even need to get him to promise to leave Carrie alone. Years later, after Julian's death, she learns that he didn't keep that promise.
  • Flat Character: Carrie never changes physically or mentally in the twelve years she's alive in the book.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Cathy manages to have nice apartments in both New York City and Spain while she's still in the low-paying corps de ballet.
  • Freudian Excuse: Implied to be the root of Chris' obsession with Cathy.
  • Generation Xerox: Cathy consciously struggles not to be like her mother.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery:
    • Paul admits to cheating on his late wife, but excuses himself because she was mentally ill and sexually unresponsive. Cathy actually sympathizes with this story.
    • Cathy is well-aware that Julian is attracted to very young girls, but doesn't hold it against him until she learns he molested her sister.
    • Cathy justifies having an affair with her mother's husband Bart as part of her revenge.
  • Grand Staircase Entrance: How Cathy makes her presence known at Bart and Corrine's Christmas party.
  • Hand Wave: Paul gaining custody over the kids looks as if it's going to end in a confrontational Courtroom Episode... but in the end, Corrine turns out to be too rich to subpoena and the scene ends with "and then he adopted us."
  • Heel–Face Turn: Corrine, she secretly attends Carrie's funeral and reveals her father is the one who ordered her to kill her children. Though whether this is true or not is left ambiguous.
  • Held Gaze: Chris and Cathy share a lot of these without even realizing it, allowing numerous people (Paul, Julian, Carrie) to pick up on their feelings for each other.
  • Ill Girl: Carrie is especially frail and weak from arsenic poisoning. Not only that, she is miles behind her peers in weight and height, not getting much taller than four and a half feet when she's an adult.
  • Immediate Sequel: Picks up right where the first book ended.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: Nearly every male character in the book:
    • Paul admits to raping his first wife because she was too beautiful for him to resist. When she (quite rightly) tells him he's never to touch her again, he uses the same logic to explain away his numerous extramarital affairs. Finally, he is unable to resist the beautiful sixteen-year-old Cathy, even though he has legally adopted her.
    • Chris claims that he only had sex with Cathy's roommate because Cathy wouldn't put out. Cathy, lest we forget, is his sister.
    • Bart has an affair with Cathy since his wife has become increasingly distant from him.
    • Julian's mother blames Cathy for his frequent cheating, claiming that he does it in the first place because she doesn't show him enough love, then keeps doing it because her uncaring reaction even further cements his belief that she doesn't love him.
  • Incest Subtext:
    • In addition to the complicated relationship between Chris and Cathy, Paul is the children's foster parent and legal guardian, who later adopts them. He begins lusting after Cathy almost immediately.
    • In the 2014 film adaptation, there is an uncomfortable scene where Carrie asks Chris if he loves her "the same way [he] loves Cathy"—having just witnessed Cathy and Chris having sex.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Cathy blames her mother for Julian's suicide, deciding that had her mother not imprisoned them in the attic, she and Chris would never have had an incestuous relationship. If they had never had an incestuous relationship, she wouldn't have started a relationship with Paul to escape Chris, meaning that she would have been the untouched virgin Julian seemed to need, which would have somehow allowed her to love him completely, thus preventing him from drinking and womanizing out of despondency. If he hadn't been drunk and out with another woman, he wouldn't have gotten into the car accident that paralyzed him, thus driving him to kill himself out of despair that he could never dance again. See? It's all your fault, Momma!
  • It's All About Me: Cathy is extremely self-involved. She'll use anything terrible that happens to anyone else including Julian and Carrie's suicides to have her needs met and exact her revenge against her mother.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Julian is a possessive, controlling, abusive, and adulterous boyfriend and later husband, but he picks up on the impropriety of Chris and Cathy's relationship very quickly and calls her out on it.
    • Conversely, Chris' dislike of Julian and disapproval of Cathy's relationship with Paul is no doubt mostly because of his incestuous feelings toward Cathy, but he's absolutely right about Julian's many flaws and the impropriety of Cathy and Paul's relationship given their age difference and that Paul was their guardian for several years.
    • While the way he ultimately handled it was dreadful, it seems Paul made numerous legitimate attempts at helping Julia get over her sexual fears—buying books on seduction techniques, suggesting she see a therapist—all of which she rebuffed or refused without even trying.
      • She does seem a good bit justified in refusing these attempts, because did he expect these techniques would convince a woman to stop hating her rapist and submit to regular sex with him? Honestly, the best decision at that point would have been to divorce or annul their marriage, as scandalous as it would have been.
  • Kids Are Cruel: All the girls in Carrie's boarding school gang up to bully her. The only girl that tried to defend her ends up being punched in the face. Her main bully faces karma a few short years later by drowning at the age of twelve.
  • Lack of Empathy: The other bus passengers, except Henrietta, when Carrie gets violently ill. They really don't like the idea of delaying their schedules long enough to take a child to the hospital. The bus driver shows some concern, but he's worried about losing his job if he holds up the rest of the passengers.
  • The Littlest Cancer Patient: Poisoning rather than cancer, but Carrie conveniently holds back from death just long enough to tell Cathy the one final thing that will send her spiraling uncontrollably toward confronting her mother.
  • Mammy: Henny personifies this trope. She's a huge Southern black lady who cares for her white charges with no complaints—possibly because she's deaf-mute.
  • Marital Rape License: Used by Paul and Julian to Julia and Cathy, respectively. And implied with Bart and Corrine—after he assaults Cathy and she calls him a rapist, he dismissively tells her, "My wife often says the same thing. But she enjoys it, just like you did."
  • May–December Romance: Cathy and Paul hook up when she's 17 and he's 42.
  • Morality Pet: Carrie to Cathy and Chris.
  • Motive Rant: Corrine finally snaps in front of Cathy and Bart, revealing why she imprisoned her children.
  • Murder Makes You Crazy: Hinted at in both the book and the 2014 adaptation.
  • Murder-Suicide: Enraged upon learning of Paul's infidelity, Julia drowns herself and their son.
  • No Periods, Period: Zig-zagged. After years of malnutrition and other health-related issues from being locked up, Cathy understandably has trouble with her periods. It seems to have stopped entirely, until one memorable scene when it all comes gushing back. During a dance audition.
  • Noodle Incident: When Paul sought help from Julia's mother as to why she was so terrified of sex, she mentioned "a cousin who did something to her when she was four". Despite the high likelihood that this was a rape or some other form of sexual abuse, no further details are given.
    • When Carrie confesses to Cathy, she says that Julian "wanted. . .to do. . .something with me. He said it wasn't real sex, not the kind that made babies", leaving readers to speculate considerably. Oral sex? Masturbation? Fondling?
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Cathy believes her mother is only feigning insanity at the end of the novel to avoid being convicted for her murder of Cory. Whether this is actually the case or not is never confirmed.
  • Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: Bart is the same lawyer who drew up Malcolm Foxworth's will, indicating he's a probate attorney. But Cathy hires him to handle her late husband's reluctant life insurance company, implying he's a claims attorney.
  • One-Shot Character: Carrie's fiance Alex gives one impassioned speech at her deathbed and is never mentioned again, not even at her funeral.
  • Out with a Bang: Toward the end of the novel, Cathy marries Paul, who has suffered a major heart attack. They're both warned to take sex easy, but when Paul eventually dies, Cathy speculates that their volcanic sex might have pushed his weak heart over the edge.
  • Paralyzing Fear of Sexuality: Julia, thanks to whatever happened to her as a child. Carrie also, thanks to the emotional abuse her grandmother heaped on her, seems to view perfectly normal sexual desire as evil and herself as bad because of Julian molesting her.
  • Portmanteau: Julian + Cory = Jory.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Julian and Paul are demoted to this after Bart dies, when Cathy claims to have fallen in Love at First Sight with him and that a large part of her attraction to Julian and Paul was because of their resemblance to him.
    • Cathy and the other kids may have been this to Paul regarding his first wife and son.
  • Sex Is Evil:
    • Julia's response whenever Paul made advances to her was to weep and wail, "Why does it have to be so ugly?". One gets the feeling she would have hated sex even without having been abused as a child.
    • Unbeknownst to Cathy, the Grandmother managed to drill this trope into Carrie's head.
  • Sexless Marriage: Julia cut Paul off after she had Scotty, telling him "I've done my duty and given you a son, and from now on, you are to leave me alone."
    • Paul and Cathy after they finally get married, due to his weak heart. When they finally do have sex, they have to take it very slow and easy.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Jory and Bart Jr. to Cathy after Julian and Bart's deaths, respectively.
  • There Are No Therapists: Julia refused to see one to help her get over her sexual fears—to the point of laughing in Paul's face when he suggested it—and none of the kids see one despite how clearly screwed up they are from their ordeal.
  • The Scapegoat: Corrine. While Corrine is legitimately at the root of many of her children's current issues, Cathy also performs some serious mental gymnastics to blame her for everything that goes wrong with their lives (see Insane Troll Logic above for one example).
  • The Speechless: Henny and later, the Grandmother.
  • The Vamp: Yolanda. When she finally gets Julian, she dies in a car accident.
  • Time Skip: Unlike the book, the movie picks up ten years after the conclusion of its predecessor.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Type A. It is heavily implied that part of Corrine's evil is her obsession with her beauty. Her long absence to a plastic surgeon and a weight-loss spa allows Cathy to move in on Bart.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After her Motive Rant, Corrine burns down Foxworth Hall.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: All Carrie wants is for her mother to acknowledge her when she meets the latter on the street. She doesn't get her wish.
    • A lot of Julian's emotional issues seem to stem from trying to get his parents' approval. Cathy nips that in the bud when Madam starts taking an interest in Jory's prospective ballet career.
  • Wife Husbandry: Cathy is fifteen when Paul becomes their guardian. He lusts after her from the start and eventually she marries him.
    • Enraged when Cathy dumps Paul to marry Julian, Carrie declares that she will marry Paul. It never happens, though, and there's no indication that he was thinking this way.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Good God, there are so many affairs. Paul cheated on Julia several times, Julian cheated on Cathy with Yolanda (and other women as well), Bart Winslow cheated on Corrine with Cathy (and other women as well, it's implied), and Cathy cheated on pretty much all of her men except for Bart.

Example of: