The Man Who Loved Flowers

This study guide will help you analyze the short story “The Man Who Loved Flowers” (1977) by Stephen King. The text can be found in the anthology The Lift, pp. 175-180. You can also find a summary of the text, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Here you can read an extract from our study guide:

When the young man sees the flower stand, we learn that he wants to buy flowers for Norma, the woman he loves (p. 176, ll. 22-24). As readers, we are led to believe that Norma is waiting for him this very night. However, the plot twist ending reveals that his perception of reality cannot be trusted: “Norma was dead, she had been dead for ten years” (p. 180, ll. 5-6). 

As the young man brutally kills an innocent, random woman for not being Norma, we realise that he is actually a murderer driven insane by the death of the woman he loved:

…and he swung the hammer to stop the scream, to kill the scream, and he swung the hammer the spill of flowers fell out of his hand. […] He swung the hammer and she didn’t scream, but she might scream because she wasn’t Norma, none of them were Norma, and he swung the hammer, swung the hammer, swung the hammer. (p. 180, ll. 7-14)

We are also told now that he has murdered women “five other times” (p. 180, l. 15). This shows that he is in fact a serial killer and the hammer murderer that we heard about on the news broadcast earlier in the story. 

The last lines of the story reveal just how disconnected from reality the young man has become. He does not seem to realise or regret what he has done. Rather, his insanity makes him optimistic that Norma is out there waiting for him and that he will find her someday:

… he knew what his name was. It was. . . was
His name was love, and he walked these dark streets because Norma was waiting for him. And he would find her. Some day soon. (p. 180, ll. 21-25)

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The Man Who Loved Flowers

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