“The Man Who Loved Flowers by Stephen King”

The setting for “The Man Who Loved Flowers” is an early evening in May of 1963. A young man is walking with a brisk step up New York’s Third Avenue. The weather is perfect, and as written in the story, is being appreciated by a number of the denizens living in the city. Everyone, who the young man passes, notices that there is something special about him. He’s not very good looking, nor is he unattractive, but as King alludes to, there is a vibe that seemingly radiates from the young man’s presence. The particular vibe the character is giving off, is that of someone who is very much in love.

As the young man crosses over Sixty-third Street, he walks by a handcart filled with flowers. In addition to the flowers, the vendor also sells carnations, as well as hothouse tea roses. On the vendor’s transistor radio, there is a news update, that is filled with predominately bad news. The voice on the radio gives quick snippets of information pertaining to  a drug war, the pulling of an unidentified female body from the East River, the fact that there is a serial killer on the loose in the city – his weapon of choice is a hammer, as well as, a mention of Vietnam. For the briefest of moments, the young man in love, allows his romantic mindset to be soured, before he quickly regains his composure.    

“The young man passed the flower-stand and the sound of the bad news faded. He hesitated, looked over his shoulder, and thought it over. He reached into his coat pocket and touched the something in there again. For a moment his face seemed puzzled, lonely, almost haunted, and then, as his hand left the pocket, it regained its former expression of eager expectation.”    

The young man goes back to the street vendor’s cart. He has decided to purchase flowers for the woman he loves. Her name is Norma. The young man loves to see her eyes light up when he gives her surprises, such a box of candy, or a bracelet. After a conversation with the vendor, the young man purchases a half dozen tea roses, and continues on his way to meet Norma.

The young man walks a significant distance. As he walks, he passes people who are not only envious of the attitude he projects, but also of the person who is going to be the recipient of his love. King lets the reader know, that a good deal of time has passed, since the young man purchased the flowers. The sun has set, and he still hasn’t arrived at Norma’s apartment, or a pre-arranged destination they agreed to meet at. Where is Norma? Is she real? Could she be a wishful product of the young man’s imagination? What is the driving force behind the young’s man’s behavior? All of those questions will be answered by the conclusion of the story.      

“The Man Who Loved Flowers” was first published in the August 1977 issue of Gallery magazine. Less than a year later, on February 17, 1978, it would be included in “Night Shift,”  the first ever collection of author Stephen King’s short stories. In total, the collection, published by Doubleday, contained twenty stories, sixteen of which had been previously published. “Jerusalem’s Lot,”The Last Rung on the Ladder,” “The Woman in the Room,” and “Quitters, Inc,” were stories that appeared in publication for the first time in the collection. “Night Shift” also marked another moment in King’s literary history; it was the first time that he had ever written a forward for one of his books.

                                                                                                                                                             

In 1979 “Night Shift” was nominated for a Locus Award, which since 1971, are annual literary awards given by the monthly science fiction and fantasy magazine “Locus.” The winners are selected by the magazine’s readers through voting. The same year, the collection was nominated for the World Fantasy Award,  which has been given yearly since 1975, and awards the best fantasy work published during the previous year. In 1980, “Night Shift” received the Barlog Award, which was given annually from 1979 through 1985 to the best works and achievements in speculative fiction from the previous calendar year.  

“The Man Who Loved Flowers” is one of my favorites from the “Night Shift” collection, of which I have several, which include, “One for the Road” and “Strawberry Spring.” King masterfully uses third person narration to progress the story to its conclusion. He utilizes the literary elements of foreshadowing and symbolism to great effect. For fans of the iconic writer, who haven’t read “Night Shift,” which more than likely consists of newer King fans, as opposed to his constant readers, I highly recommend the collection.  

About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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6 Responses to “The Man Who Loved Flowers by Stephen King”

  1. terrepruitt says:

    I have that book. It has been years (decades!) since I have read it. I think I need to go look for it and read the story!

    • robbinsrealm says:

      I hope if you get an opportunity to re-read “Night Shift,” that you enjoy it. As big a fan of King’s work as I am, I could’ve done without the short story “Gray Matter,” but the rest of the stories in the book are highly entertaining. I love “Strawberry Spring,” The Ledge,” The Man Who Loved Flowers,” “One for the Road,” and “Quitters, Inc.”

  2. Americaoncoffee says:

    Stephen King is a spooky writer.

  3. lazione budy says:

    I am reading this book, in Indonesian edition split 2 part

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