Revolutionary Petunias

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A Win, Lose Fight
Figuratively speaking, “an eye for an eye” is not always the best way to handle an intense situation. In “Revolutionary Petunias”, by Alice Walker, the speaker explains just that. The poem tells about a woman named Sammy Lou, who is struck with a tragedy when her husband is murdered and she takes justice into her own hands.

In the beginning, Sammy Lou kills her husband’s murderer and is portrayed, amongst her peers, as “the exact creature who / murdered her husband / using a cultivator’s hoe” (lines 3-5). In many situations as this one, what Sammy Lou has done is what most people instinctively would want to do. It’s just that some people act on it (as Sammy Lou did) and some opt not to. Not too long after, “She laugh[s] fit to kill / in disbelief / at the angry, militant / pictures of herself” (lines 7-10). The author is suggesting Sammy Lou is “dying” in laughter as she gazes in refusal at the horrifying pictures of herself, people unknown to her, have drew up.

A culturally challenged person that she is, Sammy Lou is deemed as a “backwoods woman” (14) who lives in a house decorated with “funeral home calendars” and photographs of her young innocent children (lines 14-17). Not many people around her give it much thought, but as she is, Sammy Lou has managed to raise five well-educated children. “She raised a George, / a Martha, a Jackie and a Kennedy. Also / a John Wesley Junior” (lines 18-20). Also, she frequently reminds them to “Always respect the word of God” (21).

Towards the end of the poem, the reader learns that Sammy Lou’s life here on earth is soon to be over when she is sentenced to the “electric chair” (24). Even with her “respect [for] the word of God” (21), Sammy Lou is uncertain herself where her destination will be afterwards (lines 22-23). Sammy Lou’s final words are, “Don’t yall forgit to water / my purple petunias” (lines 25-26). The speaker maybe implying that Sammy Lou is a gardener and the flowers...
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