Bluebottles Again, And Cornflowers Too

I wrote some time ago about the image of bluebottles in the writing of C. S. Lewis, Robert Graves, and George Orwell, describing how two different kinds of bluebottle — the fly and the flower — had become entwined for me in this image.  Interestingly, at least to me, I recently came across a reference to the flower part of this image in William Golding’s Free Fall, and even more interestingly, the reference appears in the context of death and World War II, both of which were elements that I discussed in my previous post.  The strangest part of the reference, however, is how randomly it appears in the novel.  The main character, Sammy Mountjoy, is being interrogated by a German officer named Halde, when the reference to the cornflower (another name for a bluebottle flower) is inserted almost randomly into the dialogue.  I will quote the whole section, beginning with the words of Halde:

“Tell me everything you know about the escape organization and you shall be what you were before, neither more nor less.  You shall be taken from this camp to another camp, neither more nor less comfortable.  The source of our information shall be concealed.'”
“Why don’t you talk to the senior officer?”
Blue cornflowers.
“Who would confide in a senior officer?”
“Why won’t you believe me?”
“Who would believe you, Mr. Mountjoy, if he had any sense?”

The reference to cornflowers could hardly be more random, seemingly even less motivated that the instances of the image that I had discovered previously, and once more it used here by an English writer of that generation, one who went to school at Oxford and fought in World War II and wrote in a wide variety of literary genres.   I have no idea what to make of this, but I am utterly fascinated.

  1. Curtis said:

    Luke, have you looked into the use of the Cornflower as used in Military and political insignia. Apparently it was warn by proto-fascists, at least here detailed by Hitler, as a sign of solidarity with the German people against the bleaching clean of authentic German content in their society. I have it here, it seems an obscure source material, but it may provide a directive,

    And here is the passage,

    ‘In Mein Kamp (pp. 12-16), Hitler recalls how the educational system in Vienna involved denial of German history, language, and nationalism. He claims that there were many efforts among German youth to counter this imperial snuff of the Teutons. They would refuse to sing any songs that weren’t in the German language; they wouldn’t sing the Austrian national anthem; and they wore a historical German insignia (the corn-flower), demonstrating their loyalty to the German people.³ They greeted one another with “Heil,” and they resented their foreign teachers.’

    It comes to mind as well that the colour of cornflower has significance in the uniform of many military divisions around the world- the US Airforce, for example.

    Heraldically, Loggerheads, or Knapweed, is also a term for Cornflowers, as well as other ‘common weeds’ and also slang for the leopard’s heads on the arms of Shropshire. Tolkien’s mythos includes a corn flower for the device of Idril. I don’t think in this context of Golding, it’s meaning of, ‘Wealth, prosperity, fortune, friendship’ will apply, though it might if Mountjoy is referring possibly to his senior officer. The cornflower is also among the national symbols of Estonia.

    Hope that helps.

  2. Curtis said:

    *unless it is a reference to the terms this officer and Mountjoy’s interrogator are on- good friends it might seem…

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