Dark Family


Re-structuring the words in the text without altering the meaning, one can phrase it in the following way: The content of the text can be rephrased by revamping the structure while maintaining the sense and context.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of V. C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic, a groundbreaking novel that has become a bestseller.

Andrews’s book, which deals with themes such as incest, imprisonment of children, and terrible parenting, has been read by millions of mostly young women. It’s become a rite of passage for two generations now, with many readers having received the novel from an older and wiser girl, who promised that the novel holds knowledge that is not readily accessible.

The book is known for its exploration of lust, violence, and pain.

Although Andrews has seen her fair share of fame, not much has been written about her. Philip K. Dick and Jim Thompson have had multiple books written about them, yet Andrews only has a guide for the library market, a bibliographic checklist, and a mass-market trivia book. It’s difficult to think of any other writer in a similar situation.

Critics, scholars, and other serious readers are at a loss when it comes to Andrews’s books; they are so peculiar and novel that it is difficult to classify them.

While there is a clear influence from the Bronte sisters, nineteenth-century sensation novels like Lady Audley ‘s Secret, and Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic fiction, Andrews’s stories have little in common with the genres in which they are often placed.

They are too idiosyncratic for romance, too languid to be regarded as thrillers, too direct for Gothic, and too dark and intricate for young adult fiction.

There are people who categorize them as horror, but due to her focus on family, emotion, and relations, her books are outside of that genre. The supernatural does appear in her writings but the main topic is the all-too-natural tragedy of dysfunctional families.

Andrews’s novels form their own genre, in which family is the root of secrets, lies, desire, and moral corruption. Parents in her stories often neglect their kids, siblings become married, and grandparents mistreat their grandchildren. There is nobody to be relied on, and few grown-ups are who they say they are.

Furthermore, there are no cheerful conclusions. The books are full of teen-girl fantasies, but they are also realistic, harsh and wicked. There is nothing clichéd about them. It could be the reason why nobody ever mentions them that they are too revealing of the author’s own preoccupations.

On the rare occasions when critics have reviewed V. C. Andrews’ books, they have been in agreement: she is not just poor, but worse than that. For example, a reviewer at the Washington Post called Flowers… “deranged swill” in 1979.

In a 1982 New York Times “Fiction in Brief” column that included reviews of many other novels, “My Sweet Audrina, Andrews’ most peculiar book and her only solo work, received the most scathing criticism.

The reviewer admits they can not make sense of the plotline and does not want to understand or pursue the story any further. They highlight that the novel starts with the protagonist, Audrina, being seven years old. But since she is not permitted to attend school and is constantly reminded that she has no recollection, it is unknown how old she really is.

The critic questions whether anyone cares about this further, as Damian and Ellsbeth rekindle their relationship and Ellsbeth passes away. The reviewer doesn’t think a sensible reader would look into the rest of the novel.

In 2001, Zoe Williams wrote a piece in the Guardian and was critical of Andrews’ work, labeling it as “stunted ramblings” which appeared to have been “generated by a computer with a predefined ‘Teetering On The Brink Of Womanhood’ format.”

Despite the passage of thirty years and the adoration of millions of young women, V. C. Andrews’s reception has not improved. When her book Flowers was first released, she was often compared to Stephen King, who has since gone on to be well-known and highly regarded.

However, Andrews remains a largely disregarded “trash” novelist.

Although horror, mystery, and science fiction have gained some acknowledgement from pop culture, Andrews’s books remain largely unacknowledged. The New York Times review from 1982 still applies, and the sensible reader is not eager to learn more.

If we didn’t exercise such restraint, and instead wanted to explore further, what would we find? It is likely we would become aware of Andrews’ ability to reflect the neglected, shadowy side of the 1970s.

Her literature carries implications of the Freudian family romance, in which children attempt to escape their parents’ affections through imagining themselves as the abandoned offspring of a noble family – as seen in Flowers.

We observe Andrews’ darker view of female sexuality, tying punishment and desire together. This is shown in the twins she names Dollanganger, almost as a joke, in comparison to the light-hearted teen twin-tales before and after.

In comparison to the Sweet Valley High novels, which present a calming image with pastel covers, Flowers is a story of sin, terror and revenge, with a keyhole on the cover, inviting us in.

Therefore, if we were to venture further into Andrews’ work, we would be forced to confront our own darkness and the attempts we make to lock away our traumas. Most of all, we would come across a magnified version of adolescent-girl rage.


This section outlines an alternative way to approach the same concept. It involves changing the structure of the text without altering the meaning or context. This is done in order to eliminate any potential plagiarism.

The works of V.C. Andrews quickly gained traction, beginning with the release of Flowers in 1979. She had one novel, My Sweet Audrina (1982), and launched the series of stories about the Casteel and Tatterton families.

After Andrews’ untimely death, Andrew Neiderman stepped in as a ghostwriter to continue the series under her name.

The Dollanganger family, a beautiful middle-class suburban family, is at the heart of Flowers. Their idyllic life is destroyed when their father dies in a car accident.

Cathy, the teenage narrator, and her siblings–elder brother Chris plus the younger twins Cory and Carrie–are informed by their mother that their only chance of survival is if she can regain the affection of her wealthy father, who disowned her when she married.

Consequently, the family moves to the ancestral home of her estranged father, Foxworth Hall. The children set up their bedrooms, a bathroom, and desks in the attic, which initially appears to be a secure if gloomy temporary residence.

But as time passes, the youngsters come to understand that their mother and father were actually half-uncle and niece, and that their grandfather was unaware of their existence.

Their mother and grandmother had plotted to conceal them until their grandfather’s death.

The mother’s diminishing visits to her children turn the attic into a place of deprivation and want, resulting in a cascade of mayhem. This includes a confrontation with the grandmother, the incestuous relationship between Cathy and Chris, the killing of one of the twins, and the mother’s attempt to murder all of them. After four years of living without sunlight, fresh air or company, the kids eventually manage to flee the house.

The remainder of the series follows their lives as adults beyond the attic, and Cathy’s obsessive mission to avenge her mother and grandmother.

Critic Douglas E. Winter, who has both studied and spoken with Andrews, noted the peculiar allure of her books, noting that “[The story] is full of greed, cruelty, and incest, yet is expressed in a romantic, fairy-tale style, making for some of the most unique horror stories of this generation.”

Andrews herself attested to this in an interview, saying that she was aiming for “a fairy-tale horror” rather than a more realistic horror such as a rapist or murderer.

Going back to Andrews’s books in adulthood, they still possess a fairy-tale essence. It is similar to re-reading treasured children’s stories, as if entering a dream.

There is a familiarity of the forgotten; not just the books but also the entire realm of sentiments they evoke. Despite the extreme strangeness and peculiarity of the books, the sentiment is not a comforting one.

It is one that many of us take care to stay away from:

Do we really want to revisit that world? Do we want to acknowledge the extent of our love for that world or, more concerning, the extent to which our desires created it?

Andrews’s books bring us to a place that is usually only explored through daydreams, poems, and children’s stories–the mysterious, half-remembered realm of fantasy and fairy tales. This is not the same place we know from Disney movies, as we can recall from the original Grimm’s tales.

As adults, we try to forget the darker aspects of these stories–the toes cut off for a glass slipper, the children cooked and eaten in a gingerbread house, and Cathy Dollanganger locked away in Foxworth Hall.

However, Andrews’s books remind us that we have always kept a key to this world close to ourselves. We are not made uncomfortable by the unfamiliar, but by the familiarity of everything that we read in these books.

In his 1919 essay “The Uncanny,” Freud discussed our unease when confronted with memories. He looked at the German words heimlich and unheimlich, which can have both positive and negative meanings, such as homely and concealed.

This sensation comes from recognizing something that is close to us, something that has been repressed and so we can’t identify why it is familiar.

The uncanny brings to light our repressed memories. This explains why horror stories that include childhood objects are so scary–they remind us of the wishes, fears, and fantasies that we may not want to recall.

When we were young adolescents, the allure of Andrews’s books was rooted in the uncanny. Upon reading them at ages twelve or thirteen, it was apparent that something strange was occurring, but it wasn’t a foreign darkness.

It was a well-known one, recalled from stories such as Hansel and Gretel. Reading Andrews reignited the repressed yearnings of childhood and the concern of repercussions for those yearnings.

Ideas of defiled innocence, risky family relationships, and parental rage all come rushing back, as if a fairy tale had become a decaying beauty.

Andrews remarked to Winter that the fears she writes about are ingrained in us when we are young, and they “never quite go away: the fear of being powerless, the fear of being confined, the fear of being out of control.”

In his essay “The Relation of the Poet to Day-Dreaming,” Freud investigates the capacity of creative writers to explore our covert wishes–longings that are typically only experienced in daydreams due to our feeling of embarrassment. T

he artist offers us permission, implying that we are just perusing his/her personal daydreams, not our own, thus allowing us to delight in them.

Freud states, “How the writer accomplishes this is his innermost secret; the essential ars poetica lies in the technique of surmounting the feeling of aversion in us.” What makes Andrews so difficult, however, is that she compels us to confront some of our daydreams–and possibly still do.


This section explores the idea that it is possible to alter the structure of text without changing its context and the semantic meaning. By doing this, plagiarism can be avoided.

According to Freud, there is an urge to repeat actions without understanding why. This concept is visible in Andrews’s works as they contain her fascinations with maltreated and sexualized children, homes without parents, assault, and retribution.

This common theme is of parents who are either indifferent or cruel to their offspring, which results in incest, misfortune, and a strong impulse for revenge.

Other recurrences in the stories are miscarriages, broken bones, falls, physical impairments from childhood mistreatment or negligence, and a preoccupation with hair.

The two divergent notions of memory being both enduringly damaging and changeable are essential to a number of the plots, and given that the books are built up of repetitions, this is especially significant.

The frequent repetitions in My Sweet Audrina create a web of connections and meta-associations, revealing Andrews’s fullest imaginings. This novel features two characters in place of the singularly complicated protagonist in Flowers – Audrina and her cousin/sister Vera. Audrina is passive and trusting, but easily perplexed; Vera is intelligent and crafty.

These two personas exemplify two typical responses to childhood abuse – Audrina blocks it out and denies its existence, while Vera is overwhelmed with rage and hypersexualizes everything. Vera’s caustic comments on Audrina reflect the harshness of reality.

Despite her attempts to repress her past, Audrina is unable to escape its repercussions.

The recurrent motif of sexual abuse serves to remind us that Andrew’s works didn’t exist in a void. We may romanticize the desires of adolescents as being perpetual – puppies, horses, makeup – however the 1970s and ’80s were a very special time.

Tales of children in jeopardy were abundant during this era, which becomes understandable when taking into account the sexual revolution, the prevalence of drugs, a struggling economy causing both parents to be absent from home, and a high divorce rate.

Worry regarding the deterioration of the great American family reverberates throughout Andrew’s books.

In the late 70s and 80s, a wave of survivors of real child abuse and incest started to come forward with their stories, just as Andrews’ works of fiction about such topics were hitting American culture.

Fuelled by the women’s movement, new-age philosophies, and self-help schools, those stories of abuse gained traction, and the public couldn’t ignore them any longer.

As a result, the idea of recovered memories of childhood atrocities began to be discussed – with some accepting the stories as truth, and others disregarding them entirely. Andrews was at the heart of this debate, and was very much aware of her involvement.

In 1985, Andrews remarked about the peculiar occurrence of his writing about child abuse being fashionable at the same time. He commented on the “many cries out there in the night” and the “protective secrecy in families,” noting the presence of “so many skeletons in the closets that no one wants to think about, much less discuss.”

He believed his books had contributed to the opening of a few of these doors that were previously locked and hidden away.

  1. C. Andrews’ books are seen as being able to tap into a child’s anger and emotions towards their abuser. Additionally, these works of literature offer insight into the difficulties of growing up during the 1970s and 1980s.

During this time, parents were unable to relate to their children’s struggles as they had not faced issues such as divorced parents, drugs in schools, and the popular self-help therapies.

Margaret O’Brien was the ideal role model at the time, compared to Jodie Foster who was seen as the ‘problem-child’. Parents were at a loss on how to console their kids, but somehow V. C. Andrews managed to provide comfort.

Andrews’s novels are not only an expression of the cry of the abused girl, but also an exploration of the uncertain nature of memories and the potential for them to be fuelled by imagination.

This complexity renders the books intriguing. Among the many books and television programs which address the issue of abuse, Andrews’s texts give voice to the nuances of such trauma in a way that is rarely communicated. Not only do they contain the shock of survivors, but also the pleasure and craving associated with it.

Abuse and incest are often portrayed as attractive and the punishment for them is often sexualized. The theme of sadomasochism is also prominent and it is done in a manner that reflects the power dynamics between people and the effects these have on the body in a way that would have been praised by Foucault.

Although Andrews denied being a victim of abuse, she was still able to articulate the complexities of this issue within the family, such as the compulsion to do what one has said they wouldn’t, the wish to love those who have hurt one, and the inner struggle to remember and repress.

When Flowers’ protagonist Cathy views her mother’s wounds, inflicted by her father, the scene is described with an air of horror and delectation. Cathy is overwhelmed with emotion, floundering in a sea of confusion and feeling incredibly young.

Her mother then tenderly embraces and kisses her son, Christopher, which Cathy watches in a trance of confusion and fascination.

The text itself, too, begins to break apart in a mix of horror, pain, and eroticism, as the “diamonds and emeralds” on her mother’s fingers seem to “flash, flash…signal lights, meaning something.”

Cathy is left feeling bewildered, overwhelmed, and very, very young, in a world that appears so old and wise.

In The Unsayable (2006), Annie Rogers examines the conundrum of abuse victims who both desire to tell their stories and yet remain silent. As one girl tells Rogers, “I wanted to tell… by not telling.”

This dual impulse is present in Flowers, which is a fictional piece, as well as in the varied reactions to the novel. People read the stories of punishment and feel a strange combination of pleasure and revulsion.

Although the books are engaging, there is often a quick disposal of the works after they are read. Those between 25 and 45 were raised in strange times, and the novels fulfill childhood fantasies while also embodying childhood fears.

Nowadays, when it comes to maltreatment, there is a common belief that forgiveness is essential for the healing process. While this is certainly true, people often mistake it for a simpler, yet less beneficial option of suppressing the facts.

But V. C. Andrews’s heroines demonstrate an alternative, where the individual’s wishes and hopes come first. Expressing their anger is one of their chief needs and desires, which Andrews’ characters demonstrate.


To conclude, it is evident that there are a variety of techniques available to avoid plagiarism and ensure that your work is original. Utilizing these strategies and following the conventions of proper citation can help to ensure that your paper is free from any unintentional plagiarism.

Andrews’s books depict a world of women who are angry. This anger manifests as blinding, murderous rage, and Cathy from the Dollanganger series stands out in particular. She never forgets, never forgives and never apologizes, and she desires to have everything.

This oedipal hunger is seen as justified due to her mother’s cruelty, and she even seeks to steal her mother’s new husband. However, this is still not enough and she wants to kill her mother.

Cathy can be compared to Bertha Mason from Jane Eyre, who is locked away and waiting for her chance to seek revenge through fire.

The rage of her mother and grandmother, both of whom have been wronged, is seen to have planted the seed in Cathy, who vows to have her revenge, with her fury knowing no bounds.

Cathy’s justified anger has no moral structure to contain it, yet there is something admirable about it.

She never denies her rage or her sexuality, which are both obstacles for young women.

Her love for her siblings is fierce, not “maternal” or sentimental. Most girl-books portray the good girl and the bad girl as separate entities, but Andrews’s books create a new paradigm – a girl who is both sympathetic and anger-filled.

Uncomfortable is the word used to identify female rage, particularly that of young girls, in our culture. It’s typical to discuss how males express their teenage anger with violence and females express their rage inwardly with eating disorders or social malice.

Andrews’ books, however, approach a much more intense, gloomy expression of female rage which can make us uncomfortable and force us to look away.

The Flowers series addresses a theme often seen in fairy tales; the cruelty of parents towards their children. This is taken further in the books, as we see the character of Cathy struggling to overcome her fear and hatred of her mother.

This fear is one many girls and women can identify with, often seen as a joke or an eye-rolling complaint. However, Andrews’ books show how this fear can be a representation of Cathy’s own desire for power, beauty and wealth.

Andrews acknowledged that she revisited the book after finding a publisher and that she dedicated the book to her mother, who never read any books since she believed them all to be lies.

Ultimately, Cathy’s rage reflects her desire for female empowerment, regardless of how fierce it may be. This is an assertion of self and a dismissal of the idea of a meek and willing woman; a pursuit of professional goals; and a rejection of motherhood.

Andrews, who never married, once said, “I never intended to be a traditional housewife.

I planned not to wed until I was thirty, but life took a different turn. If I had not succeeded in writing, I may have been very resentful. I always wanted to be somebody unique, somebody special, somebody who accomplished something on her own.”

When Cathy eventually becomes a mother, it is to two sons. But eventually, her horror and anger over being a mother begin to come out. She and her brother-husband, Chris, move into a new home, and when she goes up to the attic, the place symbolizing a mother’s punishment, she discovers two twin beds that are “long enough for two small boys to grow into men.

” She is overwhelmed with the thought that she would never lock away her sons, and she reflects on how earlier that day she had bought a picnic hamper, just like the one her grandmother used to bring them food.

That night as she lies in bed with Chris, she envies his optimism, wishing she could be the same. But she knows she can’t, and she tells herself, “But…I am not like [Mamma]! I may look like her, but inside I am honorable! I am stronger, more determined.

The best in me will win out in the end. I know it will. It has to sometimes… doesn’t it?”

Cathy is faced with the realization that she shares qualities with the person who torments her, which is a frightening experience.

She is overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity when she views the beds, like the reader, struggling to make sense of the strange sensation and not look too deeply at what she discovers.


It is essential to alter the structure of a piece of writing to avoid plagiarism, while maintaining the same semantic meaning and context.

The Dollanganger children escape their house with money in their pockets in Flowers, and the series ends on a hopeful note.

Audrina is more complicated, with its protagonist discovering the truth about herself and standing up to her father, yet remaining in the same home with the same people who have mistreated her for years.

It is unclear if this is out of love for her sister or out of resignation. Cathy’s story in the Flowers series ends with her dying in a re-creation of the attic she was first in.

It is possible to join the two books together and create a single continuous narrative in which a young woman from the big house leaves but eventually returns home. Cathy the Noble Avenger and Vera the Evil Stepsister are one in the same person.

Similarly, Cathy the Survivor is also Audrina, the sad, confused “good” girl who is oblivious to the details of her life.

According to the New York Times reviewer, she is unable to make sense of anything. Zoe Williams from the Guardian described her life as “the Brady Bunch describing a decade of orgiastic abuse”.

The Washington Post claimed that death was the only escape for the child from such a silly book. The last lines of Audrina express a harrowing account of a mistreated child: “I wanted to scream, scream–but I had no voice.… I was the… Audrina who had always put love and loyalty first.

There was no place for me to run.

Shrugging, feeling sad… I felt a certain kind of accepting peace as Arden put his arm around my shoulders…. Arden and I would begin again in Whitefern, and if this time we failed we’d begin a third time, a fourth ….”

The volume’s conclusion is that of sorrowful and telling ellipsis.

These novels, which explore themes of female rage, desire and pleasure, as well as the complexities of prescribed roles, can be seen as a reflection of Cleo Virginia Andrews’ own life story.

At fifteen, she was injured in a fall, and went on to develop a severe form of arthritis that restricted her movement and was worsened by unsuccessful surgeries.

At the age of forty-eight, she turned to writing and relocated with her mother from Virginia to Missouri and then Arizona, to live close to her brothers.

However, they eventually moved back to Virginia, where Andrews spent the remainder of her life in a big house, living with her mother.

For a person who longed for stimulation, who proclaimed, “I really wanted to be an actress. I think it’s really dull being just one individual,” such an existence must have been incredibly dreary.

Like a Victorian woman in the attic, she relied on her pen to express her innermost thoughts.

“I will plead to God that those who need to will be affected when they pursue what I have to say,” her character Cathy states in the prologue of Flowers. “Undoubtedly, God in His infinite benevolence will ensure that some understanding publisher will put my words in a book and help sharpen the knife that I want to utilize.”

In 1980, Andrews gave an interview to People that was either filled with untruths or disclosures, leading her to swear off such conversations. Five years later, she sat down with Douglas E. Winters for his book, Faces of Fear, in an effort to make the narrative accurate.

In 1986, at an unknown age, Cleo Virginia Andrews sadly passed away due to breast cancer.

The New York Times quoted Ann Patty, editor for Andrews, who characterized the writer as someone with “a little hint of Bette Davis lurking around,” being “a very romantic woman schooled on fairy tales and soap operas”.

Andrews presented herself as a woman of great enigma in Faces of Fear, claiming that “I get older and younger as I want,” and alluding to having precognitive powers, vast knowledge, and ambitions to direct films based on her books.

In contrast to other accounts, People magazine reported a much more disheartening story about Andrews. At 56 – though she later contested this age – the Virginia native was mostly confined to her home due to stiffened joints, using crutches and a wheelchair to move around.

Despite having gentleman callers, she refrained from any meaningful relationships, hoping that an operation would allow her to walk once more. To pass the time, she taught herself to embroider and sew, even creating her mother’s dresses.

In an interview with People, Andrews expressed that he could not exist without daydreaming. He stated that it was a way for him to escape from reality and make things how he wishes them to be.

He went on to explain that this is the same idea behind writing books – creating a world of one’s own.

Using a different structure, the same contextual and semantic meaning of the text can be conveyed without committing plagiarism.



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