"His eyes were clear, of that pale sweet blue of cornflowers"
Illustration from Bilder ur Nordens Flora
Public DomainIllustration from Bilder ur Nordens Flora - Credit: Carl Lindman
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCornflower - Credit: Reini68

Though there are almost as many meanings attached to the cornflower as there are books on flower symbolism, that which is most pertinent to Benjy is indicated by its alternative name, the bachelor’s button. Cornflowers are so-called because men used to wear the blooms as button-holes to announce their single status to the party whose attentions they hoped to attract. As a result, they are known as an emblem of celibacy.


In Faulkner’s personal florilegium, cornflowers also suggest purity and innocence. These are qualities which Benjy embodies on multiple levels. He occupies a prelapsarian state, free from all knowledge of good and evil and therefore incapable of either; he is innocent in his impeded awareness of what occurs around him; and, as he is castrated, he is condemned to the perpetual purity of asexuality.