I am so honored to be sharing author Audry Fryer’s latest guest post on Rose Symbolism in Literature for Women on Writing Blog Tours. I hope you will all enjoy this wonderfully written post.
Rose Symbolism in Literature
Known for their beauty, fragrance, and as a symbol of love, roses are one of the most popular flowers. So, of course, they’re often featured in literature.
The mention of a rose in literature often adds a symbolic element of love, romance, and femininity. The word “rose” often appears in titles. And many books’ covers feature roses or rose gardens.
The cover of my book, Until Next Sunday, features a single red rose. Besides adding a pop of color, the red rose offers a clue to the reader that my book contains a love story. It’s also a nod to the many moments a rose or roses are mentioned, including in the main character’s name, Rosina.
A Brief History of Roses
Scientific evidence reveals roses were among the first flowers to bloom on this Earth. Fossil records indicate that roses are estimated to be 35 million years old.
The cultivation of roses dates back over 5,000 years in Asia. Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote about roses in the Imperial Gardens around 500 B.C.
In Greek mythology, when Aphrodite found her lover, Adonis, wounded by a wild boar, her tears mixing with his red blood are said to have created the first roses.
When Egyptian queen Cleopatra endeavored to romance Roman general Mark Antony, she had all her fountains filled with rose water and her chamber carpeted with rose petals.
Later, Emperors in the Roman Empire would lavish their guests with rose petals. They hung roses from the ceilings in banquet halls, known as the term “sub-rosa” or under the rose. In this case, roses symbolized secrecy and confidentiality.
In 15th Century England, roses played a role in the civil war between the House of Lancaster, symbolized by the red rose, and the House of York, represented by the white rose. Playwright William Shakespeare penned, “That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet,” in the play Romeo and Juliet. And King Henry VII declared the rose England’s national flower in 1485.
In the United States, in 1986, then-President Ronald Reagan held a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden to sign a proclamation certifying the rose as the national flower.
What do roses symbolize?
Rose symbolism in literature directly relates to rose symbolism in everyday life. However, it may vary on an individual book’s historical or cultural setting.
To learn what roses symbolize, consider their botanical features, color, and the number of roses in a bouquet.
There are over 150 species of roses, with most varieties containing thorny stems. Persevering past the thorns to the beautiful, fragrant blossom relates to the symbolism of overcoming difficulty to find reward and happiness.
The vast majority of rose symbolism relies on color.
- Red Rose – deep passionate love, romance, and desire. It’s best suited to couples.
- White Rose – purity, youthful innocence, and spiritual ceremonies, including weddings, baptisms, and funerals.
- Yellow Rose – friendship, warmth, and new beginnings. However, in the Victorian era, the yellow rose represented infidelity and jealousy.
- Pink Rose – gratitude, joy, friendship, or young love. Light pink can express either admiration or sympathy.
- Orange Rose – energy, sensuality, enthusiasm, and celebrations, including birthdays, anniversaries, and achievements
- Lavender Rose – appreciation, adoration, enchantment, and love.
- Green Rose – hope, fertility, rejuvenation. Ideal for a new baby. However, green roses can be associated with envy.
- Blue Rose – achieving the impossible, mystery, or something desired but attained. Blue roses are either a result of placing cut roses in dye or genetic engineering.
- Black Rose – death, sorrow, mourning, tradegy, or sophistication. Also, a symbol of power and strength in Ancient Greece and Rome. Black roses tend to be deep red, deep purple, or enhanced by a florist with dye.
The number of roses holds considerable significance:
- One Rose – love at first sight
- Two Roses – deep love
- Three Roses – for the three words, “I love you.”
- Six Roses – for six words, “I love you. I miss you.”
- Seven Roses – infatuation or new love
- Nine Roses – eternal love
- Twelve Roses – a perfect love
12 Rose Literary Quotes
While hundreds of literary quotes mention a rose (too many to list in this post), selecting a dozen rose literary quotes seemed appropriate. Enjoy these notable quotes from well-known authors, poets, and writers.
“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. Loveliness extreme. Extra gaiters, Loveliness extreme. Sweetest ice-cream. Pages ages page ages page ages.” – Gertrude Stein
“Wild roses are fairest, and nature a better gardener than art.” – Louisa May Alcott
“But he that dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” – Anne Bronte
“That afternoon my mother had brought me the roses. ‘Save them for my funeral,’ I’d said.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.”
― Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden
“Love is like the wild rose-briar; Friendship like the holly-tree. The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms, but which will bloom most constantly?” – Emily Brontë, The Complete Poems
“Of all the flowers, me thinks a rose is best.” – William Shakespeare.
“True love is like little roses, sweet, fragrant in small doses.” – Ana Claudia Antunes, Pierrot & Columbine
“The more you love roses the more you must bear with thorns.” – Matshona Dhliwayo
“The pink roses are love hopeful and expectant. White roses are love dead or forsaken–but the red roses–ah, Leslie, what are the red roses? Love triumphant.” – Lucy Maud Montgomery.
“A rose dreams of enjoying the company of bees, but none appears. The sun asks: Aren’t you tired of waiting? Yes, but if I close my petals, I will wither and die.” – Paulo Coelho.
Final Thoughts: Rose Symbolism in Literature
Throughout history and across cultures, the rose has held many different meanings, from playing a role in love affairs to civil wars and national symbols. In literature, roses have powerful symbolism representing love, desire, romance, passion, friendship, infidelity, and envy. A rose is so much more than what meets the eye, from its thorny stems to its fragrant petals.
Audry Fryer is an author and professional freelance writer from Pennsylvania. Formerly a teacher, Audry wrote her first novel while her toddler son and twin babies napped. As her children have grown into teenagers, she has expanded her writing career. Audry lives with her family and two pugs in a quiet corner of Southeastern PA. To learn more about Audry, please visit her website at www.audryfryer.com.