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Belle Boggs’ “Imperial Chrysanthemum” is a wonderful and thought provoking short story, all of its characters unique and their own. Boggs’ use of dialogue and internal thought give our narrarator, Loretta, a distinct voice and personality. This includes her conflict with Cutie, who always seem to be looking down on her caretaker.

Loretta, Cutie said, would not know what to do with silver asparagus tongs or cucumber forks. She feeds me colored food. (Pg. 32)

Mrs. Young goes on to say on the next page that

Loretta…has a pension. (Pg. 33)

These comments seem snide and especially racist in way of Loretta, a woman who, though she doesn’t want to, takes care of Cutie, who seems to always fight her; whether it be getting out of the car deciding what they want to do the next day. Cutie does, however, seem redeemed, a least a little bit, when Loretta mentions the way she says her name.

Sometimes when she says my name it has a melody, almost like singing. Lo-ret-ta. It is one of the things that keeps me from hating her.

Though these “things” aren’t so explicitly mentioned again, it seems to me that Loretta cares for Cutie, in her own way, despite what the older woman did to her family. Their relationship is an Imperial Chrysanthemum; both being a pain in the ass to the other until they have their rare, shining silver moment of calm.


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