Flora, whose childhood is cut short by the brutality of the Civil War, faces new struggles head-on. She responds to each challenge with a noble heart, a sense of humor, and a bottomless reservoir of emotion. Instead of holding onto her momentary depression when she gives away her last good clothes, she smoothes down what clothing she still has and giggles with glee at the imaginative potential of play-acting in them. Instead of moping at the degradation of her homestead, she improvises a new costume for Ben’s return home. Most important, instead of being holed up inside by the threat of the black militias, she gladly and innocently tramps out into the woods to fetch water, where she behaves fearlessly in response to Gus’s advances. Her playful spirit and intensity represent another facet of the South’s character: a refusal to surrender personal and cultural identity. Her premature death leaves Flora unsullied by the middling changes imposed by the North.

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