Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Roses Are Red, But What Do They Mean?

After reading Bell & Freeman's semiotic analysis of the Christmas meal, it becomes clear that symbolism exists in everything around us. However, we may not realize such symbols because they have been so ingrained in each of us since we were children, without us even being fully aware of it. Bell and Freeman point out that this because "consumers cannot see the culture they live in, until they are outside of it." So in an attempt to step outside of my culture, I will try to do a semiotic analysis of a non-written cultural text, a bouquet of red roses.

Although this is just a random stock photo that I found on Google, the inspiration came from a very real place. Until a couple weeks ago, a bouquet much like this one had been sitting on my roommate's desk (there are still a couple of drying roses there, but they're not as pretty as the picture above). It got me thinking about the significance of a bunch of roses.

So, what does a bouquet of roses mean? The most immediate thing that comes to mind is love. People give or receive roses from their significant other when they are in a relationship. Red roses, in particular, are meant to symbolize love, as opposed to yellow roses, which usually symbolize friendship. A bouquet of roses may be given on an anniversary to represent commitment. People can receive roses when being courted as a symbol of lust and desire. All very romantic concepts.

A bouquet of roses can also mean other things. Sometimes people give roses to someone when they've made a mistake or feel the need to apologize. In this instance, the roses represent a plea for forgiveness or perhaps a distraction technique. A bouquet of roses is usually bought at a store, and can be a symbol for consumerism. They're also not cheap, so they may symbolize money and wealth. 

A person might receive roses when they are ill or in the hospital after a procedure, which could mean that roses symbolize illness. Going even further, red roses are often used at burial and funeral services, so they can also mean death.

A semiotic analysis, like this one, can reveal symbols hidden in everyday things such as a bouquet of red roses. By stepping back and looking beyond the obvious, you can find that there are many cultural  symbols in everyday life, some you may not have even consciously thought of before. For me, the roses may symbolize love on the surface, but if someone actually gave me the bouquet of red roses I would take it more as a symbol that they didn't know me as well as they think. Personally, I would prefer some sunflowers or lilies. However, I may not be able to see past the initial romance of the red roses and come to this conclusion, because I would be too busy swooning that someone gave me the ultimate cultural symbol of love. It would pay to take a step back and consider what those roses really mean. 

What do roses mean to you?

1 comment:

  1. I like the way this post shows how signs change meaning when their contexts change, when they are positioned in new ways against or amongst other signs... important lesson from semiotics for sure!