“The Glass Roses” by Alden Nowlan Short Summary

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“The Glass Roses” by Alden Nowlan highlights the conflicts within the main character, Stephen, a fifteen-year-old scrawny teenager working with his father in the woods. He has been brought up in an environment where there is a predetermined set idea of what it means to be a man. The protagonist either has to follow in the footsteps of his father or pursue his desires to embrace others and show compassion. The friendships he develops and the ideas he grasps from his so called ‘outcast’ partner named Leka teach him more about growing up then his father ever did.

But what really troubles Stephen is mustering up enough courage to change what the preconceived notion of what being a man really means and if those around him are willing to accept what being a man means to him. A glass rose can be seen as a fragile replica of what a real rose actually is. Glass needs to be handled with care, it is weak and is not given the same admiration and appreciation as the ones we find in nature. Although this is completely up to the person, it’s safe to say that I speak for the majority of people.

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Earlier in the story Leka has nightmares and twists and turns in bed as the night goes on and Stephen always is there to wake him up. Stephen is the only one to do so among all the men. This shows that he is undoubtedly the most caring of the group, and showing any kind of emotion isn’t something his father would approve of. I believe that he truly cares for others but must only do so openly when he feels the need or else his coworkers and family will think of him as less than a man. There’s a part in the story where Leka and Stephen are getting along and begin to regularly speak softly to one another at bed time.

As they bond closer and closer Leka’s voice begins to make Stephen’s flesh tingle at the approach of sleep. To be honest I find that segment of the story to give rise to the possibility of Stephen being a homosexual. Homosexuality is most definitely never going to be accepted by the protagonist’s father and co-workers and this forces him into secrecy, speaking only to his partner at bed time at a whispering tone. He is made to hide his true self from others so as to fit the portrayal that the men around him expect him to be.

‘There’s not much room in the world for glass roses’, I believe this means that there is no room for boys that are like Stephen and he strives to change that and break free from the notion set by others. As kind as Stephen is, he goes back and forth between being open and caring with Leka to remembering to not be emotional at all as that does not fit the ‘man’ description in Stephen’s world. It’s clear that Stephen hasn’t completely discovered himself and to his surprise ‘the Polack’ that he’s been hanging out with lately isn’t really Polish, as a matter of fact he’s either Russian or Ukrainian.

Stephen wants to be just like his father but doesn’t want to change in order to do so. It’s clear that he has a soft side, ‘Men did not tell one another fairy tales about cathedrals. But his father and the men at the bunkhouse need never know’. This line makes me think about Stephen as having a split personality, one being an aspiring prodigy of his father, the other being a completely different individual yearning to be himself. It appears as if he has to act a certain way and if he acts any different, he forces himself back into that narrow mentality.

I feel sorry for him and the fact that he’s struggling so much to find himself while having the expectations of his father watching over him and breathing down his neck as he lives his life. All this makes him panic in the face of decision and a hesitant Stephen always turns back to his father’s notion of a man when in doubt. I always had friends in my age group so my parents weren’t really concerned about older kids taking advantage of me. I also have learned that parents can always see things in others that we may not see for ourselves in our younger ages.

Towards the end of the story, Stephen’s father pulls him aside and speaks to him seriously about his concerns of Leka. He mentions the touchy gestures he uses when he speaks such as ‘pat and poke’, things that Stephen never really picked up on. Once again it makes me think of the homosexuality hidden in the friendship they have and maybe that is why they outcast Leka. “Them Wops and Bohunks and Polacks has gotta lotta funny ideas. They ain’t our kinda people. You gotta watch them” in this line he hints to his son that Leka’s intentions may not completely be friendly.

Having to be told about one of his own friends is the same as questioning his own decisions, kind of like questioning his manliness. “Just make that Polack keep his hands off you…. I’ve seen fellers like him before. ” As much as it is fatherly to look out for your son, it makes Stephen feel like less of a man. All this talk gets into his head, I know this because I know if my father was this concerned about one of my friends it would definitely make me reconsider.

He goes so far into his conscious that Stephen now is doubtful about waking Leka during his nightmares. The story ends and personally I believe that Stephen has decided to take the risk of becoming a man outside of the beliefs of his father and co-workers. He’s brought it upon himself to define what it means to grow up for himself, his own choices give detail to his character and knows that nobody but himself needs to be satisfied in order for him to live his life. The final decision of waking up Leka shows me that he hasn’t changed and trusts his own intuition.

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“The Glass Roses” by Alden Nowlan Short Summary. (2016, Jul 02). Retrieved from


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