Flora & Ulysses – Literature – Themes

Love is not always obvious: Flora and Ulysses is not a classic love story in which a boy meets a girl and they fall in love. That being said, the power of love in friendship and family is one of the major catalysts in this book. Flora finds in Ulysses a true (if unlikely) friend and their friendship grows and deepens throughout the story. We also witness the emerging and growing understanding between Flora and her dad, so that she recognizes that her dad has always adored her. Finally, there is Flora’s complicated relationship with her mom, who seems to have problems demonstrating her love for Flora. But by the end of the novel, even this fraught mother-daughter conflict has been resolved, and it becomes clear that while love may not have always been visible, it was always present.

Everybody can be a superhero: As in every superhero story, we witness a struggle between good and evil. In this case, however, “evil” comes in a very counterintuitive form: Flora’s mother, who takes on the role of the arch nemesis trying to kill Ulysses. If an ordinary mother can be a villain, then an ordinary squirrel can be a superhero. But more importantly, an ordinary suburban adolescent girl can be a superhero too. By choosing a young lonely misfit as the protagonist of this superhero tale, Cate DiCamillo shows that superpowers don’t always have to be supernatural and that everybody can be a hero, no matter how small or popular. Sometimes it does not take much to do or to be something extraordinary.

Sometimes it takes courage in order to move forward: You can find different types of courage in this book. On the one hand, you have Ulysses, whose bravery far exceeds his small stature. In order to protect his loved ones, he looks danger in the eye and fights fearlessly against foes that are much bigger and stronger than he is. On the other hand, you have Flora, whose heroism is not based on her physical feats of daring, but rather on her strength of character when she questions her mother’s lies, for instance. Similarly, William Spiever shows courage when he learns to be true to himself over the course of the novel. Their courage may not be the stuff of traditional comic book heroes, but in this novel it is.

A friend can change your life: Isolation is a significant issue in Flora & Ulysses. At the beginning of the book, Flora’s only friends exist in her comics. Because she doesn’t have many friends or hobbies at all, her relationship with her mom is fraught. With the appearance of Ulysses this all begins to change. He is the companion that she needs: her first real friend. Through him, she manages to open up to her dad and becomes friends with William Spiever, who has to deal with isolation, himself. Even though Ulysses is just a small squirrel, he is a life changer because he is a real friend. With that Cate DiCamillio shows the importance and impact of friendship. She also demonstrates that friendship can sometimes emerge from the unlikeliest places.