American violet is an attractive flowering perennial plant native to the Eastern United States, ranging from Canada down to Tennessee and Georgia It is part of the genus Viola, and it is sometimes also referred to as wild pansy, bird’s-eye, or Johnny jump-up. It is easily identified due to the extremely vivid purplish-blue hue of its petals, and the flowers typically bloom clusters of several flower heads throughout the summer. In addition to its pleasing aesthetic, American violet has several medicinal and culinary uses.
One of the most famous examples of American violet in literature is found in the works of American poet Emily Dickinson. Dickinson wrote often of the beauty of nature, and American violet is frequently referenced in her poems. In “The Humming-Bird,” she describes it as “a violet with its eye on the sky.” In “There is no Frigate like a Book,” she calls to mind the violet’s “fragrant eye.”
American violet is also the focus of a beloved American folk song. The song, which has been recorded by several artists, tells the story of a man who is so smitten with a young girl that he compares her beauty to the flower. The lyrics of “American Violet” make it clear that the man is deeply in love, as he declares that “no flower in the field was ever as fair as my American violet.”
Another memorable example of American violet comes from the popular musical, The Little Mermaid. In the musical’s second act, Ariel sings the song “Part of Your World,” in which she compares her desire to explore the world to that of a butterfly “blowing out of sight like a violet in a meadow.”
American violet has also appeared in the works of many notable authors, including Harper Lee, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams. Lee calls to mind its power to evoke emotion in her novel To Kill a Mockingbird, when she writes “The American violet was sweetest in the shadows, on the north side of the house.” Welty’s short story “Why I Live at the P.O.” features a character who “picked a wild American violet” to give to the postmistress as a token of gratitude. And in Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche Dubois says of her late husband, “He’d pick me a bouquet of wild American violets in the springtime.”
American violet is, without a doubt, an important part of American literature and culture. Its vivid hue and unique beauty have been celebrated in books, music, and film for many years. Its place in American culture is not likely to be forgotten anytime soon.