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Literature Study GuidesThe Flowers Of Evil

The Flowers of Evil | Study Guide

Charles Baudelaire

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Course Hero. "The Flowers of Evil Study Guide." April 26, 2019. Accessed June 5, 2023.


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Charles Baudelaire

Year Published





Drama, Religion

At a Glance

Shocking for its frank sexuality and religious blasphemy when it was published (and subsequently partially censored by the French government), The Flowers of Evil is one of the most important works of 19th-century poetry and arguably one of the most important literary creations of all time. Credited by some as being the first modernist work of literature, The Flowers of Evil foreshadowed the modernist movement that would sweep the worlds of art and literature alike for nearly a century after Baudelaire's death. Many 20th-century masters of literature, art, and music have credited Baudelaire and The Flowers of Evil as crucial to the creation of their masterpieces. Like modernity itself, with its fragmentation and overabundance of competing narratives, The Flowers of Evil dives deep into mankind's literary, artistic, and philosophical history, reinventing old symbols and sensibilities into something completely new—and still fresh—more than 150 years after its publication.

About the Title

Sometimes the title The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal) is traced to a passage written by the French author Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), which separates humanity into those who conform and those who live by opposition. Balzac describes such oppositional, potentially destructive individuals as "the richly colored poisonous plant that fascinates children in the woods ... the poetry of evil."

Underlying the poems in The Flowers of Evil is the idea that humanity has fallen from God's grace and is controlled by an evil agent, variously characterized as Satan or the Demon. This evil agent is responsible for the desires that grip mankind, and all human activity—in particular, love and sex—is but the manifestation, or flowering, of this fundamental evil.


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