red pajamas with a deflowering chrysanthemum


Senior Member
BEYOND THE FOYER lay a living room in which sat the girl in the portrait, wearing the red pajamas with a deflowering chrysanthemum, posed in the dragon chair.
Source: The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz
Context: The girl in this scene is a courtesan.

Is a deflowering chrysanthemum a chrysanthemum that is shedding its petals?

Thank you.
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    It looks very odd to me. Normally, "deflowering" is used metaphorically, as in "deflower a virgin". It's also used in horticulture, and it's about removing unwanted flower buds from a plant.

    A "deflowering chrysanthemum" to my literal mind would be a chrysanthemum plant that is in the process of shedding its flowers or its buds.

    Bennymix's jacdac's interpretation is probably the one we are meant to understand.
    Last edited:

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    I can't help feeling that, coupled with a girl in pajamas, we are meant to think of the "deflowering a virgin" meaning, even though the word actually refers to a pattern on her clothing. It is such an unusual word to choose.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English UK
    A few paragraphs earlier, there's this:
    She stopped before a portrait of a stunning Eurasian beauty posed in a Chinese side chair with an elaborately carved rosewood back depicting dragons in conflict. The girl wore red-silk pajamas with a white-carnation motif along one side. Over her left breast, the flower bloomed in a state of early dissolution, spilling snowy petals down the side of the blouse and along one silken pant leg.

    (I don't know how the carnation has turned into a chrysanthemum....)


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    You'd think that wouldn't make it past the editing stage but lots of junk seems to get by. I'm not sure some books are edited any more.
    Come on, guys, let's not get picky.

    {dictionary dot com}
    verb: deflower; 3rd person present: deflowers; past tense: deflowered; past participle: deflowered; gerund or present participle: deflowering
    1. 1.
      deprive (a woman) of her virginity.
    2. 2.
      strip (a plant or garden) of flowers.
      "deflowered rose bushes"


    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    Is a deflowering chrysanthemum a chrysanthemum that is shedding its petals?
    No. I've never heard "deflower" as an active verb with the flower as the subject, meaning "drop petals". The red meaning in post #9 refers to a person picking the flowers from a chrysanthemum plant.

    In the context of a painting in a brothel, of a prostitute wearing red pajamas, the other meaning makes sense. The chrysanthemum is symbolic of the action of deflowering a virgin courtesan (being the first to have sex with her).

    In cultures that have "courtesans", men pay large sums of money (thousands of dollars) to be the person to deflower a virgin courtesan. This was part of the plot in "Memoirs of a Geisha" (the book and movie).

    If there was a painting, she was probably famous. If it was "a portrait of the famous geisha Komiko, when she was still a virgin", she might be painted wearing this symbol. Or perhaps actual red silk pajamas with a chrysanthemum were worn by courtesans for their ritual deflowering.
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