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"Roselily" By Alice Walker

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Abigail Elakman

on 27 March 2015

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Transcript of "Roselily" By Alice Walker

Alice Walker's "Roselily"

Alice Walker
A detailed guide for understanding the

H. Critical Questions

Charles E. May’s analysis of Alice Walker’s “Roselily” includes two different views of the short story. At first Charles talks about how the story has a poetic and fairytale feel through the elements it uses, such as each of the ceremonial words said between each paragraph. This is seen by May as the steady drumbeat of the story. As the story progresses however, Charles points out how the inner thoughts of Roselily change from a “daydream of images” to a dark and unsure place of foreboding. Roselily is compared at the end of the article to Sleeping Beauty. She is at first blindsided by the appearance and love of her prince-to-be, but at the end of the ceremony she is awoken by her new husband’s kiss, as well as
a strong sense of ignorance and being wrong
as she squeezes her husband’s hand
and he never looks back.

Presentation by:
Abigail Elakman, Anna Rafferty, Brielle Stoddard, Harrison Ayres, Hollie Washington, Morgan Slaymaker, and Stephanie Schreiber

"Roselily" was
originally published
as the opening story in Alice Walker's first collection of short stories called:
In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women
in the year
The author:
The Color Purple
The Complete Stories
In Love Trouble
About the Author
Alice Walker was born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. She grew up poor and attended segregated schools. She graduated High School as Valedictorian and then graduated college from Sarah Lawrence in 1965, which is the same year her first short story was published. One of her most notable works is
The Color Purple
. Alice Walker is one of the most admired African-American writers working today, and is considered a
novelist, poet, and feminist.
Literary Terms
Exam Questions
The short story Roselily begins with the italicized
quote “Dearly Beloved,” setting it aside from the rest of the story. A few paragraphs in it make it clear that Roselily, the main character, is getting married to a man whose name is never mentioned in the story. While she is standing on the alter, we get insight into her mind while the minister continues to marry the two. It is evident very quickly that she is not having happy thoughts about the wedding. Roselily, an African American woman from the south, cannot seem to decipher whether she is in love with her soon to be husband or in love with the idea that he is from the north and may provide many opportunities for herself, as well as her three children. In addition to these thoughts, Roselily also contemplates her husband’s different religion and the changes she and her children will face. She knows that her husband is not satisfied with the way the marriage is being done because it is not consistent with his religion. She constantly second guesses the marriage in her mind, thinking maybe she should have looked
further into the man she was marrying and not
just at the positive opportunities of living
with him in the north.
- The main character in the short story. An African American
woman from Mississippi who is marrying a man from Chicago for
opportunity for her and her children. In Mississippi she worked hard and her
husband promised she would be able to stay at home in Chicago.
The Husband
- A Muslim man from Chicago who is marrying Roselilly.
His name is never mentioned but he is described as someone who makes obvious that he does not agree with Roselily’s religion or the way the people in the south belittle themselves for the white people.
The Children
- The children are hardly mentioned. All that we know is Roselily had four children. Three were moving with her and her new
husband to Chicago for more opportunity and respect. The fourth
child lives with Roselily’s first husband in New England.
First Husband
- Roselily’s first husband is a man of wealth from
New England, where attended Harvard.
Roselily’s Mother and Father
- Not much was mentioned of the two
other than the fact that Roselily’s mother was dead and
Roselily was old and in attendance of the wedding.
Both were very hard workers.

The whole short story covers the wedding between Roselily and her Husband. The wedding is on the front porch of Roselily’s home in Mississippi. Although the setting never changes, we are made aware that after the wedding, Roselily
and her children will be moving
to Chicago with her new

key points
and arguments in the work.
Key Points
Quote 1)
The Title: ‘Roselily’ (55)

Quote 2)
“She wants to live for once. But doesn’t know quite what that means. Wonders if she has ever done it. If she ever will." (57)

Quote 3)
“Her husband would free her. A romantic hush. Proposal. Promise.” (57)

Quote 4)
“His religion. A lifetime of black and white. Of veils. Covered head." (56)

Quote 5)
“He glares beyond them to the occupants of
the cars, white faces glued to promises beyond
a country wedding, noses thrust forward
like dogs on a track. For him they
usurp the wedding” (56)

LIT2020 Section #10 Group Project
"Alice Walker Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web.
18 Feb. 2015. <http://www.biography.com/people/alice-walker-9521939>.

"Alice Walker Short Fiction Analysis" Literary Essentials: Short Fiction
Masterpieces Ed. Charles E. May. eNotes.com, Inc. 2001 eNotes.com 19 Mar, 2015

"Introduction & Overview of Roselily." BookRags. BookRags, n.d. Web.
18 Mar. 2015. <http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-roselily/#gsc.tab=0>.

Ortolano, Scott. "Roselily." Perspectives on the Short Story. By Caitlin
Newcomer. 3rd ed. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 55-57. Print.

Walker, Alice. "Roselily". Perspectives of the Short Story. ​Ed. Caitlin
Newcomer and Scott Ortolano. Pearson Learning Solutions. 2014. Pages 55-57. Print.

The most important literary device that is used in Roselily is the fact that the author combined two stories into one main story. The most obvious story being the direct problems and scenario that Roselily faces in deciding if getting married is the only opportunity to better her life. The second story being the civil rights motivated story of the southern African American trying to better themselves in a society where their options are limited, regardless of if they are enslaved or free. The second story serves as fuel for the happenings in Roselily, such as the woman's thoughts about leaving the wedding, but not being able to. More importantly her thoughts about leaving Mississippi and not knowing if she is trading one oppression for the other. The first story serves as host to get the main idea and themes of the first onto paper, while keeping the reader interested and analyzing the story.
Physical, social and cultural developments of the life of a southern born African American. Normally in the period/generation just after the abolition of slavery. It is important to understand that the setting (Mississippi) is beneficial to the telling of the story because of the landscape and the history that it encompasses. Similar to Southern Gothic, the landscape of Mississippi is used as a terrain for the torment and oppression of the characters. Such as the feelings that Roselily has about not being able to ever move out of the poverty class, as she only has the opportunity to sew or pick cotton. Roselily believes that she is trading the Southern culture oppression for the similar oppression that she feels will come out of her husbands Muslim religion. Along with the unfair treatment, she believes that she is trading on bad area for another area that is foreign and unknown to her. She expresses this in her statement that all she knows of Chicago is that Abe Lincoln lived there. The importance of her mentioning him to put emphasis on the fact that the president had abolished slavery but had not freed the southern African Americans.
Southern Culture Genre:
Most important is Alice Walkers use of fragmented sentences, containing vows said by the priest, followed by Roselily's thoughts about what the words truly will mean. Such as when the priest states“to join this man and this woman” she imagines “ropes, chains, handcuffs, his religion, "to join this man and this woman" and Roselily imagines "ropes, chains and handcuffs".
The author uses imagery, similes and metaphors to describe the main points and themes of the story.
The story being narrated in third person allows us to more closely connect with Roselily, as we join her in her thoughts and emotions during the wedding. Because we don't get details about the entirety of the wedding, it makes a seemingly boring yard wedding, interesting. Forcing us to wonder about the other characters as she mentions them briefly.
Narration in the third person:
Roselily experiences similar emotions to that of a princess in a fairytale shows. Roselily is seemingly unaware of the possibility of a grey area. She is only thinking of one enchantment, although negative, in exchange for an equally miserable alternative. Furthering these claims, Roselily is awakened by a kiss that seals her fate.
Everyone in today's society is familiar with the vows that are said during the typical service for a wedding. The author of Roselily incorporates the familiar speech in order to prove a point about the rigidness of religion and Roselily's contradicting thoughts about the phrases being used. For examples, "dearly beloved', one would assume when this phrase is said, that the spouse is thinking of one another. Instead, Roselily's thoughts automatically switch to thinking about her mother, who is now deceased. This emphasizes her feeling of disconnect towards the people that surround her.
Repetition is used in Roselily's thoughts about her husband. She states many times in a single paragraph that she does not love him, yet lists things that she loves about him. This repetition is symbolic of her convincing herself that the wedding is a good idea, as she is headed towards new beginnings.
Ceremonial Reference:
Fairytale Qualities:
"We will have babies, its inevitable"- this is in regards to the typical way of life in the early 1950's. Woman were expected to be at home and if they were not, they were women like Roselily, who was unwed with children and had colored skin. Roselily states, that her new life is inevitable because she will be expected to stay home and take care of the children. She is unsure of this new way of life and whether or not being married is really what she wants.
"A life time or black and white" - related to Roselily's thoughts about her new husbands religion and how it will affect her. Her whole life has been black or white with no in between. She is going from the poverty, to the oppression of the Muslim religion and she feels that she has no option otherwise.
By Alice Walker
Psychoanalytical Approach
Alice Walker
Feminist Approach
While the woman is pondering her future role as a wife, she is critical over her future domestic life. According to her fiancé, she will not be allowed to work and must help raise the children. At first, she is pleased by the amount of rest she will be getting but then is upset with the decision because she will miss working in the fields. This applies to the feminist
critique because she is against the typical
domestic role of women.
Throughout the story the woman alludes to escaping the rural life of Mississippi and starting a brand new life in Chicago. Her ego consciously describes herself as wanting to be “free.” Although she expresses these desires, her id or unconscious is actually hesitant to change. She is unsure of her arranged marriage and doesn’t actually believe this change is for the best.
Static setting- Roselily, nor anyone else besides the cars passing by move from one major scene to another. The entire story takes place at the wedding and strengthening this notion, the story takes place inside the unmoved characters thoughts. Roselily, take s a mental journey, rather than a physical one down her memories to examine how she ended up at the wedding with this man, whom she has no desire to marry. The static setting helps to support Roselily's feeling in her inability to decide what is best for her and her family. Ultimately, the story ends with Roselily deciding to marry the Muslim man and move away to start a new life.
Stock Characters
- characters that are in the story, whose names may also represent an idea, moral, lesson, or symbol in the story.
Roselily: Roses typically stand for blood, life, and maturation. While Lily's traditionally stand for death and purity. The two parts of Roselily's name contradict one an another. As the main character, her name is representative of her thoughts about trading on oppression for another one. Some also may argue that the Rose part of her lame is symbolic of the new life ahead of her and how her decision to better her and children's life is a mature one. And that the Lily part of the name is symbolic of the dead past that encompasses the south.
Husband- Roselily's new husband is symbolic of hope. He is seen as a man that can transform their lives. Stated in the story Roselily talks of how he can mold her into exactly what he wants. And that please Roselily or so she says.
The priest- as Roselily looks at the priest, she says that she had to find the humanity to look at him as if he were a man of God. Roselily says this because if she doesn't believe that he is a man of God than she mustn't truly be married. The priest also stands for the black and white way of life that Roselily needs but doesn't want. She views God, as she says, "as a little black boy". Instead of the traditional way of looking at a priest, Roselily believes that the job of a priest is a sign of oppression in itself.

Generation Gap
- there is a generation gap conflict between Roselily and her children. While Roselily is stuck in the life she was given and only has one option, even if it's not the one she wants, she knows that her children still have a life ahead of them in the North, where the oppression isn't as solid and with a family that has money. Roselily also shows her understanding of this gap, in her giving away her last child to his father so that he could too have a better life.

1. How does the author feel about her husband?
She is not sure if he loves him but loves things about him.

2. What is Roselily’s background?
Roselily is a poor and unprivileged African-American woman who lives
in Mississippi.
3. Where was the wedding?

a. their house
b. church
c. their front porch
d. beach
e. courthouse
How many kids did the narrator have?

a. 1

b. 2

c. 3

d. 4
5. The narrator is very religious - True
6. The husband is wearing a white suit - False
7. All four kids lived with their mom - False
8. The narrators mother is at the wedding - False

9. The children's father went to Harvard - True
10. How does Roselily look at the future and what does she hope for?

Roselily plans on marrying this man in hope for a better life. She is from Missisippi and comes from poverty and disgrace. The man she is going to marry promises her a n amazing life with a great house and everything she has ever wanted.

Roselily often dreams about the future and how great it could be, but she is not very sure that her husband will follow up on his word. She often brings up her current life and past life and uses it to compare how much better things will hopefully be in the future. She also mentions she will be like “the other girls”, expressing that she felt like she was missing out on something and did not fit in because of her life of poverty.
Thank you.

The End
"Alice Walker Short Fiction Analysis"
By Ed.Charles E. Published on March 19, 2015 on eNotes.com
Full transcript