Roselily

rose-and-calla-lily.jpg by Alice Walker

Alice Walker, writer of the famed Color Purple, writes a short interior monologue story from the perspective of the character Roselily in the midst of her wedding. This story tells in fragments the experience of her wedding and the past that has brought her to this point.

Here you can see an interesting image based retelling of the story.

We are practicing:

Analyzing an Author's Argument

Analyzing Character Development

Describing an Author's Style

Understanding Literature in Context: Culture


Analyzing an Author's Argument

Although Alice Walker's story may have many ideas, the main idea we took away from it was that of bondage and the attempt to escape bondage, which Roselily seems unable to do. Trying to escape her situation of poverty, of her rural southern life, and her experiences as a black woman in this world, she decides to marry a northern Muslim man. He promises to take her up to Chicago where she will no longer be subject to the same struggles she has experienced in Mississippi, and to give her rest. Even as she knows this is a better offer than her current situation, we see Roselily articulate the limitations and "chains" of her future married life as well. She will be converting to what she perceives as being a more repressive religion (veils and separation are what she knows of it). She will be a stay at home mother, and she knows they will have many "babies". She isn't sure how much rest she even wants. What becomes apparent is that Roselily is making a calculated gamble to not escape her bondage but to find a better circumstance for her bondage.

Describing an Author's Style

Most noteworthy of Walker's stylistic choices for this piece is its structure. It is an internal monologue - seemingly in the first person but written in the third. This mix means that as we are only in Roselily's head (with the exceptions of the statements of the minister) she is commenting on her own life, as if she is having an out of body experience or reflecting on the events that have led her to this moment. There is no description or life outside of her memories, however, which definitely leads itself to a sense of first person perspective, and the fragmented structure of the story seems like stream of consciousness. The framework of the ceremony introduction grounds us in the circumstances of the story and provides a narrative structure for the piece. Her piece is rich with imagery (like the cotton vs. the cinder) and rich sensory language. She also uses flashbacks to bring to life her past for the reader, as though she is reliving the memories of some instances.

Analyzing Character Development

Roselily, is best discerned in the juxtaposition of the two words that make up her name. Roses being associated with passion, maturity, and love make up one part of her identity, while lily's associated with innocence and death also make up a part. She has led a very passionate life (lots of babies) as is depicted by the Rose, and she is being made an honest woman (now getting married)and being put to rest (so to speak) in Chicago (depicted by the Lily). This is one dichotomy of her experiences. Meanwhile, we may also see her having led a very innocent or inexperienced life (Lily) in her world till now, and now at her maturity she is making the more sophisticated (Rose) decision of marrying not for love but for opportunity. Strangely the words work both ways for the character's identity and help us to understand the war within her as she faces this decision knowing that she is making it with her head and not her heart.

Understanding Literature in Context: Culture

To understand the struggles of the character Roselily, we must first understand the world in which Roselily finds herself. To do this we see that Walker places us in the context of "structures" or traditional frameworks that Roselily is defined by. Some of these are as follows:
-Religion - Christianity vs. Muslim Religions- how each provides a sense of identity and the roles of mena nd women.
-Motherhood - The role of the mother and the need for mothers to caretake and be sacrificial in this
-South vs. North - Depicted by the cotton vs. the cinder, which is the economic opportunity of the North vs. the agrarian South. However interestingly, the images associated put the south as having a more positive image.
-Marriage - The institution and its various connotations and benefits for women along with the limitations.
-Gender Roles - The roles that men and women take in society.