Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Walker, “Roselily”


Alice Walker:

Narrative style here resembles stream-of-consciousness with its sentence fragments and very inward private flow. We are only tenuously connected to the outer world; the fragmented text of the wedding ceremony in italics (that rote rhetoric which is deadly in its formality) gives rise to associative threads of thought at best. But the story is also in third person. Technically, this is called “free indirect speech” or “indirect free discourse.” Consider why, for so private a level of thought, Walker would not have chosen first-person narration.

Next, consider the trade-off: Roselily’s old life with her new life after marriage.

  • Mississippi vs. Chicago
  • cotton vs. cinders
  • friendliness vs. dignity
  • Christianity vs. Muslim religion
  • economic poverty vs. ?

Consider also Roselily’s name, especially the opposing symbolisms of the flowers: the rose (usually the red rose springs to mind) and its associations with love, passion, blood, life, maturity; and the lily and its associations with death, sterility, purity. It’s a schizoid name, a contradiction, and this points out the stalemate Roselily faces now in life too.

One key moment in the text tries to express a frustrating confusion about life:

She wants to live for once. But doesn’t quite know what that means. Wonders if she has ever done it. If she ever will. (8)

How does one “live” in a world of structures such as the ones Roselily is trying to negotiate (especially being a poor black woman)? Being the wife of a Chicago Muslim is obviously not the “answer” because of the doomed tone of this. It seems a better answer for now, a preferable structure. So you choose one that gives you more options or seemingly better ones, even though in your heart you know that it’s not the answer.

Works Consulted

“Alice Walker.” http://www.luminarium.org/contemporary/alicew/.

Walker, Alice. “Roselily.” In Love and Trouble. Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Pub., 1973. 3-9.