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Story Review: Roselily by Alice Walker

Roselily is about a young woman of the same name whose life story is told on the occasion of her wedding, as she stands in front of the preacher beside a man she is about to take as her husband. Dressed in her mother’s white robe and veil, her mind wanders as the preacher speaks his opening spiel. Through her nostalgia, we discover that she is black, that she is the mother of three children, not counting the fourth that she gave away to its father, that she is marrying a seemingly well-off man who had a different religion, that they will move to Chicago after the wedding, and that she cannot wait to leave her old life behind. She had high hopes for a new, better life. Among others.

She wonders how to make new roots. It is beyond her. She wonders what one does with memories in a brand-new life. This had seemed easy, until she thought of it. “The reasons why… the people who” … she thinks, and does not wonder where the thought is from.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today…

For many women, their wedding day is the most important day of their lives. It is the day that marks a new journey, one to be embarked with their soulmates, the loves of their lives. It is no different for Roselily; the day of her wedding was important. Her groom promised her that her place will be in the home, that it was no longer necessary for her to find a job. She felt that she could give her children a new chance at life. She longed for freedom. So her wedding day signified hope, portended new prospects, and indicated the end of her old life and heralded the new.

But she has apprehensions, and as the preacher drones on and ceremony continues, she feels the strength, the intensity of these apprehensions swelling inside of her. Did she love him? What is she going to do without having to work all day? Are they going to make more babies? She barely heard the preacher; her mind was wandering, absorbed in the anxieties that threatened to overwhelm her.

But does she do something? Does she push through with the wedding or have a change of heart?

She does not even know if she loves him. She loves his sobriety. His refusal to sing just because he knows the tune. She loves his pride. His blackness and his gray car. She loves his understanding of her condition. She thinks she loves the effort he will make to redo her into what he truly wants. His love of her makes her completely conscious of how unloved she was before. This is something; though it makes her unbearably sad.

The appeal of Roselily is not limited to the depth and significance of the themes that it explored; it is also structurally ingenious. The story is framed within the opening remarks of a minister or other solemnizing officer before he proceeds to the ceremony proper, i.e., the exchange of vows of the couple. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate the wedding of… The speech is cut in places as the story shifts to Roselily, back to where the speech left off and then to Roselily again, and so on and so forth. There is continuity in the narrative, however, rendering the entire story structure clever and seamless.

But in Chicago. Respect, a chance to build. Her children at last from underneath the detrimental wheel. A chance to be on top. What a relief, she thinks. What a vision, a view, from up so high.

… And now, the couple will read their vows.

Rating: 5/5
Published in: In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women


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