Outline briefly what the dilemma is and go on to discuss how the characters reaction to it gives you a deeper understanding of the story. “Roselily”, a short story by well known author Alice Walker, is the tale of a black woman of the south facing a difficult decision on her wedding day. The story goes on to explain her circumstances and why this decision has to be made. During this essay I will explore this dilemma and how the characters reaction to it gave me a deeper understanding of the text.
Roselily is a woman standing on the alter of her wedding and finding herself at a crossroads; Whether to live her life for herself or for her children; to marry a man she does neither love nor desire to ensure her children’s future or to leave and put her children’s future at risk. Roselily knows that should she marry this stranger who is to be her husband that she will not have the life she wishes for, that her life will be completely changed and they will move from the place she knows and loves to a cold inner city of the north. This is a huge dilemma and how Roselily reacts is portrayed as the story unfolds.
Throughout the story “Roselily”, the antagonist Roselily herself faces a struggle between her conscience, wanting what is best for her children and her desire, wanting what is best for her. Roselily’s reactions to this dilemma give us a deeper understanding of the story and of Roselily herself as a person Roselily’s reactions to the dilemma are evident in our understanding of the story. The first way in which Roselily’s reactions to the dilemma is shown when in reference to her fiancï¿½. Her view on her soon to be husband never seems to be positive except when in regards to her children and him; “She loves his understanding of her condition.”
The condition being referred to her is the fact that she has children out of marriage in the first place, and to many different fathers. However, when talking about how she sees him as a person she is not quite so generous in her praise of him; “She does not even know if she loves him.” This reaction is vital to our understanding of the story as it shows the self sacrifice that Roselily will make in order to save her children from an uncertain future. Without this reaction we would not be sure if Roselily’s feelings were a factor in this marriage, but this reaction clarifies that she does not have feelings for her fiancï¿½. Hence this reaffirms to what extent Roselily is prepared to go for a better future for her children and deepens our understanding of the text as a whole.
The second way in which Roselily’s reactions to the dilemma enhance our understanding of the text is through her reaction to the new way in which she must accustom her appearance and behaviour to suit her husband and his religion. It is not the sort of life she is used to. She imagines herself worshipping at her new place of worship; “She thinks of ropes, chains, handcuffs, his religion. His place of worship. Where she will be required to sit apart with covered head.”
This attitude towards his religion is immensely negative. It shows her resentment of the fact she is marrying this man and also heightens our awareness of the tremendous sacrifice she is making for her children’s benefit as this is a big change for her; “Even now her body itches to be free of satin and voile, organdie and lily of the valley. Memories crash against her. Memories of being bare to the sun.”
This also further highlights the sacrifice she is making and deepens our understanding of the texts as it shows how much Roselily hates to be covered up, and much prefers the exposure of her flesh. We are aware by this time that her husband is Muslim which would require Roselily as a Muslim woman to hide her body and her face from view. Hence her reaction to the idea of change for her husband’s new religion also deepens our understanding of the text as it highlights the sacrifice which Roselily is making on behalf of her children.
The final way in which Roselily’s reaction to the dilemma deepens our understanding of the text is her opinion of the North of America and the South. The North of America, Chicago to be exact, is where Roselily would be moving if she were to marry this stranger she calls her fiancï¿½. Roselily does not see the North as a good place, but as a dirty bad one, whereas she views the South as a clean wholesome place. This is shown by the use of “cinders” as symbolism. The “cinders used are to represent the badness in the world and Roselily talks about Chicago and her home town of Pantherburn like so; “”In Chicago, a word she hears when thinking of smoke, from his description of what a cinder was, which they never had in Patherburn.”
Roselily’s negative attitude towards Chicago emphasises her desire to stay in Patherburn, in the south, and that she does not think much of the North except that it carries opportunities for her and her children alike. Roselily’s decision to marry her suitor and move on to better things for her children even though it is not truly what her heart desires is hence unpredictable as the dilemma shows her happiness versus her children’s. Her reactions to several things about her new life deepen our understanding of the texts as a whole as with out these reactions we would be unawares to the dilemma in the first place. And so, the characters reaction towards her husband, her new religion and her new home enhance our understanding of the text as a whole.