The story begins with the opening words of the traditional wedding ceremony, ‘‘Dearly Beloved.’’ The two words, italicized, hang above a paragraph of prose, with no explanation. Following the paragraph are a few more words from the ceremony, ‘‘we are gathered here.’’ The brief story is arranged this way throughout. A paragraph or two of prose is followed by a bit of the minister’s words, until two sentences from the wedding are complete: ‘‘Dearly Beloved, / we are gathered here / in the sight of God / to join this man and this woman / in holy matrimony’’ and ‘‘If there’s anybody here that knows a reason why / these two should not be joined / together, / let him speak / or forever hold / his peace.’’
The eleven prose sections are spoken in the third person by a narrator who can see into the mind of Roselily, the central character. Each section reports what Roselily thinks and observes as she is being married. There is no dialogue and no real action, but simply the meandering thoughts of the central character. The story opens with Roselily daydreaming through her own wedding, seeing herself in her mother’s wedding gown. It is obvious immediately that this is not the story of a joyous wedding day. The wedding party stands on the porch of Roselily’s house, and the man she is marrying (he is never named) does not approve of the location.
Throughout the ceremony, cars can be heard passing by on the highway. White people drive the cars, and the men in the crowd keep looking at the passing cars in a ‘‘respectful way.’’ For the groom, Roselily can tell, the distraction caused by the white people, and the fact that these country people in Panther Burn, Mississippi, follow the ‘‘wrong God,’’ ruins the wedding. Roselily, who has three children, wonders what it would be like to not have them, and instantly her guilt is mixed in her mind with the guilt of not quite...
(The entire section is 792 words.)