How is the South depicted in the story "Roselily"?

Alice Walker's short story "Roselily" depicts the South as a backward and oppressive place, which the protagonist is relieved to escape.

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Alice Walker's "Roselily" examines the thoughts and feelings of a young woman who is escaping the South through her marriage. The protagonist is continually thinking that she will not be in South much longer. She and her new husband "will spin through the darkness of Mississippi and in the morning be in Chicago, Illinois." She knows nothing of Chicago, and very little of the man she is marrying. All she knows is that she wants to escape from Mississippi, which she associates with oppression, backwardness, and misery.

The protagonist's thoughts are interspersed between the words of the marriage service, spoken by a preacher who stands as synecdoche and symbol of the oppressively respectable, hypocritical religion that characterizes the South. She has to force herself to look humble and respectful as she thinks how little this "man of God" has to do with God, whom she imagines as a small black boy, pulling on his coat-tails.

The young woman's reflections on her future are vaguely optimistic, but this is only because everything to which she looks forward contrasts with the Southern life she is escaping. The future will be Islam instead of Christianity, respectability instead of disgrace, leisure instead of drudgery, and Illinois instead of Mississippi. The fact that it is not the South where she grew up is enough to make her new life seem hopeful.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on November 20, 2020
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