What is the author's purpose in including the story about the fourth child in "Roselily"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Roselily's fourth child has a different father, evidently, from her other three children. He was from New England and had come to Mississippi "to try to right the country's wrongs." However, all he evidently succeeded in doing was sleeping with Roselily and falling apart himself when she became pregnant with his child—even trying to kill himself.

Roselily knows that he was "a good man but weak," though he did take the boy with him and passed the baby off to his wife as the "right baby," who he'd found through friends. It may not be Roselily's "nature to blame" others, but we, the readers, might assign blame ourselves to those people in Roselily's life. She is an unwed mother, but the story of her fourth child might give us pause and make us wonder about the father(s) of the other three. Did he (or they) too impregnate her and leave her without means of support? The new man in her life certainly does not seem to inspire her with feelings of warmth and comfort, and it does not seem as though any man ever has. At least, no such man is mentioned.

Further, mention of the fourth child also makes it clear what lengths Roselily will go to to secure a better life for her children. Knowing the baby will have a better life with his father up north, she lets him go. Knowing that her children will "at last [be out] from underneath the detrimental wheel," she will marry a man she does not truly love.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team