In The Secret Life of Bees, what does this quote said by Lily mean?
When Rosaleen stands up to T. Ray about the chick, Lily says, "his boots whispered uncle all the way down the hall." What does this mean?
To "cry uncle" is an idiomatic expression meaning to concede defeat.
T. Ray, Lily's father, is a crude, domineering man. His wife had been killed in the midst of a violent argument with him, when Lily, who had been a very small child, had picked up the gun they were fighting over, and the weapon had gone off. Lily has grown up since then in an environment run by her callous father, devoid of love. The only source of comfort she has is Rosaleen, a black woman who has been plucked from the ranks of T. Ray's workers, and assigned to care for his house and his daughter.
Lily remembers that she had not realized that Rosaleen loved her until she bought her a baby chick the Easter she was eight. The chick had made a mess in the house, but Rosaleen did not complain. When T. Ray came home and threatened "to boil the chick for dinner and fire Rosaleen for being an imbecile," Rosaleen stood between him and the chick, telling him unequivocably that the chick was not leaving. Unused to being defied, T. Ray had retreated, his "boots whisper(ing) uncle all the way down the hall;" Lily knows that her father has been defeated by Rosaleen, who, knowing how much the chick meant to a child hungry for love, had stood up to him for Lily's sake (Chapter 1).