The Sacrifice; an Analysis of Language in Alice Walker's Roselily

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“The Sacrifice”: An Analysis of Language in Alice Walker’s Roselily PAPER # 6 LANGUAGE

Kati Martinez
03/03/2013
In Alice Walker’s Roselily, our main character (Roselily) is a mother of three residing in Mississippi. She questions her actions to marry a man of a different religion, but knows that the marriage will give her a (limited) sense of freedom, and will give her children an opportunity to lead better lives. The story’s central idea reveals that sometimes the love and concern for others can lead to the sacrifice of one’s own happiness.

One of many literary devices that Walker uses is imagery. The use of similes and metaphors occur frequently to reveal the character of Roselily to readers. “Like cotton to be weighed” (Walker, 1123, 2), “noses thrust forward like dogs on a track” (1123,2 ), and “she thinks of the something as a rat trapped, cornered, scurrying to and fro in her head…”(1125, 4) are all examples of similes used to display the southern, country aspects of Roselily’s character. Some metaphors used such as “knee raised waist high through a bowl of quicksand soup” (1123, 1), “a lifetime of black and white” (1124, 4), and “a stalk that has no roots” (1124, 4) emphasizes Roselily’s reluctance and hesitation to get married.

Perhaps the most obvious device used is syntax. When reading Walker’s story the first thing one notices is the structure of the work. By putting fragmented sentences of the priest’s speech and then following each one by a paragraph of Roselily’s related thoughts (through omniscient point of view) the reader sees Roselily’s views about her soon-to-be spouse and the marriage itself. Using this type of structure also reveals the setting in which the story takes place. “To join this man and woman…She thinks of ropes, chains, handcuffs…” (1124, 2), “If there’s anybody here that knows a reason why…But of course they know no reason why …” (1124, 4), and “or forever hold…She does not even know if she loves him” are a few...
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