I needed all the help that fashion could give me, since no one, not a single person, had ever said, “Lily you are such a pretty child,” except for Miss Jennings at church, and she was legally blind.
In the beginning of the novel, Lily explains how she developed the belief that she was not pretty. Lily believes that she lacks feminine attributes and fears that she’ll never become an attractive woman. The loss of her mother causes Lily to be preoccupied with the things she is missing out on not having a feminine influence in her life.
But suddenly the look on Rosaleen’s face cut through all that. Look what he’s done to you.
Early in the story, Lily describes a typical beating she receives from her father, T. Ray, and here notes Rosaleen’s response to one of those beatings. T. Ray makes her kneel on a pile of grits on the floor as he beats her. Lily has received so many beatings that she’s grown numb to them emotionally, until this moment, when Rosaleen looks at her with pity. Rosaleen’s reaction causes Lily to begin to understand the gravity of her situation.
“My mother will never let you touch me again!” I shouted.
During one of Lily’s and her father’s brutal arguments, Lily screams to her father that her mother will protect her. Lily imagines that her mother is her guardian angel, watching over her from beyond. The image of her mother hovering somewhere nearby, protecting her from life’s cruelty, functions as Lily’s buoy throughout her life.
It had to be like he’d said before: she was cleaning out the closet the day of the accident. People cleaned out closets all the time.
Lily says these words to herself to reassure herself that her father, T. Ray, has just told her a lie. T. Ray told Lily that her mother was only back in the house the day she was killed to pick up her belongings, not Lily. T. Ray’s revelation shatters Lily’s fragile world, which has been predicated on a belief in her mother’s love.
Maybe she was wrong, but in her mind she was standing up for Jesus.
Lily speaks to Brother Gerald, a naive and self-righteous minister of the town church, trying to convince him that Rosaleen’s confrontation with the white men harassing her was over Jesus, not her dignity. Lily keenly observes those around her, and over time she has developed clever survival skills, skills that help Rosaleen in this moment and help Lily survive living with T. Ray.
It was foolish to think some things were beyond happening, even being attracted to negroes.
Lily reflects on her growing attraction to Zacharyary Taylor, a black boy who works on August’s bee farm. Due to her ingrained racism, Lily struggles to believe that she would be attracted to a black boy, just as she struggles with her feelings for even Rosaleen, her closest ally.
No one had ever asked me this before. What did I love?
After August asks Lily what she loves, Lily pauses and reflects on the fact that no one has ever asked her such a question. Lily spent so much time trying to survive living with a neglectful, abusive father that she never once explored her personal feelings and ideas. August’s question opens up a new world of possibility to Lily, one centered on her own identity.
I said, “If I was a Negro girl—”
Lily speaks to Zacharyary, bemoaning the fact that their romance can’t continue because of society’s views on racially mixed couples. The story takes place during the civil rights era, and racial tensions feel especially high. Lily is painfully aware of her whiteness in this moment as well as others over the course of the novel, helping her to place herself in the context of her racially divided world.
“Our Lady is not some magical being out there somewhere, like a fairy godmother. She’s not the statue in the parlor. She’s something inside you. Do you understand what I’m telling you?” “Our Lady is inside me,” I repeated, not sure I did.
At the end of the novel, August tries to teach Lily that all she needs already exists inside herself, just like everyone else. In an attempt to believe the idea, Lily repeats August’s words. Lily does not yet understand the importance of such an idea, that all she needs to flourish and thrive dwells inside of her, but the seed has been planted.
I shouted it. “Daddy!”
After T. Ray seems lost in a trance and confuses Lily for her mother, Lily shouts at him, using the term Daddy in an effort to bring him back to reality. This is an important moment for Lily because she has never called T. Ray “Daddy” before because the term just didn’t feel right. In this moment, Lily using the term signifies Lily’s acceptance of her father and the beginning of her making peace with him to put him in her past.