Character Analysis August Boatright


August breaks the stereotype of black women in the South during this period. She lives in her own home with her two sisters and runs a successful business. Although she was once a housekeeper for Lily's mother, August also graduated from college and became a high school teacher. She also decided not to marry because it would take away some of her independence. Lily has never met a woman — let alone a black woman — like this in her world.

August's most important function in the novel is to help Lily on her way to maturity and acceptance of herself as a good human being. Prior to Lily's arrival, August takes care of her two sisters and provides a warm, safe community for them and for other friends. She shelters May from the worst of her fears as long as she can, and she doesn't tell June what would be best for her, instead letting her find it out herself. She has created a religion that will help Lily find her own beliefs and help others to be stronger and more spiritual. For Lily, August's image of Mary is a stand-in at first for her mother, and later a symbol of the strength of women. August holds her religious community together and provides a black spiritual image for the Daughters of Mary.

She could have told Lily immediately that she knew who Lily was. But instead, August keeps this information to herself and wisely provides key turning points for Lily to find her own way. August uses bees and beekeeping to explain what community is all about. As she sees Lily grow spiritually, August stands back and lets Lily discover her own sense of God. August also protects Lily, worrying about her growing attraction for Zach. Finally, instead of giving Lily her mother's things, she waits for Lily to come to her. Then she helps Lily get out all her anger and bitterness before she works on rebuilding her.

August becomes the mother Lily never had. But she can also give Deborah back to Lily since August shares a history with Deborah that Lily didn't have. August's brave example, her understanding of the world and the necessity sometimes to bend to it, her endless capacity for love, and the wisdom of her years are all qualities that have kept her community together and now help Lily find herself.