Rocket Boys

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Roy Lee Character Analysis

Homer Hickam Jr.’s friend, and the publicity manager of the BCMA, Roy Lee is a charismatic, handsome young man who’s often seen with a date or a girlfriend. Roy Lee plays an important role in Homer’s success with rocketry, since he drives the members of the BCMA around in his car. Roy Lee frequently offers Homer advice about girls and dating—some of which Homer accepts, and some of which he ignores. Although he and Homer quarrel over the leadership of the BCMA, and even fight over the matter, they come to respect one another greatly.

Roy Lee Quotes in Rocket Boys

The Rocket Boys quotes below are all either spoken by Roy Lee or refer to Roy Lee . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dell edition of Rocket Boys published in 2000.
Chapter 5 Quotes

The first rocket emitted a boil of nasty, stinking, yellowish smoke and then fell over, the glue on its fins melted. “Wonderful,” Roy Lee muttered, holding his nose. Quentin silently wrote the result down on a scrap of notebook paper. Body of knowledge.

Related Characters: Homer Hickam Jr. (speaker), Roy Lee (speaker), Quentin
Related Symbols: Rockets
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

This quotation is important because it shows us how much failure and bitterness Homer Jr. has to deal with before he attains any real success with rocket science. Many of Homer's early rockets don't launch at all—they just burn up on the launch pad, or explode, or worse.

In the quote, Hickam shows us two possible reactions to the rocket's failure: Roy Lee's and Quentin's. Roy Lee, an ambitious but somewhat impatient boy, is irritated by the failure of the rocket. Quentin, on the other hand, doesn't think of the rocket as a failure at all. An important part of the scientific method, he understands, is recognizing what not to do. Therefore, a rocket that burns up on the launchpad communicates some valuable lessons to the Rocket Boys. Quentin's patience and wisdom about the way science works is invaluable to Homer and his team as they proceed with their work.

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Chapter 9 Quotes

“We’re making progress.” I put out my hand, palm down. “Come on, put your hand on mine, like the football team does.”
One by one, Sherman, O’Dell Roy Lee, and Quentin solemnly placed their hands one on top of the other, all on top of mine. “Rocket boys,” I said. “Rocket boys forever!”

Related Characters: Homer Hickam Jr. (speaker), O’Dell , Sherman , Quentin , Roy Lee
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Homer and his new friends christen themselves the "rocket boys." The scene is full of symbolism; most importantly, the rocket boys take on the behaviors of football players, cheering for their "team." As Homer has already made clear, science and math have eclipsed football as the point of emphasis in Coalwood schools. It's only appropriate, then, that the rocket boys behave like football players—the science students have replaced the jocks.

More generally, though, the scene establishes the importance of groups for Homer and his friends. Homer doesn't always have much in common with his fellow rocket boys, and yet they're all united in their ambitions of building rockets and going to college. By working together, the rocket boys all benefit. There are many times throughout the novel when one of the boys considers leaving the group altogether, and it's only because of the encouragement of the rest of the group that everyone remains involved. Individually, the rocket boys have their own strengths and weaknesses: together, their strengths multiply and their weaknesses disappear.

Chapter 20 Quotes

There, with nobody around but Roy Lee, Sherman, and O’Dell, I could be just another boy again. I put Coalwood and even my parents out of my mind and took in all the sounds and sights and smells of God’s nature everywhere about me. For the first time in months, I was genuinely happy.

Related Characters: Homer Hickam Jr. (speaker), O’Dell , Sherman , Roy Lee
Page Number: 263
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene, Homer and his friends on the BCMA take a camping trip outside of Coalwood. During the course of their trip, Homer begins to get over his sense of guilt for Isaac Bykovski's death. He's been fixated on having caused Isaac's death for weeks and weeks. In part, he's been feeling so guilty because he's been surrounded by the same buildings and people—each one a reminder of some connection between Homer and Isaac, and therefore a reminder of Homer's guilt. Outside of Coalwood and away from most people, Homer finds it easier to move on with his life, focusing on what he's most passionate about—rocketry and his friends. In general, Homer finds here that his friends are one of his most important "resources" in life. On the many occasions when he's at the point of quitting rocketry altogether, his friends encourage him to stick with it.

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Roy Lee Character Timeline in Rocket Boys

The timeline below shows where the character Roy Lee appears in Rocket Boys. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Coalwood
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Growing up, Homer’s friends at school are Roy Lee , O’Dell, Tony, and Sherman. He invents a fictional Indian tribe, the “Coalhicans,” and acts... (full context)
Chapter 2: Sputnik
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
...the new environment, and appreciates that he’s still going to school with his closest friends, Roy Lee , Sherman, and O’Dell. He notes that the key “milestone” in his life happened on... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...boy with a shriveled leg as a result of a polio infection. There is also Roy Lee , a good-looking, likable boy who owns a car. Homer is lucky to have these... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
...gossip about the U.S.S.R. and suggest that Russians eat their own babies. As Homer and Roy Lee talk, they compare homework. Homer notes that he was a poor student, especially at algebra. (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...Dorothy Plunk, who seems frightened by the prospect of a Soviet satellite. Homer whispers to Roy Lee , asking if he thinks Dorothy will go out with him. Dorothy’s friend, Emily Sue... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Homer gathers his friends, Sherman, O’Dell, and Roy Lee , to help him launch a rocket outside his house, near Elsie’s prized rose-garden fence.... (full context)
Chapter 5: Quentin
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...Quentin and joins his friends, who demand to know why he was talking with Quentin. Roy Lee insists that Homer will never have a chance with Dorothy if he’s seen with Quentin,... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Quentin and Homer join Roy Lee to test their new rockets. They go to the creek near Homer’s house where they... (full context)
Chapter 6: Mr. Bykovski
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...Homer Sr. unimpressed. Homer’s friends come by, and Homer takes the opportunity to talk to Roy Lee about Homer Sr.’s lungs. (Roy Lee’s brother, Billy, is medically trained.) Roy Lee is unsure... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
...Quentin is a part of it. Homer announces himself the president, and Quentin the scientist. Roy Lee covers transportation, O’Dell is treasurer, and Sherman handles publicity and sets up the rocket range. (full context)
Chapter 7: Cape Coalwood
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
One afternoon, when the BCMA is visiting Homer’s house, Roy Lee proposes that the group focus less on rockets and more on girls. He brings out... (full context)
Chapter 9: Jake Mosby (Auks V-VIII)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
The rocket launching begins, and Roy Lee lights the fuse for Auk V. It climbs about fifty feet into the air before... (full context)
Chapter 10: Miss Riley (Auks IX-XI)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...on Sunday for studying, and adds that she’s missed him all summer. As they talk, Roy Lee comes up to Homer, looking at Dorothy with distaste, and tells Homer to get on... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
...Van Dyke’s office immediately. Homer goes to see Van Dyke, who’s sitting with O’Dell and Roy Lee . Van Dyke explains that the BCMA has been stealing from his mining company, breaking... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
Although Roy Lee has been irritated with the BCMA after the telephone incident, he decides to stay in... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Machinists: Auks XIV-XV
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...feeling sorry for Dorothy. Shortly after the dance, from which he’s stayed home, Homer asks Roy Lee if it looked like Dorothy was having a good time with her date. Roy Lee... (full context)
Chapter 13: The Rocket Book
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...the sight of snow outside his house. As he gets on the bus, he notices Roy Lee , practicing his “speech assignment” for school. As Carlotta Smith gets on the bus, Roy... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...day, the buses aren’t running, meaning that Homer stays home from school. Along with O’Dell, Roy Lee , and Sherman, Homer goes to sled around Big Creek. They hitch rides toward the... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Homer leaves school and rejoins his friends, who are still sledding in the area. Roy Lee announces that they’re all going to Emily Sue’s house to play cards. At Emily Sue’s... (full context)
Chapter 14: The Pillar Explosion: Auks XVI-XIX
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Quentin, O’Dell, and Roy Lee have been busy installing telephones in the blockhouse—now, they can communicate with one another from... (full context)
Chapter 15: The State Troopers
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...admits that Hartsfield is right, though he points out that his friends—Quentin, O’Dell, Sherman, and Roy Lee , are all good math students. Hartsfield seems somewhat sympathetic to the BCMA’s goals of... (full context)
Chapter 19: Picking Up and Going On: Auk XXI
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...BCMA that next time the group must use a combination of zinc dust and sulfur. Roy Lee and Sherman are confused by this news. Homer angrily insists that he’s going for maximum... (full context)
Chapter 21: Zincoshine: Auks XXII, A, B, C, and D
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...the region. At John Eye’s house, they find a big room full of gamblers. There, Roy Lee takes the lead, asking John Eye for his purest brew. John Eye encourages Roy Lee... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...heads toward Frog Level. Homer is terrified that his rocket will kill someone, as is Roy Lee . As it turns out, Auk XXII-D lands in an abandoned field, hurting no one,... (full context)
Chapter 22: We Do the Math: Auks XXII-XXIV
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...BCMA’s next rocket launch is scheduled for the same day as the Christmas formal. Only Roy Lee has succeeded in finding a date for the formal—the other BCMA members will be going... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...“Rocket-boy fame” to dance with Melba and make out with her in the backseat of Roy Lee ’s car. (full context)
Chapter 23: Science Fairs
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
A few days later, Elsie drives Homer to the McDowell County Science Fair in Welch. Roy Lee drives the other members of the BCMA in his car. Homer is carrying his plans... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...must be an accident, and he blames himself for letting Daisy Mae outside. Shortly thereafter, Roy Lee and the other BCMA members show up at Homer’s house—it’s as if they’ve sensed that... (full context)
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
The night after the assembly, Homer hears a tapping at his window—it’s Roy Lee . Homer climbs outside, where Roy Lee explains that he’s found the culprit for Daisy... (full context)
Chapter 25: The National Science Fair
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
...his bus, he’s surprised by a crowd of his friends and supporters. As they cheer, Roy Lee pulls Homer aside and tells him that Miss Riley is in the hospital. Horrified, Homer... (full context)
Chapter 26: All Systems Go: Auks XXVI-XXXI (June 4, 1960)
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...the salutatorian. Most of the other BCMA members are in the top ten, except for Roy Lee and O’Dell. At graduation, Mr. Turner personally congratulates Homer for bringing honor to his school,... (full context)
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
Parents and Children Theme Icon
Hard Work, Scarcity, Science, and Innovation Theme Icon
...of the BCMA go in separate directions. Instead of getting college scholarships, O’Dell, Billy, and Roy Lee take the Air Force recruiter up on his offer and join the Air Force—afterwards, they... (full context)
Epilogue
The Cold War and the Space Race Theme Icon
The Individual vs. the Group Theme Icon
Dreams, Ambition, and Acceptance Theme Icon
...all of the BCMA members went on to college—something inconceivable before the age of Sputnik. Roy Lee became a banker, O’Dell became a farmer, and Sherman died, tragically, of a heart attack... (full context)