Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down What's Up With the Title?

By Alice Walker

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What's Up With the Title?

Walker gives a shout-out in her dedication to Mamie Smith, who sang the "red hot jazz" tune "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down."

Smith's refrain runs something like this:

You can't keep a good man down
No matter how you try.
Anytime he gets involved
He'll find a way by-and-by.

Walker makes each of her stories a variation on Smith's theme, showing us that you just can't keep a good, strong woman down. And it's no accident that Walker kicks off the collection with Gracie Mae Still, her fictional blues singer who does just fine for herself despite poverty, bad love, and a floundering career. Mamie Smith's song—and her whole persona—have clearly influenced Walker's thematic interests here.

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