Study Guide

"How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It was Easy." Characters in You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down

By Alice Walker

"How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It was Easy." Characters

The Narrator

A Brutal Beginning

Our narrator tells her brutal story in first person, and she spares us nothing—we get all the uncomfortable details point-blank. There's nothing in the narrator's upbringing, really, that would allow her to gloss over things. Listen to her description of her childhood home, for example:

The place stunk, especially in the summer. And children were always screaming and men were always cussing and women were always yelling about something…It was nothing for a girl or woman to be raped. I was raped myself, when I was twelve, and my Mama never knew and I never told anybody. (Lawyer.5)

There's hopelessness and resignation in this narrative. More than once, our narrator wonders what anyone can do. When Bubba comes on the scene, he's just another rapist taking advantage of a vulnerable girl. Of course, he smooths it all over with some psychology and lots of praise—and, of course, with money.

Our narrator wants to kill the guy from the get-go, but it's not until her mother's brain is destroyed in an insane asylum—the lawyer's idea—that she takes that option. She can't give an eloquent reason as to why it took so long. "But I just suddenly—in a way I don't even pretend to understand—woke up. It was like everything up to then had been some kind of dream" (Lawyer.13).

Her "waking up" happens when her mother—her only link to the world outside of Bubba—dies, leaving her to face the reality of her nightmarish situation. And face it she does.

Mama

We learn from the narrator that Mama has her pride, but because she's busy working all the time to keep the lights on, she's not taking care of her daughter:

She used to leave me alone sometimes because there was no one to keep me—and then there was an old woman up the street who looked after me for a while—and by the time she died she was more like a mother to me than Mama was. (Lawyer.4)

Mama also shows little mercy to her daughter, who has been raped twice before she reaches adulthood. When she finds out about Bubba, Mama turns the blame on her daughter—as though her daughter had made a conscious choice to be involved with her rapist.

In her defense, Mama clearly spazzes out because she's worried about her daughter getting killed for consorting with a white man—the son of the town's biggest white supremacist, no less. But the narrator doesn't catch any of her mother's concern. All she catches is a butt-whuppin' with an electrical cord.

And that's enough to determine Mama's fate in the end.

Bubba

Bubba is the white supremacist rapist who strong-arms the narrator of this story into an exploitative relationship. Oh, yeah—he's also a big-time lawyer and pillar of the community. That's part of the reason why he manages to brainwash the narrator into thinking he's really a good guy who thinks the world of her. As she tells it:

I thought he loved me. That meant something to me. What did I know about "equal rights"? What did I care about "integration"? I was sixteen! I wanted somebody to tell me I was pretty and he was telling me all the time. (Lawyer.10)

Slick, Bubba. But the spell doesn't work forever, and eventually, the narrator finds only one way to deal with a person like him—especially given the fact that the justice system isn't going to work for a Black girl against the biggest lawyer in town.

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