Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down Love

By Alice Walker

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Story 2: How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy.

[…] I would just think of how different his son Bubba was from his daddy! Do you understand what I'm saying. 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)

FYI, Bubba doesn't love the narrator of this story. Bubba is raping her. But the young woman—who lives a harsh and isolated life—has been manipulated into believing that he's a good, white man who sees her true beauty. It's no surprise, then, that she reacts as she does when she sees him for what he is.

Story 3: Elethia

They carefully burned Uncle Albert to ashes in the incinerator of their high school, and each of them kept a bottle of his ashes. (Elethia.7)

Elethia and her friends take action when they realize that the "effigy" of Albert Porter in the window of a local restaurant is, in fact, really Albert Porter. They decide to give him as proper a cremation as they can manage. It's possible that Elethia and her boys are acting simply out of outrage and a sense of justice. But it's also certain that they're acting out of love and respect for the man Albert Porter was, and to make up for the indignities he suffered in his life—and after it.

Story 8: The Abortion

Well, she was a fraud, anyway. She had known after a year of marriage that it bored her. "The Experience of Having a Child" was to distract her from this fact. Still, she expected him to "take care of her." (Abortion.19)

Like the narrator of "Porn" and "The Lover," Imani finds out too late that the whole marriage thing is not for her. Her husband, Clarence, tries to remind her that she loves him—but does she really? To be fair, Imani is dealing with a lot of things. It seems impossible for her to move beyond the suffering and oppression she feels to love anyone else.

"They think they can kill a continent—people, trees, buffalo—and then fly off to the moon and just forget about it. But you and me we're going to remember the people, the trees and the f***ing buffalo." (Abortion.60)

Imani has just undergone a traumatic abortion procedure, and to make emotional matters worse, she's heading out to attend a memorial service for a teenage girl who was gunned down on her graduation day. It's not the best choice of things to do in her state. But Imani feels fierce loyalty to Holly Monroe—and to all the things that get lost to a dominant culture.

This had started as a joke between them. Her aim had been never to marry, but to take in lovers who could be sent home at dawn, freeing her to work and ramble.

"I'm here because you love me," was the traditional answer. But Clarence faltered, meeting her eyes, and Imani turned away. (Abortion.64-65)

The joke runs something like this: Imani looks at her husband and says, "What is this man doing in my house?" You can imagine that being a super cute joke with a pair of newlyweds. Not so much for a couple on the rocks, though—which Clarence and Imani are in a big way now. It doesn't help that Imani's whole vision of her future never included a permanent Clarence, someone who wants to love her conventionally.

Story 11: Laurel

He grew steadily worse, you know. His last letters were brutal. He blamed you for everything, even the accident, accusing you of awful, nasty things. He became a bitter, vindictive man. (Laurel.122)

Laurel's frustrated lust for the narrator has led him down a path of anger and self-destruction. The sexual attraction she once felt for him turns into a whole heap of guilt and self-blame. Would it have been better to have given in to his desire, despite her husband and baby? Would it have been love that led her to follow him, or her own self-interest?

Story 13: A Sudden Trip Home in the Spring

"You are my door to all the rooms," she said. "Don't ever close." (Trip.5.8)

Sarah is having a dialogue with her own thoughts while talking with her brother. She's referring to a conversation she'd had with suitemate Pam about Richard Wright's useless father, a guy she refers to as a "faulty door" in an ancient house. Sarah's father was also a "faulty door," cutting her off from her past. Happily, she realizes that her strong, kind brother can and will be the door that grounds her to the rest of her family.

Whatever had made her think she knew what love was or was not? (Trip.2.7)

Sarah Davis makes a discovery that many young people do: her dad might not have been as bad as she thought. She never realized that some of his less-attractive actions—like moving the family around constantly—might have been a sign of his love. She also understands now that his grief over the loss of his wife had been genuine and not just a show.

Story 14: Source

Irene hugged her with a hug that was not an embrace of the shoulders; she hugged her whole body, feeling knee against knee, thigh against thigh, breast against breast, neck nestled against neck. She listened to their hearts beating, strong and full of blood. (Source.219)

Aww, let's hug it out. But seriously, this bear hug signals that Irene and Anastasia can see each other for what they are; they're no longer trying to see each other through a philosophy, or only through the lens of race. Basically, they're seeing each other as women and friends first, which is helping them to heal the hurts they've inflicted on each other in the past.

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