Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down Story 2: How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy.

By Alice Walker

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

  • This story opens with a first-person narrator directly addressing the reader. She's telling the story of her life. She never knew her father, and her mother works as a house cleaner.
  • The narrator's mother describes her job as "working in private homes"—which sounds better than saying that she's a maid.
  • The narrator and her mother are living wayyyy below the poverty line. There's hardly enough money to buy food, and there's nothing left after that.
  • Mama is so tired after work that there's nothing left in her to build a relationship with her daughter. Soon, a neighborhood lady is watching the narrator and becomes a mother figure.
  • Mama brings home men and maybe has some abortions because she can't possibly feed anyone else. She never has a lasting relationship.
  • And Mama is on edge a lot. The narrator doesn't take into account the fact that they live in a horrible place—and that Mama probably doesn't have enough to eat and has no time to rest.
  • It's also a dangerous place. The narrator tells us that girls and women are raped on the regular here. She herself is raped when she's 12.
  • When the narrator is 14, Mama takes her to one of the private homes that she's cleaning. The narrator tells us that the man of the house takes a fancy to her and picks her up from school the next day.
  • This dude is a big-shot lawyer in town. He takes her back to his office and questions her about her life. And then he rapes her.
  • But in this guy's mind, it isn't rape. He pays the narrator off, and she feels like killing him. Hold on to that for later.
  • The situation continues for weeks. The lawyer dude takes the narrator back to his house, and he rapes her in his bed. The narrator says that at this point, the guy doesn't look so bad to her. At least he's clean.
  • The narrator doesn't tell Mama about this situation. Instead, she lies and says she's picking up cash at a babysitting job.
  • So this keeps up for two years—until Mama finds out about it. She screams at the narrator and beats her with a cord. The narrator naively tells Mama that the lawyer loves her.
  • Mama is unhappy especially about this lawyer's pedigree. Turns out that his daddy is a white supremacist who publicly states that Black people aren't human. Bad choice.
  • But the narrator is just a young woman, and she doesn't listen to Mama. She thinks her lawyer (named Bubba, FTR) is totally different from his dad because he said he loved her.
  • The narrator tells Bubba that her mother hates him. She also reveals that Mama has "fits" (seizures).
  • Bubba is really annoyed that a Black person would have the nerve to hate him.
  • When the narrator is 17, she signs papers to have Mama committed to an insane asylum.
  • Things get very ugly at this point.
  • Mama hires the only lawyer in town who will work with her (as Bubba's daddy is top dog in their town) to free her from the asylum.
  • Bubba swears he's never touched our young narrator. The narrator stands in front of the judge and says that Mama is insane—which she pretty much is now, from all the shock treatments she's had.
  • But then, the narrator has an awakening. She wants Mama back, even though Bubba still wants to carry on. He refuses to help her mother.
  • Then, Mama dies. And then, the narrator kills Bubba. Just. Like. That.
  • The narrator tells us that she shot Bubba with the gun he kept in his desk. She just couldn't stand the whole situation anymore. Then, she took money out of his safe—the money he promised her for college.
  • The narrator gets away with it because people think that Bubba was killed for his money. Nobody comes after her at all.
  • A final piece of irony: Bubba's wife asks the narrator to look after her kids on the day of the funeral. So she does.

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