Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down Story 4: The Lover

By Alice Walker

Advertisement - Guide continues below

Story 4: The Lover

  • This story's dedication is to "Joanne." It's also another story with a nameless female main character.
  • This narrator is a married poet who sets her poetry to jazz music; her husband is a professor. She doesn't feel much passion for him, and she has a child only because he wanted one. Not too inspiring, we've gotta say.
  • However, the narrator kind of digs her hubby because he respects her work, and he's also a genuinely nice guy.
  • The narrator meets a dude, Ellis, during her stay at a writer's colony in New Hampshire (maybe like the one Walker herself attended). She decides that he will be her lover.
  • The narrator especially likes the idea of having a lover—lots of lovers, really. Ellis himself doesn't really enter into the equation.
  • The narrator is also tired of the egomaniac writers surrounding her.
  • When the narrator and Ellis actually meet, it's clear that this will not be an equal match. She's a prize-winning poet, while he's an unknown who likes to complain about his lack of success.
  • Ellis is a total bore in conversation, and the narrator pretty much tunes him out right away. But she persists because she's into the idea of having a lover—and she's never had one before.
  • It's important to the narrator to have an affair since it will make her a truly modern woman. At least, in her mind it will.
  • The narrator is also feeling her power. She's reached a comfortable place in her life after a lot of hard work—and she knows that she's attractive.
  • The narrator is also unique at the colony because she doesn't seem tortured by her work. She's only writing to please herself, and it seems to be working out for her.
  • We learn about the narrator's views of motherhood: taking time to have a child is no biggie for her because the kiddo can be shipped off to boarding school soon enough. And she's not "stupid enough" to have another child, anyway. She'll have so much more free time in the future.
  • Shift over to Ellis. Walker calls him a professional lover of older women. He's Jewish, with family from Brooklyn. Ellis hates Brooklyn and loves everything European.
  • Ellis has a gross view of our lady writer here. He calls her "the dark woman" and loves her willingness to listen—unlike the ambitious white ladies he knows.
  • Ellis likes the ambitious white ladies because they are the key to "good society," getting him into the right clubs and social events. But there's a price: he has to listen to their thoughts. Ick.
  • So, Ellis and our narrator make love, but she's disappointed. But it doesn't matter—it only matters to her that she has a lover. She likes the excitement of being infatuated.
  • After the narrator begins sending him passionate love letters, Ellis backs off. She's intense, and he just wants a fling. He's there to work, after all. Doesn't she want to work?
  • But the narrator doesn't worry about that stuff. Work comes easily to her, and she wins awards without much effort. Also, she doesn't care about accolades.
  • Ellis has got it wrong. The narrator doesn't want his extra involvement in a relationship. She just wants him around as a channel for her passion: she loves being in love.
  • It's clear that the relationship is doomed. They quarrel. The narrator leaves for a quick trip home without telling Ellis. She lies about the progress of her work so that Ellis doesn't feel bad.
  • In the end, Ellis questions the narrator about her husband and her life back home. And as she describes her husband, he kind of sounds like a prince.
  • The narrator winds up dreaming about her husband making love to her—but also about all the other lovers and adventures she will have in the future.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...