Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down Story 8: The Abortion

By Alice Walker

Story 8: The Abortion

  • We're dropped right into the middle of a bad situation: a couple winds up with an unexpected and possibly unwanted pregnancy.
  • Imani and Clarence already have one child, Clarice, whom they consider perfect and a blessing. Why would they want another?
  • Imani is undecided at this point and hates that her husband can be rational. She resents his kindness when she's falling apart. She hates that she's nauseated and hormonal.
  • Imani really wants her husband to make a good case for them to keep the baby. She wants him to want the baby a whole lot.
  • But then Imani also prickles at the idea of her husband forcing another pregnancy on her. She's sure she won't survive another pregnancy and another baby.
  • Why, you ask? Because Imani has already suffered a miscarriage. And that miscarriage happened because of the stress of her mom's death.
  • Imani feels like she's been hit by a truck. Pregnancy is the last thing she needs.
  • Some family background: Imani and Clarence live in the South. Clarence is a legal adviser and is close with the new Black mayor of the town.
  • Imani doesn't like Mayor Carswell. He's kind of a creeper, never looking at her or addressing her directly. He thinks that women aren't political creatures.
  • It's especially irritating to Imani that Carswell drives to the airport with her and Clarence when she decides to head North for her abortion.
  • On the trip, Imani realizes that she's just not that into her marriage. Having Clarice helped distract her from that—but it's out there.
  • Imani is sick on the plane. She thinks about her first abortion, which she had in college. She had been much more positive about it then, knowing she was taking her future into her own hands.
  • But the abortion didn't end well for her. (This was before Roe v. Wade and safer abortion procedures.) Imani wound up ill for an entire year afterward.
  • It's seven years later, and now Imani will go to a clinic for a legal abortion. But she begins to have her doubts about the freedom this will give her. Is she really in control if the only way to "correct" her body is through violence?
  • During the procedure, Imani is not given enough anesthesia—and the doc has no modern ideas about pain management. He pushes through, and she faints.
  • When Imani wakes up, she's not doing so well. She's lost a lot of blood, and she begins to feel regret. Imani tells her aborted child that it was either "you or me"—and that she chose herself.
  • Imani goes home and tries to make Clarence understand the horror of the abortion. She tells him about the anesthesia. He gets it.
  • Instead of feeling comforted by the snuggles of her daughter and husband, Imani feels burdened. She wants to hurt Clarence for all this, so she tells him to have a vasectomy. Either that, or he'll have to stay on the couch. She clearly doesn't want to go through any of this again.
  • Imani realizes that the annual memorial service for Holly Monroe, a local girl shot on her way home from her high school graduation, is the next day. She insists on going, though she's unwell.
  • Imani rants to little Clarice about remembering all the people who have been lost or destroyed by white America.
  • Imani feels more and more estranged from her husband. She wonders why he's there in her house. He says it's because she loves him—but he doesn't sound too convinced about that.
  • By the time they get to the church, Imani's uterus is making a fuss. Ouch.
  • Imani can't help but come back to the idea of abortion. In her mind, Holly Monroe had been aborted before she had a chance to live. Imani feels like she is Holly.
  • And then Mayor Carswell shows up. Perfect timing. He pulls Clarence to the back of the church to chat. Everyone can hear them.
  • Imani schools the two men about this and is furious that they aren't paying attention to the service. They move outside to continue their convo.
  • Now, we fast forward two years. It's Clarence's turn to be angry: he's given in to Imani's demands to have a vasectomy, but now she wants to leave him.
  • The two of them have had some good times since the Holly Monroe memorial, but their days together were numbered.
  • Imani tells Clarence about how much she hated Carswell (who is no longer Clarence's BFF). She knows when she checked out of the marriage, and now she's packing up with confidence.
  • Imani and Clarence remember that their aborted child would have been a 2-year-old now.
  • Walker ends with a bit of commentary: Imani is now in good health—and could have handled that pregnancy, presumably.
  • But Imani and Clarence are convinced that the abortion isn't the thing that came between them. The marriage was doomed, anyway.

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