Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down Dissatisfaction

By Alice Walker

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Not to drag you down or anything, but take it from us: if you're alive, you're bound to be disappointed. And if you're alive in an Alice Walker story, you're probably going to be more disappointed than most.

In You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Walker's characters feel dissatisfied about their inability to get people to listen, to get partners to give up awful habits, to make themselves understand how powerful and talented they really are—the list goes on.

Yet there's a deeper level of dissatisfaction in these stories that many of us probably can't comprehend. We might relate to a coming-of-age story, but not all of us have tried it with Jim Crow breathing down our necks. Not all of us have lived in crushing poverty with no reasonable hope of fulfilling our dreams. And not all of us have felt unsafe and unvalued in our relationships.

But Walker's characters don't intend to stay in these restless and unfulfilled states forever. They move ahead in spite of the barriers to their success and happiness, even if it means getting pretty unconventional to do it—and even if it means getting some scars in the process.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. Why does the main character in "The Lover" so look forward to taking many lovers in the future?
  2. What stops Andrea Clement White from feeling truly successful?
  3. How does Irene feel about her literacy program for adult women?
  4. Why does Sarah Davis tell her brother that she doesn't want to return to Cresselton?

Chew on This

Even with her 111th award, Andrea Clement White is still not convinced of her success. She's merely distracted from her dissatisfaction by how horrible the people around her really are.

Irene's disappointment over her canceled literacy program is about her frustrated talent, not about the women who will no longer have instruction.

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