Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down Identity

By Alice Walker

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For the characters in You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, the battle for their own identities takes many forms: fighting against the agenda of porn and popular media; pushing back on the fears encouraged by racial violence; and unraveling stereotypes and reaching a higher level of self-awareness. The list goes on...

Self-definition comes at a high price for some. Traynor, Imani, and the young narrator of "How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy" all find that larger outside forces—fame, discrimination, violence, poverty—have hijacked their lives. Pretty soon, they're looking at do-or-die situations. Without taking drastic measures, they'll be crushed.

But the struggle is worth it in the end. For Alice Walker, living life as something other than who you genuinely are makes you a fraud. She doesn't want that fate for any of her characters, even if it means that they act in challenging or unconventional ways.

Questions About Identity

  1. What are the female characters' attitudes toward motherhood? What motivates these philosophies?
  2. How do racial discrimination and racial violence shape the characters' sense of self? How do they shape these characters' relationships with other people?
  3. How does pornography change the dynamic between people in a sexual relationship, according to Walker? How does it affect people's views on women in society?
  4. Why is it important for characters like Sarah and Anastasia to have a strong sense of personal identity? Why do they have to sort out their "roots" before this can develop?

Chew on This

Anastasia chooses whiteness so that she won't have to think about race anymore.

Elethia's awareness of the stolen bodies of people of color changes her entire understanding of her place in the world.

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