In the immortal words of Soft Cell, tainted love is all some people can ever give. And there's a lot of tainted love going on in You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down. Whether it's a relationship disrupted by pornography or one that's complicated by dissatisfaction and misunderstanding, Alice Walker's women have to fight hard for authentic love.
And we're not just talking about sexual relationships, either. Genuine friendships are also hard to come by in these stories. Traynor and Gracie Mae understand that being accepted for who you are is sometimes completely impossible due to circumstances beyond your control. Irene and Anastasia realize that it's easy to screw up a good friendship even when it's right in the palm of your hand.
For other characters, love is thin on the ground. Andrea Clement White, Traynor, the abused young woman who takes the life of her rapist, the men who use porn—all of them are living lives without genuine affection flowing in either direction.
It's a tough world without love. Which is probably why Walker ends her collection with a story about friendship redeemed. Hope springs eternal.
Questions About Love
- How important is self-love to Walker's characters? In what ways does it motivate their actions?
- Why does Gracie Mae take to calling Traynor "son"?
- How significant are friendships between women in these stories? What role do they play in the lives of the characters?
- How would you characterize the majority of the male-female relationships in these stories? What differences do you see between these and relationships between women?
Chew on This
The young narrator of "How Did I Get Away with Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy" thinks that she's experiencing love because she can't face the reality of the abuse she's been suffering.
Imani's abortion is an act of self-love, even though she regrets having to take that action.