Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down Manipulation

By Alice Walker

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In the stories of You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, manipulation mostly happens on two levels: gender and race. In her two most challenging stories, "Advancing Luna—and Ida B. Wells" and "Coming Apart: By Way of Introduction to Lorde, Teish and Gardner," Alice Walker discusses the stereotypes and racial injustices that fuel oppression. We're talking about manipulation on a grand socio-political scale, and it keeps progress toward equality and harmony at a standstill.

But some of the worst examples of manipulation are not visible—they happen inside the characters' heads and hearts. Jim Crow laws get internalized, even after the signs of segregation disappear; an abused girl stays with her abuser because she's valued by no one; a super famous author can't accept her success because she's dissatisfied with herself.

Questions About Manipulation

  1. How do Irene's assumptions about Anastasia land her in trouble?
  2. What causes Andrea Clement White to doubt her success?
  3. How does Walker view pornography and its influence over those who use it?
  4. In what ways do the characters' views on race motivate or define their actions? In what ways do American society's views on race relations shape the characters?

Chew on This

Traynor is dissatisfied with his success because he has to package Gracie Mae's experience as his own to please his fans.

Walker rails against pornography not because it is indecent but because the industry convinces people that negative stereotypes about Black men and women must be true.

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