Study Guide

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down Violence

By Alice Walker

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Let's face it: in You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down, Alice Walker shows how violence underpins pretty much everything in American society. Racially motivated violence dominates the world of these characters, even when it's not actually happening in the storyline itself ("Advancing Luna—and Ida B. Wells"). That's because Walker's world is reality, where it's basically impossible to escape the hideous legacy of slavery and lynching.

Violence, of course, also affects the personal lives of the characters. It finds its way into the bedroom through pornography, and it breaks apart friendships in the form of rape. Mothers and daughters are separated by assault; marriage is shattered by abortion. And the violence doesn't even end with death, as "Elethia" and "Petunias" prove.

Questions About Violence

  1. How do the characters deal (or not deal) with violence when it touches their lives?
  2. Why does Walker share her notes and dilemmas about "Advancing Luna—and Ida B. Wells"?
  3. Why does Imani equate Holly Monroe's murder with abortion?
  4. How is pornography linked to violence in "Coming Apart: By Way of Introduction to Lorde, Teish and Gardner" and "Porn"?

Chew on This

Walker shares her notes and thinking about "Advancing Luna—and Ida B. Wells" to show that she's still not completely sure how to solve the problem of the violence done to her friend.

Imani considers her whole life situation—her marriage and her abortion—to be a kind of violence against herself and her potential.

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