The story does concern an abortion, but, more so, the failure of the protagonist’s husband to participate in essential discussions relating to their marriage. Imani, a well-educated black woman, and her husband, Clarence, have a two-year old child and a seemingly good life. The marriage, however, is on uneasy ground because Clarence’s focus has shifted from family to job. Busy as a key advisor to the mayor, he has not thought about this, but Imani, now pregnant, has had time to reach this disturbing conclusion. She decides that unless Clarence will fight to save this child, she will abort the pregnancy. When he fulfills her expectations, quickly acquiescing to her termination plans, Imani recognizes that the partnership is over.

For Imani, abortion is no small matter nor is it new. While still in college, she had undergone a brutal experience with severe hemorrhaging. This time it is an "assembly line" event with no complications, but, again, she is alone. Clarence, oblivious to her smoldering rage about his complacency, subordinates her needs to those associated with his job.

The abortion concretizes the distance between them: "She had known the moment she left the marriage, the exact second. But apparently that moment had left no perceptable mark." Twice Imani had been scarred by abortion, and Clarence, oblivious to these marks, remained in uncomprehending disbelief as the marriage deteriorated and, then, dissolved.


Walker’s story subtly portrays the complexities of a relationship and the need for communication between partners. This woman’s life was secondary, not what she could settle for in marriage.

Primary Source

You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down


Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Place Published

Orlando, Fla.



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