The Revenge of Hannah Kemhuff Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

The speaker is the apprentice of Tante Rosie, a Voodoo practitioner consulted by Hannah Kemhuff, a sick, elderly African American woman who desires revenge. Her family was lost because help was refused them during the Depression when they were starving. Because the family seemed too well dressed, having been given some hand-me-downs, a woman would not give them the meager food that was being handed out to the hungry. The woman who turned the family away is now wealthy and self-satisfied, attended by her servant. Tante Rosie offers to help Hannah Kemhuff and prepares to go through the Voodoo ritual, which involves the collection of such objects as fingernails and hair clippings. Her apprentice, the narrator, goes to visit the woman who had caused the disaster, Sarah Marie Holley, and makes her purpose of collecting the physical materials for the ritual clear. Hannah Kemhuff dies of her illness, and Sarah Marie Holley, trying to avoid the Voodoo threat, dies shortly afterward, basically of a wasting illness brought on by terror.

Voodoo brings Hannah her revenge through natural rather than supernatural means. This story creates suspense as to whether its conclusion will affirm a belief in Voodoo, but it does not have the depth of character or sense of community evident in many of the other stories that appear in the collection In Love and Trouble. Its main interest is that, in preparing for the story and researching Voodoo, Walker found the works of Zora Neale Hurston, which opened new doors for her. The story is dedicated to the memory of Hurston.

The Revenge of Hannah Kemhuff Bibliography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Banks, Erma Davis, and Keith Byerman. Alice Walker: An Annotated Bibliography, 1968-1986. New York: Garland, 1989.

Christian, Barbara. “Novel for Everyday Use: The Novels of Alice Walker.” In Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, 1892-1976. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980.

Lauret, Maria. Alice Walker. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

McMillan, Laurie: “Telling a Critical Story: Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.” Journal of Modern Literature 23, no. 1 (Fall, 2004): 103-107.

Noe, Marcia. “Teaching Alice Walker’s ’Everyday Use’: Employing Race, Class, and Gender, with an Annotated Bibliography.” Eureka Studies in Teaching Short Fiction 5, no. 1 (Fall, 2004): 123-136.

Parker-Smith, Bettye J. “Alice Walker’s Women: In Search of Some Peace of Mind.” In Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation, edited by Mari Evans. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1984.

Tate, Claudia. Black Women Writers at Work. New York: Continuum, 1983.

Willis, Susan. “Black Woman Writers: Taking a Critical Perspective.” In Making a Difference: Feminist Literary Criticism, edited by Gayle Greene and Coppelia Kahn. London: Methuen, 1985.