Very early on in this novel it is clear that we are presented with a world in which women are exploited, abused and considered subservient and second place to men in this patriarchal society. Although there are a few exceptions to this rule, it is clear from the way in which Luther locks his wife and his child in the basement in the opening chapters demonstrates the lack of power that women possessed. Willa's crime is that their son is light-skinned, and so therefore Luther concludes that his wife has been adulterous.
Note too the very important section of the novel that occurs when Willie looks at a centrefold of a black nude in a pornographic magazine and is shocked and appalled because, instead of seeing a sight that sexually titilates him, he only sees represented exploitation and the chains that bind him so powerfully in his life. Ironically, another character in this novel sees this pornographic picture as an example of progress in modern America.
In addition, the way in which a homosexual man is forced to marry a woman that he does not love because this is what the traditional society of Linden Hills demands clearly is another representation of how women are used and abused in this world. Women consistently are shown to be undermined and mistreated.