Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

In all the stories in Some Soul to Keep, as well as in two earlier collections, Cooper does not attempt to be subtle, indirect, or ambiguous in illustrating her themes and meanings. She uses female first-person narrators who make no pretense of being “literary” and feel free to interject their comments at any point in the story. Her narrators, who are often major characters themselves, invariably have strong feelings about the situations they discuss. It is clear that Cooper is a feminist who admires and advocates hard work, self-reliance, and independence. Her heroines have all led such hard lives that they have lost all illusions. They know which things have real value and are willing to fight hard for them. Their values invariably include such tangible things as real estate and cash in the bank, but they also include love of children, friendship between women, and genuine love between women and men.

Cooper wants to encourage women to think for themselves, to stand on their own two feet, to make the best of any talents they possess, and to refuse to be passive objects manipulated by men. Her stories make it clear that wholesome relations between men and women, including sexual relations, can be maintained only under conditions of equality. Dependent love is not true love; a weak person cannot really love anyone else and should not expect true love in return for dependency.

Cooper has little to say about black-white relations....

(The entire section is 549 words.)