A Sudden Trip Home in the Spring by Alice Walker

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“A Sudden Trip Home in the Spring” appears in Walker’s collection of stories You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down. The story examines a turning point in the psychological development of a black college student who has left Georgia for an exclusive northern college, a scenario reminiscent of Walker’s personal experience, and employs recurring themes of family dynamics, racism, and feminism.

Sarah Davis feels better suited to her northern home and is not pleased with the idea of going South for her father’s funeral. Her opinion of the South and of her father in particular has inhibited her growth as an artist; she cannot render black men on paper at all, not having the strength to draw what she sees as complete defeat. While she is home, however, interactions with her brother and grandfather, made more meaningful by her recent distance from them, open her eyes to her grandfather’s innate dignity and her brother’s youthful promise. Free from a single, oppressed image of all black men, Sarah feels she may now portray her grandfather in stone.

Mirroring Walker’s own diverse experiences, the story underscores the significance of recognizing the worth in one’s diversity. As Walker’s writing is influenced by everything from her sharecropper beginning to the Civil Rights movement, so Sarah’s work is broadened by reopening a door she thought closed. Sarah’s pivotal trip home allows her to see the narrowness of the northern college as well. Choosing not to allow one environment to define her gives her the freedom to define herself.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

An external narrator presents a few days in the life of Sarah Davis, a popular college student, one of the only two black students at a prestigious women’s college in New York. Sarah faces many conflicts, both external and internal. Her environment is perfect for her in some ways, but also troubling. She is studying art at a college with the best teachers, yet she has difficulty with her art because there are few models for the black faces she wants to draw. She particularly feels unable to draw black males, because she cannot bear to trace defeat on her blank pages. Although she is popular with the other students, they do not understand her or her culture and unknowingly patronize her. One day, Sarah receives a telegram telling of her father’s death and has to make a sudden trip home to Georgia to attend her father’s funeral. Her father’s death precipitates another conflict: Sarah begins to wonder about a child’s duty to her parents after they have died. As she packs for her trip home, she talks to a suitemate about the difficulties that the black novelist Richard Wright had with his father.

Sarah’s old bedroom at home now houses her father’s body. As she looks at her father lying in his casket, Sarah reflects on her feelings about him and her mother. She blames him for her mother’s death; her mother died in her sleep, seemingly from exhaustion from the difficult life that she led. Sarah views her...

(The entire section is 800 words.)