“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.