Complicity in the Novel Linden


At that point, her suicide is inevitable and as deliberate as the choices she made in life, according to Dr. Braithwaite. "She wasn't insane... True insanity, as frightening as it might be, gives a sort of obliviousness to the chaos in life. People who commit suicide are struggling to order their existence, and... they will finalize rather than have it ripped from them" (ibid. 256). It is also summed up in Luther's thoughts that: "whenever anyone reached the Tupelo Drive area, they eventually disappeared. Finally, devoured by their own drives, there just wasn't enough humanity left to fill the rooms of a real home, and the property went up for sale" (Naylor 17).

When Amy is brought to the Boldins, it is clear that she comes from a different social class by the description of the "tall, proud white woman" (Fauset 2) who takes her to her foster home. Fauset writes that at the age of five Amy "knew absolutely none of the class to which Mrs. Boldin belonged" (ibid. 2). Even so, her notions of class are as fogged as her racial identity. Amy's lack of identity permits Zora to invent a past for her as the daughter of the Kildares in Philadelphia - a background Amy grows to think of as her own when she calls herself "Amy Kildare" in her letter to Mrs. Boldin (ibid. 24). Zora creates this past for Amy both out of a desire to live in an exotic escape from reality and to lead Amy into this lifestyle, but also from her own sense of class identity and desire for social advancement as a "poor girl of good family" (ibid. 6) who had "deliberately married a rich man" (ibid. 6) to gain her independence and position. Stuart also assumes Amy has an upper class background from her detached attitudes: "The fact that she was not flattered seemed to him extra proof of her native superiority" (ibid. 9). Zora at first comes across as a liberal, independent woman, but her attitudes are very obviously governed by social status. This is clear when she tells Amy to marry Stuart to gain "a beautiful home and position" (ibid. 9). Stuart's class attitudes arise from being "a representative of one of the South's oldest families" (ibid. 9). He is not only prejudiced towards foreigners but is described as "intolerant of all people of inferior birth or standing" (ibid. 10).

The actions of the characters in both books are governed by issues of gender, race and class at various times, since these are what make up a sense of identity and therefore what contribute to a reader's sense of a rounded character. Some issues however, may contribute more than others - such as gender issues in the case of Willa and the other Nedeed wives - and this is why it is desirable when analysing sources not just to consider intersectionality but also to consider separate categories of issues affecting characters, as well as the overall themes of fall and redemption in the two works examined.


Naylor, Gloria. Linden Hills. New York: Penguin 1986.

Fauset, Jessie Redmon. "The Sleeper Wakes." The Sleeper Wakes: Harlem Renaissance Stories by Women. Ed. Marcy…