The Invention of Wings

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Themes and Colors
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Voice and Silence Theme Icon
Equality and Intersectionality Theme Icon
The Evils of Slavery and the Necessity of Resistance Theme Icon
Belonging and Religion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Invention of Wings, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Equality and Intersectionality Theme Icon

In The Invention of Wings, Kidd advocates for equality of both race and gender, two causes that Kidd sees as supporting each other rather than distracting from one another. Kidd takes an intersectional approach to equality, where all the many parts of a person’s identity (race, sex, gender, economic class, etc.) are taken into account when considering the ways that a person is oppressed or privileged. While Sarah, a wealthy white woman, faces very different struggles from a free black man like Denmark Vesey, both Sarah’s and Denmark’s experiences are very different from the oppression confronting Handful, as an enslaved black woman. Kidd asserts the ability of equality movements to take all of these considerations in mind, indeed deeming it impossible to fight for true equality in one of these areas while ignoring injustices in another.

Kidd’s argument for intersectional equality is made more potent by the kind of radical (for the time) equality she upholds in the novel. Sarah speaks in favor of not just freeing the slaves, but reaching true equality between whites and blacks that overturns racial discrimination and segregation. Likewise, Sarah fights for women to not just have the same legal rights as men, but also the same opportunities and dreams of a fulfilling career outside of marriage and family. Kidd recognizes the importance of these two positions, showing characters like Handful who immediately embrace equality as the natural right of all humans, as well as characters like Sarah who need more time and evidence to be persuaded to that position. Through it all, Kidd documents the racial and gender equality that Sarah and Handful encounter in the novel, always maintaining that these women deserve equality in the fullest sense of the word.

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Equality and Intersectionality ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Equality and Intersectionality appears in each Part of The Invention of Wings. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Equality and Intersectionality Quotes in The Invention of Wings

Below you will find the important quotes in The Invention of Wings related to the theme of Equality and Intersectionality.
Part 1 Quotes

People say love gets fouled by a difference big as ours. I didn’t know for sure whether Miss Sarah’s feelings came from love or guilt. I didn’t know whether mine came from love or a need to be safe. She loved me and pitied me. And I loved her and used her. It never was a simple thing. That day, our hearts were Pure as they ever would get.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Sarah Grimké
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Handful acknowledges the complex levels of the friendship she shares with Sarah. Sarah legally owns Handful, introducing a power dynamic where Handful can never be Sarah’s equal and they cannot have a traditional friendship with degrees of give and take. Sarah might be motivated by guilt to treat Handful better than she would really like to, as offering kindness to Handful allows Sarah to assuage her conscience at her family’s part in the horrific lives that slaves often lead. And for her part, Handful might be staying close to Sarah for the advantages that Sarah can give Handful in the house, rather than real affection for Sarah. Sarah’s position as a white woman can shield Handful from the worst punishments of the other Grimké women and can give Handful access to beautiful things that Handful would never otherwise have seen. Though Handful knows there are mitigating factors in the bond between herself and Sarah, she still believes that there is a pure foundation to their relationship. As children, Sarah and Handful can connect on a “pure” level that they will never be able to reach as adult women.

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…I remembered the oath I’d made to help Hetty become free, a promise impossible to fulfill and one that continued to cause me no end of guilt, but it suddenly rang clear in me for the first time: Charlotte said I should help Hetty get free any way I could. Turning, I watched her carry the lantern to my dressing table, light swilling about her feet. When she set it down, I said, “Hetty, shall I teach you to read?”

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker), Hetty Handful Grimké, Charlotte Grimké (Mauma)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Sarah previously promised Handful’s mother, Charlotte, that she would help free Handful someday, even though her first attempt to emancipate Handful failed. Sarah remembers this oath many times as she grows closer to Handful, but is unable to think of anything to help Handful until she opens up her own definition of “freedom.” Sarah still cannot legally or physically free Handful from a life of slavery, yet Sarah can give Handful the necessary tools to free Handful’s mind from slavery-imposed ignorance. Sarah knows that teaching any slave to read is a rebellious act, having already been chastised for teaching the slave children the alphabet at Sunday School. The ability to read (and write) give slaves the opportunity to broaden their world beyond the plantation or house where they work, and also negates the argument that slaves deserve their position because they are not as intelligent as their white masters. Teaching Handful to read is one step closer to helping Handful free herself, just as important an act in the long run as freeing Handful in body alone.

Every girl comes into the world with varying degrees of ambition," she said, "even if it’s only the hope of not belonging body and soul to her husband. I was a girl once, believe it or not."
She seemed a stranger, a woman without all the wounds and armature the years bring... "The truth," she said, "is that every girl must have ambition knocked out of her for her own good. You are unusual only in your determination to fight what is inevitable. You resisted and so it came to this, to being broken like a horse."

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker), Mary Grimké (Mother / Missus) (speaker)
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

Sarah confesses her true desire to be a jurist, but her family just laughs and completely rejects this dream. When Sarah goes to her room, Mother follows to give some comfort, though Mother’s advice is decidedly not what Sarah wants to hear. This is Sarah’s first experience of how deeply the inequalities between men and women run in Southern society. Mother makes it very clear to Sarah that the only feasible path for her future is becoming a wife and mother. Anything else will only lead to more pain, as Sarah’s headstrong spirit will inevitably be broken by society’s rules. Sarah thinks that she and her mother are nothing alike, and that her mother only ever wanted to be a homemaker. Yet Mother actually identifies with Sarah’s lost ambitions, admitting that she too had big dreams as a young girl. In becoming a respectable member of adult society in Charleston, Mother had to let go of any sense of self. Mother suggests that even the idea of not belonging completely to one’s husband is a foolish dream for a woman, as power belongs completely and irrevocably to men. In some sense, women in the high society South were property in the same way that slaves were, though these white women obviously had far more comfortable lives.

Part 2 Quotes

Night after night, I endured these grand affairs alone, revolted by what objets d’art we were and contemptuous of how hollow society had turned out to be, and yet inexplicably, I was filled with a yearning to be one of them.
The slaves moved among us... without being seen, and I thought how odd it was that no one ever spoke of them, how the word slavery was not suitable in polite company, but referred to as the peculiar institution.

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker)
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

Once Sarah comes of age to join society, she is forced to go to dances and balls at the houses of all the elite families of Charleston. Sarah compares the other women to objets d’art, French for art objects, pointing out how no one expects these women to do anything more with their lives than look beautiful. Sarah feels out of place at the party, marked by her ambition to be more than an empty-headed pretty face. Yet critical as Sarah is of the limits on women’s lives, she still has a twisted desire to be one of these effortlessly beautiful women. Sarah can see how much easier her life would be if she were content to find a husband and live out her days as a committed wife and mother.

Sarah is also marked out by her insistence on speaking about the injustices she sees in society. The role of women is one thing that society in Charleston refuses to talk about, but the bigger issue couched in silence is that of slavery. Sarah describes how “polite” society can’t even say the word “slavery,” even though all of their wealth and privilege is due to the slaves that work their land. Calling slavery “the peculiar institution” makes it into a curiosity that all Southerners happen to live with, rather than a monstrous practice that is essentially the foundation of their privilege. The taboo against talking about slavery also gives slavery more power, making it harder to imagine any other way to live in the South. It’s easier for the white planter to ignore the injustice they live with every day when nobody speaks of it. Yet Sarah cannot ignore injustice, and therefore cannot live comfortably in Southern society.

Goods and chattel… We were like the gold leaf mirror and the horse saddle. Not full-fledge people. I didn’t believe this, never had believed it a day of my life, but if you listen to white folks long enough, some sad, beat-down part of you starts to wonder. All that pride about what we were worth left me then. For the first time, I felt the hurt and shame of just being who I was.
… When mauma saw my raw eyes, she said, “Ain’t nobody can write down in a book what you worth."

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Charlotte Grimké (Mauma) (speaker)
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

Handful sneaks into Master Grimké’s library to find out the price to buy freedom for herself and her mother. Though she is initially pleased that their prices are relatively high, Handful later realizes that any monetary price at all far underestimates the worth of a human soul. Handful’s shame and embarrassment at knowing her price is another example of the evils of slavery. The Grimkés’ slaves are even listed after the Grimkés’ other possession, as if the humans that they own are not even the most important objects in the Grimkés’ eyes. Though Handful rejects the idea that slaves are not as human as white people, it is hard for her to live surrounded by those ideas without feeling some of their effects. This psychological damage is yet another injury that slaves must bear, one that is perhaps even more harmful than the physical punishments that constantly threaten them. Handful is saved from falling into despair and depression by her mother’s unshakeable faith in their worth as human beings. Charlotte never forgets the importance of resisting all the ways that slavery marks their lives, and tells Handful that her price can never be written down by anyone.

She'd immersed herself in forbidden privileges, yes, but mostly in the belief she was worthy of those privileges. What she'd done was not a revolt, it was a baptism.
I saw then what I hadn’t seen before, that I was very good at despising slavery in the abstract, in the removed and anonymous masses, but in the concrete, intimate flesh of the girl beside me, I'd lost the ability to be repulsed by it. I'd grown comfortable with the particulars of evil.

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker), Hetty Handful Grimké
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

When the Grimké family returns a day earlier than expected from a month in Belmont, Sarah catches Handful taking a bath in Sarah’s copper tub – a privilege a slave would never be allowed to take in the presence of white people. Sarah is at first angry, but later reflects on the event and calls Handful’s bath a baptism, metaphorically giving Handful a new life where she is no longer a slave unworthy of comfort and riches. Handful is not planning a revolution at this point, a word that connotes punishing the white people for their poor treatment of Handful all her life. This bath is simply a way for Handful to assert her personhood, and her right to have all the things that white people have. Handful is not looking for black people to be superior to white people—she is just attempting to find a world where black people are treated as valuable and fully human.

At first Sarah cannot believe Handful’s audacity at using her beautiful things, surprising even herself with her anger. Sarah had thought that she truly believed in equality between the races, a principle that should translate into Sarah happily allowing Handful to share in all of her own fine things. Yet Sarah has not fully escaped the influence of society, surrounded by people who consistently perpetuate the idea that black slaves are naturally inferior to white people. Kidd recognizes how easily people can fall back on the bad ideologies of their family and childhood, even if – like Sarah – they rationally know that these principles are wrong. Living with slavery every day, it is all too easy for Sarah to simply accept this institution as the way the world is. Sarah has to put in effort day after day to free her mind from the worldview of slavery, so that she can work to free the slaves from their own chains.

With the reverend praying a long, earnest prayer for our souls, I took my leap. I vowed I would not return to society. I would not marry, I would never marry. Let them say what they would, I would give myself to God.

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker)
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:

After years of struggling to fit in to society’s rules for proper womanly behavior, Sarah is finally burned too badly by a fake engagement with Burke Williams. After Burke’s lies are revealed, Sarah retreats from the society parties where she was meant to find a husband. Her mother and sisters encourage her to continue going to these events, but Sarah chooses to spend her time out of the house at religious lectures and readings. Sarah here makes the momentous decision that she will reject the societal role of women completely. Sarah has turned an important corner, as rejecting marriage is already a scandalous decision for a woman of her stature. Becoming a spinster is a failure in her family’s eyes, but it is a huge victory for Sarah personally. Though she is not yet arguing for complete equality for women, she now sees how society’s boundaries for women can be avoided. Sarah can no longer look for belonging in her family or the other rich men and women of Charleston. Sarah must create a new place where she belongs.

Part 3 Quotes

"Forgive you for what, Sarah? For following your conscience? Do you think I don’t abhor slavery as you do? Do you think I don’t know it was greed that kept me from following my conscience as you have? The plantation, the house, our entire way of life depended on the slaves." His face contorted and he clutched at his side a moment before going on. "Or should I forgive you for wanting to give natural expression to your intellect? You were smarter than even Thomas or John, but you’re female, another cruelty I was helpless to change."

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker), John Grimké (Father) (speaker)
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

Sarah goes north with Father in an attempt to improve his health, but Father admits that he never expected to return to Charleston. On his deathbed, Father admits that he always agreed with Sarah’s beliefs about the injustices committed against slaves as well as the injustices against white women, but he felt unable to do anything to help. For Father, these issues were too big for any one person to affect. Father is not strong enough to give up his privileged life in order to fight for what is right. And while Father certainly could not have changed Sarah’s femaleness, he could have decided to support Sarah’s desire to express her intellect anyway. Instead of risking his status, money, or safety in society, Father decided to stay silent his entire life. If Sarah wants to avoid the same fate – and even the same wasting disease that takes her father’s life – she must gather the courage to boldly speak out against the cruelties of racism and sexism in her life.

Part 4 Quotes

"The Lord has spoken to me," he cried out. "He said, set my people free. When your name is written in the Book, you’re one of us and you’re one of God’s, and we'll take our freedom when God says, Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid. You believe in God, believe also in me…” …My name wasn’t in the book, just the men’s, but I would’ve put it in there if I could. I would’ve written it in blood.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Denmark Vesey (speaker)
Page Number: 224-225
Explanation and Analysis:

As Denmark Vesey’s slave revolt gains more followers, Denmark uses biblical rhetoric to help sway potential converts to their side. He justifies any insecurities that slaves might have about rising up against the “natural order” of black inferiority that is pushed in the Anglican Church. Denmark builds a community of the slaves by having them write their names in a Book, echoing the “Book of Life” that holds the name of all those who are saved in the biblical book of Revelation. The call to action, “You believe in God, believe also in me,” quotes Jesus Christ, comparing Denmark to a savior for this oppressed people. The rebellion and the Book create a place where slaves can come together as people who will receive the same rights as any white person.

Yet while the community of believers promises to free the slaves, it ignores the further oppression of women. Handful is not allowed to sign the book because she is female. Though women like Handful and Denmark’s wife, Susan, contribute just as much to the rebellion efforts – providing food and even stealing arms for the men – their actions are not recognized publically the way the men are. Handful is just as committed to Denmark’s vision of freedom as any of the men are, ready to sign her name in blood or risk her life to obtain a bullet mold. The slave movement is a huge step forward for racial equality, but Kidd does not lose sight of the ways that Denmark’s revolution still needs to address gender equality.

I drew myself up, glaring at their angry faces. “…What would you have the slaves do?” I cried. “… If we don’t free them, they will free themselves by whatever means.”

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker)
Page Number: 253-254
Explanation and Analysis:

When Sarah returns to Charleston, her Quaker clothing makes her the target for many white citizens who are nervous about the rumors of slave revolt. As the Quakers are known for being staunch abolitionists, other white Charlestonians accuse Sarah of helping the slaves rise up against their masters. Sarah, for once, does not stay silent in order to protect her place in the status quo of society. Though she still has her stammer, evidenced by the ellipses in her speech, Sarah fights against her speech impediment to speak up for the slaves’ right to be free. She is not in favor of the potential violence that a slave revolt could bring, but she brings up the important question of what other options the slaves have after years of oppression at the hands of white citizens. Sarah’s questions refuse to let the white citizens act like victims; they created the circumstances that now force the slaves to use “whatever means” to achieve freedom.

Sarah outburst also works towards true racial equality. Sarah specifically points out that the slaves can free themselves, recognizing that black people are not helpless without a white savior to come and free them. True equality means more than freeing the slaves; it means allowing black people to assert themselves in their freedom. Sarah’s belief in equality means that she has to recognize black people’s right to free themselves even when she may be uncomfortable with their methods.

The edict from the judges said we couldn't cry, or say his name, or do anything to mark him, but I took a little piece of red thread from my neck pouch and tied it round one of the twigs on a low, dipping branch to mark the spot. Then I cried my tears and said his name.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Denmark Vesey
Related Symbols: Red Thread
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

After Denmark’s slave revolt is crushed, Charleston officials hang Denmark in a secret location and pass an order that prohibits mourning Denmark in any way. Handful ignores these warnings and follows Denmark’s wagon from his holding cell in the Work House to a field, where she is the only one to witness Denmark’s execution. Though she knows the risks, Handful cannot let Denmark’s grave go unmarked. No matter his “crimes,” Denmark is still a person who deserves to have a memorial for his death. Handful effectively breaks the silence that Charleston officials used to ignore and shame the slaves who wanted to revolt. Handful marks the grave site with red thread, which Kidd has used throughout the novel to symbolize Handful’s spirit and desire for freedom. Handful also deserves the chance to mourn this loss of the dream of freedom. Denmark gave hope to so many slaves that their bondage might end soon, and offered them practical ways to resist their treatment. With Denmark gone, resistance against slavery is a much harder prospect. The red thread shows that Handful is still committed to the dream of freedom despite this heavy blow.

Part 5 Quotes

"Life is arranged against us, Sarah. And it’s brutally worse for Handful and her mother and sister. We're all yearning for a wedge of sky, aren't we? I suspect God plants these yearnings in us so we'll at least try and change the course of things. We must try, that’s all."

Related Characters: Lucretia Mott (speaker), Hetty Handful Grimké, Sarah Grimké, Charlotte Grimké (Mauma), Sky
Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:

Sarah returns to Philadelphia and lives with Lucretia Mott, the only female minister in their Meeting of Quakers. Sarah and Lucretia become fast friends, such that Sarah trusts Lucretia enough to shares Handful’s letters with her. When Lucretia hears that Handful’s mother, Charlotte, has returned as a slave in the Grimké house, Lucretia encourages Sarah to do something to help change Handful, Charlotte, and Sky’s circumstances. Sarah is afraid of becoming a female minister, knowing that society will judge her for choosing a path beyond the normal female duties of wife and motherhood. Lucretia acknowledges the sexism that Sarah will face, but reminds Sarah that Charlotte, Handful, and Sky must confront both sexism and racism at every turn. Kidd again references the sky as a symbol for freedom, suggesting that Sarah longs for something more than marriage because it is her responsibility to fight for equality. Sarah has the chance to do more for all women, both white and black, by becoming a Quaker minister who publically speaks out against slavery.

When autumn came, Lucretia and I attended the women’s meeting at Arch Street where we found ourselves standing in a crowded vestibule beside Jane Bettleman, who glared pointedly at the fleur de lis button I'd sewed at the throat of my gray dress. Granted, the button was ornate and expensive, and it was large, the size of a brooch. I'd freshly polished the silver, so there in the bright-lit atrium, it was shining like a small sun.

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker), Lucretia Mott, Jane Bettleman
Related Symbols: Sarah’s Silver Button
Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:

As Sarah works toward becoming a Quaker minister, she begins to wear her silver button publically despite the Quaker distaste for flashy dress and signs of opulent material wealth. It calls back to Sarah’s childhood as a rich, slave holder’s daughter – a past that keeps Sarah from belonging completely to her new Quaker community. No matter how committed Sarah is to the principles of the Quaker faith, there will still be people who question her loyalty to the Quakers on the grounds of her appearance. While it would be easier for Sarah to fit into this community and abide by their standards, Sarah refuses to be cowed by other’s judgment. Sarah stays true to herself and her principles, polishing the button until it shines.

Though Sarah’s button upsets other Quakers, it is actually the biggest symbol of Sarah’s Quaker faith. As a young girl, Sarah decided to use the silver button as a symbol of her desire to become a jurist and work to legally end slavery. After a career in law is proven to impossible for a woman, Sarah becomes a Quaker in order to fight against slavery. Sarah’s position as a female minister is one of the few places that women could actually speak out publically. Sarah’s button is a proud symbol of the real actions that Sarah can finally take towards convincing more people to the abolitionist cause and improving the lives of slaves.

Part 6 Quotes

“Course, you’re tired. You worked hard your whole life. That’s all you did was work.”
“Don’t you remember me for that. Don’t you remember I’m a slave and work hard. When you think of me, you say, she never did belong to those people. She never belong to nobody but herself.”

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Charlotte Grimké (Mauma) (speaker)
Page Number: 303-304
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlotte goes out to Handful’s spirit tree to collect her spirit before letting go of the hard life she has led. Handful follows her to say one last goodbye to her mother. In that conversation, Handful acknowledges that Charlotte has every right to be tired after a lifetime of working to the bone for the Grimkés. Charlotte rejects that, however, wanting to be remembered for her rebellious spirit rather than her obedience or how well she held up in a life of drudgery. Charlotte’s spirit always belonged to herself, even when her body was the property of a white man or woman. That spirit is what truly counts, as Charlotte shows Handful how to maintain resistance to slavery despite all consequences. Charlotte’s faith that slaves are fundamentally worthy of freedom inspires Handful to keep working towards her own escape. Charlotte’s legacy is not the legacy of a slave who was bound all her life; it is the legacy of a woman who never gave in to the bonds that others tried to force on her.

She was braver than I, she always had been. I cared too much for the opinion of others, she cared not a whit. I was cautious, she was brash. I was a thinker, she was a doer. I kindled fires, she spread them. And right then and ever after, I saw how cunning the Fates had been. Nina was one wing, I was the other.

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker), Angelina (Nina) Grimké
Page Number: 308
Explanation and Analysis:

When Nina is caught writing inflammatory letters for the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, Sarah and Nina are told to recant their radical views in order to remain a part of the Quaker meeting in Philadelphia. With Sarah’s support, Nina refuses to take back the letter. Sarah explains how well the two sisters work together, complementing each other’s strengths as activists. Sarah is the brain, cautiously thinking through every plan. Nina is the heart, passionately pursuing abolition at all costs. Sarah furthermore compares them to two wings on a bird, bringing in the bird imagery that Handful has used throughout the book to stand for freedom. Sarah and Nina too need to find freedom, as women who are told to keep their opinions to themselves in order to preserve their place in polite society. Nina, braver (or at least less cautious) than Sarah, shows how each subsequent generation can work towards a more progressive and equal society. Together, Nina and Sarah can fly above those critics, and hopefully help slaves gain wings as well – that is, help the slaves reach freedom and equality.

"How can you ask us to go back to our parlors?" I said, rising to my feet. "To turn our backs on ourselves and on our own sex? We don't wish the movement to split…but we can do little for the slave as long as we’re under the feet of men. Do what you have to do, censure us, withdraw your support, we 'll press on anyway. Now, sirs, kindly take your feet off our necks."

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker), Angelina (Nina) Grimké
Page Number: 334
Explanation and Analysis:

As Nina and Sarah become more famous in the abolitionist lecture circuit, they draw the attention and criticism of people who do not think that women should speak in public. These concerns about the role of women threaten to overshadow the plight of the slaves, leading some of the leaders of the anti-slavery society to ask Sarah and Nina to step back from giving public lectures so that the more conservative members of the anti-slavery society will not split into another group that bans women. Sarah staunchly refuses, on the grounds that women can do more to help slaves when women themselves are not silenced. Sarah furthermore exposes the hypocrisy of the leaders of the anti-slavery society, who profess to believe in the equality of all people but act in ways that suggest that women are inferior to men. Sarah and Nina are just as intelligent as the male orators, and should be allowed to share their passionate rhetoric against slavery. Further, the sisters are actually more able than some men to argue against slavery due to their childhood surrounded by the evil practice. Kidd addresses how sexism and racism can (and should) be fought simultaneously, as no form of oppression stands entirely on its own.

Small red wafers splotched along Mary's neck. "God has ordained that we take care of them," she said, flustered now, spluttering.
I took a step toward her, my outrage breaking open. "You speak as if God was white and Southern! As if we somehow owned his image. You speak like a fool. The Negro is not some other kind of creature than we are. Whiteness is not sacred, Mary! It can’t go on defining everything."

Related Characters: Mary Grimké (Little Missus / Mary Jr.) (speaker), Sarah Grimké
Page Number: 351
Explanation and Analysis:

When Sarah returns to ask Mother for Handful and Sky’s freedom, Mary Jr. takes offense at Sarah’s argument that slavery is wrong. The Anglican religion argues that slaves are naturally inferior to white people, and that it is the duty of all good Christians to “take care” of the slaves for their own good. Sarah exposes this rhetoric for what it is: a justification of oppression that allows white people to continue exploiting the labor and lives of black people while maintaining their own sense of innocence and purity. Sarah’s vehement denial that God is white and Southern echoes Handful’s prayer to the “colored God” earlier in the novel. Handful saw God as white because the only contact with religion she had was the Anglican faith. Sarah now has experience the Quaker beliefs, learning that God is much larger than simply the vision of God that supports the white agenda in the South. Sarah, the most audacious she has ever been, opposes the idea that there is any qualitative difference between white people and black people and that white skin is not the ultimate sign of goodness. Sarah has been working towards speaking out for this radical equality throughout the entire novel, and she finally has the chance to do real good for the slaves of her family by helping Handful and Sky no matter what her mother or sister say.

I watched her fold her few belongings on top of the quilt and thought, This ain't the same Sarah who left here. She had a firm look in her eye and her voice didn’t dither and hesitate like it used to. She'd been boiled down to a good, strong broth.
Her hair was loose, dangling along the sides of her neck like silk vines, like the red threads I used to tie round the spirit tree, and I saw it then, the strange thing between us. Not love, is it? What is it? It was always there, a roundness in my chest, a pin cushion. It pricked and fastened.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Sarah Grimké
Related Symbols: Red Thread
Page Number: 355
Explanation and Analysis:

When Handful decides that she and her half-sister, Sky, are running from the Grimké house for good, Sarah comes back to do whatever she can to make sure that Handful and Sky reach the North safely. Handful notices a marked difference in Sarah, now that Sarah has finally devoted her life to her passion for ending slavery. As a young child, the horror of slavery and her repressed feelings about it caused Sarah such psychological trauma that she stuttered and stammered as she tried to speak. Now Sarah can speak smoothly and clearly because she is honest and forthright about fighting for abolition. Speaking against slavery empowers Sarah just as it also helps the slaves that she advocates for.

Handful also compares Sarah’s hair to red thread, which has symbolized Handful’s strong spirit and desire for freedom. Now, the reference to red thread acknowledges how Sarah too sees Handful’s incredible inner courage and will also fight to help those who are still enslaved reach freedom. At this moment, the bond between the two women is clearer than ever. Sarah and Handful have a deep, complex friendship that forms a solid foundation underneath all of the trials and troubles that they face throughout their lives. Like the stitches in the quilt that Handful sews, Sarah and Handful are bonded together in a way that slavery and injustice cannot break.