Homegoing

by

Yaa Gyasi

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Willie is H and Ethe’s daughter. Willie grows up in Pratt City and marries Robert Clifton when she is very young. After the birth of her son Carson, Willie and Robert move up to Harlem, where Willie hopes to make it as a singer. However, she quickly realizes how difficult it is to get a job as a black woman, whereas Robert has no problem because he is a light-skinned man. Willie and Robert split up after a white man forces Robert to violate her in the bathroom of a jazz club for the white man’s own enjoyment. After this traumatic event, Willie takes care of Carson alone. She then remarries a poet named Eli and has another child with him, Josephine, but Eli is unreliable and often leaves the family for months at a time. Even though Carson is resentful towards Willie because he never knows his father, Willie helps take care of Carson when he slips into drug addiction.

Willie Quotes in Homegoing

The Homegoing quotes below are all either spoken by Willie or refer to Willie. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Homegoing published in 2017.
Part 2: Willie Quotes

How she could put his skin to good use, be less cautious if she were him. If she could, she would put her voice in his body, in his skin.

Related Characters: Willie, Carson / Sonny, Robert Clifton
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Sonny Quotes

He was mad at her because he didn’t have a father, and she was mad at him because he’d become as absent as his own.

Related Characters: Willie, Carson / Sonny, Robert Clifton
Page Number: 245
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Homegoing LitChart as a printable PDF.
Homegoing PDF

Willie Character Timeline in Homegoing

The timeline below shows where the character Willie appears in Homegoing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: Willie
Colonization Theme Icon
Willie stands in the back of a church on a Saturday, coming straight from cleaning a... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Afterwards, Willie and Carson leave the church. It is a cold fall day, and they walk down... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
The narrative flashes back to her youth, when Willie lives in Pratt City with her father, H. A boy named Robert Clifton comes with... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Willie’s sister Hazel asks if Robert is white, and he says he isn’t, but that he... (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...month after Carson’s birth, H passes away. A month later, Ethe dies as well, and Willie is inconsolable. She sings at the funeral procession, holding Carson in her arms. She gets... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Robert and Willie resolve to move up to New York. They stay with Joe Turner at first, whom... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
The morning after they move in, Willie and Robert leave Carson and walk around Harlem to find jobs. They notice a hiring... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Willie and Robert return to Joe’s apartment, telling Joe that Willie needed to feed the baby.... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
Every morning, Willie and Robert wake up and walk out into Harlem to look for work. But this... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
During the day, Willie watches the Morrises’ son and cleans their apartment. When Mrs. Morris returns, Willie goes to... (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
The man at the Jazzing says that Willie can clean the place at night. She accepts the job and tells Robert that the... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Cleaning the Jazzing isn’t too difficult. The audience is whites only, and Willie watches as the audience laughs at an actor pretending to be lost in an African... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Willie works at the Jazzing for two months. Her marriage to Robert has been struggling since... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
There is a man in the bathroom hunched over the sink, and Willie quickly tries to leave until the man calls her name. She recognizes the voice and... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...to the bar, but one of them notes that Robert has already found a girl. Willie clutches her mop and tries to go, but one of the men stops her. He... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
The two men turn to look at Robert, shocked that he knows Willie. One of the men tells Robert to give Willie a kiss, unzipping his pants. Robert... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
After that day, Joe offers to marry Willie, but she can’t bear it. She and Carson leave in the middle of the night... (full context)
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
Willie instead goes to church, where she meets Eli. He offers Carson an apple, and the... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
When Eli returns, Willie tries not to be angry but doesn’t want to make the same mistake she did... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
The kids grow older; sometimes Willie sees Eli every day, but sometimes he leaves for weeks. She loses jobs trying to... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Back on the street when Carson is eating his ice cream, Willie nears the edge of Harlem. Seeing so many white people around makes her nervous. They... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Carson tells her that they can cross the street. Willie smiles at Robert, and really forgives him. Robert smiles back, and he and his family... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...of poems is set to be published in the spring, and he has stayed with Willie longer than he has ever stayed before. Willie stands in the back of the church.... (full context)
Part 2: Sonny
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
...through The Souls of Black Folk, even though he’s read it four times already. When Willie comes through the doors of the station lugging her broom, Sonny is reminded of how... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Colonization Theme Icon
Willie asks how many times he has to end up in jail, but Sonny is frustrated,... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Sonny stays with Willie between jobs. His friend Mohammed tells him that he should join the Nation of Islam,... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
...scat. The room is captivated by her singing. Sonny is reminded of the first time Willie sang in church. (full context)
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Gender Stereotypes, Sexism, and Violence Theme Icon
...in with some people he knows in the projects on the East Side. He gives Willie his address, and his mother gives it to an ex-girlfriend of his named Lucille. Lucille... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Time passes. Sonny wakes up from one of his stupors, hearing Willie call out his name. He feels sick. He’s a forty-five year old dope fiend, and... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
When Sonny arrives home, Amani asks where he’s been, explaining that Willie had come by. Sonny eats around the mold of a piece of bread. Amani tells... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Sonny keeps a bag of dope in his shoe as reassurance as he walks to Willie’s house. The last time he had really seen her was in 1964, during the riots.... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
...telling him that he’s an hour and a half late. Sonny eats as Josephine and Willie watch, before Josephine leaves them to talk. Willie starts to tell him about Robert, and... (full context)
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Willie goes on to say that Sonny had been an angry child, because he was born... (full context)
Racism, Slavery, and Systemic Oppression Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
Willie pulls out a wad of cash and tells him to take it if he wants.... (full context)
Part 2: Marcus
Heritage and Identity Theme Icon
Family and Progress Theme Icon
...Amani, says hi, even though Marcus knows it’s a lie. Marcus misses Sunday dinners at Willie’s house—he misses Harlem and Willie’s singing.  (full context)