The Invention of Wings


Sue Monk Kidd

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The Invention of Wings Themes

Themes and Colors
Friendship Theme Icon
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.


The central focus of the novel is the friendship between Sarah and Handful, despite the different worlds these two women come from. As they grow older, Sarah and Handful show each other sides of life that each would never have seen in the slaveholding South – fostering in both the unshakeable belief that white and black people are equals and all deserve freedom. Yet, beneficial as this connection is, Kidd does not pretend that…

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Voice and Silence

Kidd explores the power of a person’s voice, and the many ways that people find to speak out in a world that consistently tries to silence them. From the beginning of the novel, one of the horrors of slavery is that nobody speaks of it, using silence as a way to protect white innocence in the face of black suffering. Kidd advises breaking that silence as a way to undermine this oppression, as Sarah learns…

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Equality and Intersectionality

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…

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The Evils of Slavery and the Necessity of Resistance

The Invention of Wings spends significant attention on the true horrors of the everyday life of a slave, exploring the ways that slavery harmed black people, as well as the lesser known (and less extreme) injuries that the institution of slavery caused to white people in the American South. Through a focus on the experience of urban Southern slaves, Kidd gives attention to the unconscionable pain that slaves faced beyond the evils of plantation slavery…

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Belonging and Religion

As The Invention of Wings follows Sarah and Handful’s lives, it also explores the places that these two women search for belonging. Sarah’s journey for true belonging in adulthood closely follows her search for a religion that upholds all of her principles and values. Rejecting the Anglican beliefs of her family, Sarah follows first Presbyterianism and finally Quakerism as she attempts to find a religion that satisfies her spiritual needs as well as her…

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