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 their friendship is easy or uncomplicated. Both Sarah and Handful must overcome prejudices—like Sarah’s guilt as a slave owner and Handful’s pain as a slave—in order to truly support and care for one another. As the years go by, Sarah and Handful endure seasons of distance from and sacrifice for each other, while never losing sight of the great worth of their friendship.
Kidd uses this friendship to showcase the way that personal relationships can lead to the change and growth of policies and laws that help all people. Sarah and Handful use their friendship as evidence that peace and equality between white people and black people is both possible and necessary. The two women bring this knowledge to other important friendships, such as Sarah’s bond with her younger sister Nina or the Quaker minister Lucretia Mott, or Handful’s alliance with Denmark Vesey or her own half-sister, Sky. Together, Sarah and Handful build a community that works to free the slaves and create a world where their complex friendship would not need to be hidden.
Friendship Quotes in The Invention of Wings
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.
…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?”
The axe didn’t fall on me. Didn't my Lord deliver Handful? The axe didn’t fall on Goodis either, and I felt surprise over the relief this caused me. But there was no God in any of it. Nothing but the four of them standing there, and Mariah, still on her knees. I couldn't bear to look at Tomfry with the hat squashed under his arm. Prince and Eli, studying the ground. Binah, holding her paper fan, staring at Phoebe. A daughter she'd never see again.
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.
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.
Sarah put her hand on my arm and left it there while the city heaved away. It was the last square on the quilt… I thought of mauma then, how her bones would always be here. People say don’t look back, the past is past, but I would always look back… When we left the mouth of the harbor, the wind swelled and the veils round us flapped, and I heard the blackbird wings. We rode onto the shining water onto the far distance.