All the quotes are from Sweet Town (Toni Bambara’s first published story)

The Context: The protagonist is a teenager girl who gets involved with two guys in one spring and one summer. When she saw the note her mother wrote her,

"My dear, mad, perverse young girl, kindly take care and paint the fire escape in your leisure… "

here was her reaction:

" As if bare-armed spring ever let up from its invitation to perpetuate the race. And as if we ever owned a fire escape. 'Zweep,' I yelled, not giving a damn for intelligibility, and decided that if ever I was to run away from home, I'd take her(her mother) with me."

Later in the story, the race is explained.

"and in this spring race, the glands always win and the muses and the brain must step aside to ride in the trunk with the spare tire."

I have difficulties understanding "bare-armed spring ever let up from its invitation to perpetuate the race". What does "bare-armed spring" mean? Does "let up" mean stop? Could you help me decipher it?


This language is poetic and metaphorical, so you have to understand that the meanings are not always literal.

'bare-armed spring' means the Spring season, if I'm not mistaken. She calls it bare-armed because it makes her feel free - in Spring the weather is warm, we don't wear heavy clothes and feel lighter and more free because Winter is over.

'let up' means to stop, as you mentioned, or to release, or lessen the pressure

'invitation to perpetuate the race' - in this phrase, the word 'race' means the 'human race'. To perpetuate the race is to have children. In Spring some people feel more romantic or sexual than at other times. She is feeling the 'invitation to perpetuate the race' because it is Spring time. Spring will not 'let up' or stop tempting her to pursue her desire to find a mate.

The part later in the story actually uses a different meaning for the word 'race'. In this case the author is saying she feels like she's in a car race in the spring. 'The glands' means her hormones. The glands are driving and they win against the rational mind (the muses and brain) which wants to regulate the sensual desire that comes up in the spring. The brain has to ride in the trunk of the car, where it is out of sight and not in control.

  • WOW,your detailed explanation really helps! I was stretching my imagination to decipher it. Dictionaries are not helpful. Thanks so much for your help! – luxury20041985 Apr 28 '19 at 5:34
  • @luxury20041985 You're welcome! I don't know whether you're aware, but if this answers your question you can check it as accepted.Doing this encourages people to answer your questions and shows the whole community that your question has an answer. – dwilli Apr 28 '19 at 5:55
  • Absolutely, I love to. Since I am new here, could you tell me how to do that? – luxury20041985 Apr 28 '19 at 21:45
  • I have just checked out how to do it. :) – luxury20041985 Apr 28 '19 at 21:49

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