The Fine Line Between Greed and Self-Preservation

Date of Event



The Fine Line Between Greed and Self-Preservation

Brief Description

Liberation and Feminism explored through the use of Caribbean Folklore

Extended Description

In “Greedy Choke Puppy” by Nalo Hopkinson, the patriarchy is critiqued through the use of the Soucouyant, a female vampire-like figure in Trinidadian Folklore that feeds off of children. The story follows Jacki, an insatiable young woman who yearns for a husband, and her grandmother, who ultimately outlives Jacki. Hopkinson uses Afro-futurist themes such as liberation and power to explore the prospect of living life impulsively versus living life conscientiously as a woman.

Jacki studies Caribbean folklore and is particularly intrigued by the soucouyant. According to Jacki’s textbook, a soucouyant is the “Caribbean equivalent of the vampire myth” (Hopkinson 106). The textbook portrays the soucouyant in a negative manner from an aerial perspective that demonizes Black women, when in actuality, the soucouyant can be interpreted as a symbol of liberation and power. In fact, Carmen, Jacki’s peer, fantasizes about the prospect of being a soucouyant, “It didn’t really frighten me… I always wondered what it would be like to take your skin off, leave your worries behind, and fly so free” (Hopkinson 105). Carmen sees the power of the soucouyant to be a sort of gift; escaping the constraints of being a woman for a night and literally shedding her skin is freeing. Gizelle Anatol notes that even though the soucouyant is objectively a malicious character, the ability to exert the power of a soucouyant is undoubtedly attractive (Anatol).

Throughout the story, Jacki’s grandmother encourages Jacki to be patient and focus on all of the love she already has in her life, but Jacki yearns for more. The reader is unaware that both Jacki and her grandmother are soucouyants throughout most of the story, but Jacki’s hunger and her grandmother’s sagacity are ultimately explained by this. Jacki's grandmother leads a long life, but must sacrifice her nature in order to do this. In a way, Jacki's grandmother represents the expectation for women to put others before themselves; she is able to survive like this because society is constructed upon the principle that a woman is worth less than a man. A woman is expected to be loving and considerate whereas it is perfectly acceptable for a man to 'feast' on the world around him. Because Jacki listens to her nature and nourishes the soucouyant within her, she ultimately is punished. I understand that Jacki's grandmother finds fulfilment through wholesome means, but I believe that Hopkinson intentionally shows Jacki failing to succeed in life because she is greedy. Jacki's confidence shines through when she flirts with Terry: “Jacky glowed with the feeling of triumph. Half an hour of studying beside him, and she knew she’d have a date for lunch” (Hopkinson 106). Typically, the expectation is for men to chase after women, but Jacki’s ambitions and desires cause her to shamelessly pursue Terry. Jacki’s grandmother advises Jacky to ‘“love [her] studies, look out for [her] friends-them. Love [her] old Granny”’ (Hopkinson 108) instead of being desperate to settle down with a man. Objectively, this advice is superb; Jacki rushes through the steps of dating Terry and ultimately loses him, but Hopkinson shows that her ambitions and efforts to satiate her appetite fail, which exemplifies the fact that women are punished for thinking of themselves before others. Hopkinson portrays Jacki as a greedy character, but perhaps her greed is Jacki’s way of reclaiming her womanhood and pursuing her needs.

In “Greedy Choke Puppy” Hopkinson uses Jacki’s bold nature to reclaim the soucouyant as a symbol of freedom and power for Black women. Liberation is a major theme in Afrofuturist media; the short story exemplifies this when the soucouyant in Jacki emerges and she notes, “Oh, God, I does be so free like this!” (Hopkinson 109). In an article written by Kendra Parker, she writes that “African Diasporic folklore, fiction, and music and European folklore and fiction reify and represent Black women as sexually voracious and selfish, via the stock, stagnant, tired vampire figure” (Parker). Jacki’s portrayal as a selfish and lustful woman is apparent, but Hopkinson uses supplementary characters such as Carmen and Jacki’s grandmother to exemplify the fact that women are beings who have ambitions and desires that contradict the stereotypical expectation for women to be passive and patient.

In this short story, Hopkinson juxtaposes two different ways in which women can go about their life: cautiously or ambitiously; she uses this story to show that a woman who is careful and considerate will survive longer than a woman who is perceived as overly ambitious and even greedy because of the way society functions. “Greedy Choke Puppy” is a Caribbean-Futurist story that critiques this dynamic through the use of folklore that traditionally presents soucoyants as purely evil and reimagining them as beacons of liberation and female power.

Anatol, Giselle Liza. "A feminist reading of soucouyants in Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring and Skin Folk." Mosaic: A journal for the interdisciplinary study of literature, vol. 37, no. 3, 2004, p. 33+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 17 Mar. 2021.

Hopkinson, Nalo. “Greedy Choke Puppy.” Dark Matter, Warner Books, Inc. 2000, pp. 103-112.

Parker, Kendra R. "Soucouyants, Ol'Hige, and Lougarou, Oh My!: Shedding Skin, Breaching Boundaries, and Creating Change." Papers on Language & Literature, vol. 54, no. 3, 2018, p. 296+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 19 Mar. 2021.



Student creator name(s)

Beatrice Ogden

Afrofuturism Canon



Nalo Hopkinson critiques the construct of our patriarchal society by writing a story that presents two different approaches to life that women take: an ambitious approach versus a cautious approach, and she explores which way about life is ultimately more successful

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