Every single character in Silver Sparrow has a secret. This ultimately ties them all together. However, every character also has crushing amount of guilt and shame. And usually, the guilt they feel has nothing to do with anything they’ve personally done.
Gwen admits to feeling guilty for having a good job and better opportunities than the women who came before. “She felt a little guilty, enjoying this good job up in gift wrap, the very first colored woman to hold that post. . . . she had not fought for them . . . It would have been difficult to explain her shame even if she had anyone to explain herself to.” (pg 18)
She feels bad for being more focused on being a wife than supporting civil rights. “Where had Mother been when all of this was going on? She was busy learning to be a wife.” (pg 24)
This parallels with Laverne who is also embarrassed and shamed (for no reason) by luxury. “The bed was so large that it embarrassed her.” (pg 170)
Gwen and Laverne are irrevocably tied by their shame. However, their daughters are not, thanks to how differently they were raised and how different they are naturally.
Dana never admits to feeling guilty in her narrative. Chaurisse, on the other hand, is “embarrassed to be caught admiring [her]self in public” (pg 197) when she first meets Dana and feels embarrassed for not having an ice maker (pg 213). The two girls serve as examples of how a mother’s burdens may or may not be passed on to her children.