Aunt Pearl Conway provides a home and a moral context for Alfred. At least initially, she may be the difference between Alfred's hope and James' despair. She works hard for the white Elversen family, setting an example of effort that Alfred follows. A good Christian woman who tries her best, she still needs help in guiding Alfred into manhood. Pearl's role in the novel is enhanced when we learn that she, too, had dreams of a career, in singing, when she was Alfred's age, but unlike Alfred, she didn't see whether she could be a contender. That experience informs her and helps her to accept Alfred's choices.