The Color Purple
Analysis of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple
“No one is exempt from the possibility of a conscious connection to All That Is.” Alice Walker explores this quote through the story of Celie. Just like the color purple, the truth, no one is exempt from. No one can run away from the truth. It is inevitably inescapable. Starting off in a rather harsh setting, Celie starts off her story at the time she is raped for the first time by her own father. Rather straight forward, Walker captures her reader’s interest right in the beginning of her novel.
Blood is thicker than water. This saying is most exemplified throughout The Color Purple. Love, the tale of two sisters reconnecting, was one of the major themes of the story. In depth, love was not always romantic, but existent. There were different types of love depicted in the novel: love between family, friends, and couples. Love, in turn, helps with creating and development of relationship between characters.
Many other themes are depicted in this great work of fiction: Race, racism, African American women and men, abused wives, sexuality, and relationships.
These many themes are illustrated throughout the novel through different settings and people. Structuring her writing in short journal entries to God and the family of Celie, the round character, Walker employed them as one of the three symbols throughout the work of fiction. Traumatizing and explicit events occur during the entries which lead to the internal and external conflicts that will take place through the duration of the novel. In addition to these graphic events that were both inconceivable and horrific in every sense for Celie, the events described in the entries led to the novel being banned within some high schools.
In The Color Purple, Alice Walker writes in a southern dialect and low level diction. The setting takes place in rural areas of the south where race played a huge part during the time when discrimination was more prevalent in America. Based on the level of diction, Walker writes in an uneducated, southern style. By writing in this type of style Walker is able to fully exemplify Celie’s thoughts creating a better understanding for the reader by revealing her level of education and social class. Sequentially, this adds
verisimilitude to the novel.
Born on February 9, 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia; Alice Walker was nurtured by two sharecroppers and was the youngest of eight children by Minnie Tallulah Grant and Willie Lee Walker. When she was young she suffered from a traumatizing experience of being shot by a BB Gun in the eye by her little brother. She was bullied at an early age because of the scaring of her eye which was finally removed by her doctor eight years after the incident occurred. Before having the scaring removed, Walker wrote in order to escape her reality, similar to Celie. She attends segregated schools throughout her adolescent years and achieves success by graduating from high school and then attends Spelman College, a college founded for African American women.
While attending Spelman, Walker also gets involved in the Civil Rights Movement. By furthering her education, she attended Sarah Lewis College and continues to be apart of the Civil Rights movement. After college, Walker got a job and soon after ironically married a White Civil Rights lawyer named Melvyn Leventhal two years later. The irony of it all is that she marries a Jewish and Caucasian male when all her writing consists of racism, African American struggles, and abuse. Ultimately, the marriage ended in divorce after having conceived their first and only child, Rebecca.
Not only recognized for writing novels, Alice Walker is also recognized for her collections of poetry. Her first collection is titled, Once. After publishing her first collection of poetry, she began teaching at Jackson State College where she taught in the Black Studies Program. She continued to teach and eventually started publishing novels while continuing to publish poetry too. The Color Purple was Alice Walker’s third novel. The struggles that Alice Walker had to endure herself as a child are what helped manifest her development of The Color Purple. This proclaimed book and later motion picture, earned two prestigious rewards: the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award. The novel achieved a tremendous amount of success and was made into a film that was produced by Steven Spielberg in 1985. Years after, in 2005, its first Broadway musical was produced.
Alice Walker continues to be known for her novels about African American women and her work definitely describes the effect that abuse in the home has on individuals. Which goes to show when it comes to The Color Purple as Celie was emotionally and physically abused by her father. The constant telling that she was too ugly, making her quit school at a young age, and being raped were some of the ways that created the lack of trust within Celie’s family circle. Celie writes letters to God which illustrated a contrast between her spirituality and lack of faith. Evident, since she does not write to God in hopes of being saved, but out of her misery, despair, and lack of hope that life will never work out in her favor.
Essentially, Walker chooses to record thoughts of the protagonist with a low level diction and southern dialect allowing Celie’s thoughts to be fully expressed. Based on Celie’s writing technique you know she is uneducated and she admits to it when she says how her father took her out of school and let her sister, Nettie, keep going. Reading The Color Purple can be described as confusing by those who are not used to such low level and amateurish writing style. Many might stumbled upon Celie’s choice of words and order of her thoughts. Alice Walker captures Celie’s true feeling and the way she actually thinks by spelling word wrong like ask. She spells ask like “ast” which further exemplifies that Celie is far from being smart.
Further into the novel, diction becomes more advanced once the point of view is change from Celie alternating to Nettie. Then the letters are from Nettie writing back to Celie. The switch in diction earned some scrutiny by the New York Times, “If Alice Walker’s celebrated and prize-winning earlier novel, “The Color Purple,” had a glaring flaw, it was Nettie’s letters from Africa, which tended to a certain monotonous didacticism.” Although appraised for this, by writing with better grammar and a higher level diction, Walker reminds the readers that Nettie is educated unlike her sister. You are able to compare Celie’s writing to her sister and it creates more realism for Celie’s character as it defines her lack of education. In contrast, Nettie’s letters speaks to the audience revealing purpose not out of despair, yet quite different than Celie’s letters. She talks about the civilization of Africa, politics, issues on racism that Celie was not very familiar with. Also, Nettie’s letters adds more credibility to Celie’s character.
Clearly, the diction and dialect show Celie’s lack of intelligence, but it also help you understand where the setting takes place. The way Celie speaks and the word choice she uses gives you insight on the rural areas where the setting takes place. The setting often paints an image of a farm as Celie writes in her journal entries how she and Harpo would work in the fields. The setting, taking place in the rural areas of Georgia helps to create atmosphere and establishes credibility and verisimilitude. In turn, this creates realism. Walker uses cultural circumstances of African Americans to help shape her setting. The upsetting, stressful, and tragic tones create a rather sympathetic and emotional atmosphere.
Race plays a huge role in The Color Purple. All African Americans were viewed as the weaker race, but African American woman were represented as the weaker gender between both sexes. The males take on an overpowering role and abuse their wives to keep them under their control. After the constant abuse Celie looses pride in her own race, self, and gender. It is not until she learns about some of the wealthy societies of Africa and essentially the color purple that she regains some of her pride that was taken away by the males in her life.
Racism against Blacks inflicted by Whites, another theme depicted, was just as essential to race as it was to the dehumanization of African Americans. Setting the tone, such blatant, unfair and harsh treatment during early times serves for the foundation of how Blacks treated their own kind. “They have the nerve to try to make us think slavery fell through because of us, say Sofia. Like us didn’t have sense enough to handle it” (102). Unlike most in the novel, Sofia had pride in her race. She did not let racism change her outlook and reflection of herself and race. Seemingly, a sense of pride that one could only wish that most African Americans exhibited.
Another theme expressed in The Color Purple is African American women and abused wives. Walker paints a picture that all Black males are controlling and disrespect their wives. To some Black males the way Walker portrayed them was offensive. According to the New York Times, critics claimed that Alice Walker “portrayed black men harshly.” Many Black men felt that Walker expressed prejudice views toward them especially since she married a White man. With that being said, others commended her for her portrayal.
In essence, many felt that The Color Purple encouraged lesbianism not only offended African American men. This is confirmed in an article on race and domesticity in The Color Purple. The article states that the novel was “degrading to Black men and promoting lesbianism among Black women.” The males in the novel were Celie’s antagonists. Some felt that Walker had something against African American males and that she thought they were all bad. Likewise, sensing any hostility toward Walker against African American males is understandable. Furthermore, the author was just trying to tell a story of the love of two sisters and the hardships of African American women and wives down south in the early 1900s.
Due to the disturbing events that Celie had to endure through her childhood especially she does not even label men in her journal entries. Celie always referred to them as “Mr.___.” Perhaps in a way this was her way of taking away power from males. The only good feelings and sexual ones are given to her by females, one in particular Shug Avery. The constant and explicit talk about sexuality is one of the many reasons why there are high schools who banned the work of fiction from school curriculums.
According to the School Library Journal, “The Color Purple ranks 18 on the American Library Association’s list of 100 most frequently challenged books.” With that being said, high schools forbid their school libraries from ordering the book. The incestual scenes between Celie and her father alarmed the parents of Little Axe High School and they force the school to ban the novel (Norman). Although there are some overtly explicit experiences Celie dealt with, it is nothing that should be banned. Some high schools, usually those with a predominantly Black population can relate to this story, but schools like Little Axe High School probably would find a harder time relating to the story since their school is predominantly White. However, that does not mean someone White would not enjoy reading the novel. A Caucasian student, attending Warren Mott high school as a senior this year, actually enjoyed reading the novel in her English 11 class her junior year.
To help enhance the understanding of African American culture and history, The Color Purple has been put in many high school curriculums. A case study written by Rob Baum states that, “Woods High School added The Color Purple to its curriculum to rectify its balance of gendered and raced texts.” Adding on, reading The Color Purple for opposite races and even African Americans themselves can give much insight on some of the oppressed, abused, cultural backgrounds of African Americans.
Throughout the novel, Celie struggles with her sexuality. This is an example of the internal conflict within Celie. All her life she was beaten and raped by the men, including her father and husband. Dealing with much abuse causes Celie to have no confidence. Celie has no sense of her own actuality. She has no self worth, inner beauty, or formal intelligence. As Celie works through her internal conflict, the symbols employed throughout the novel are shown. The conflicts worked through the novel to add to the tragic and upsetting atmosphere.
Along with internal conflict, there was also some external conflict. There was external conflict between Celie and the men in her life. Her father and husband are just some of the examples of external conflict. Not only did the protagonist have external conflicts between men, other supporting characters such as Sofia and Harpo did as well. The males in the story try to dominate their women, while some succeed in doing so and others do not. Celie is an example of the women who accepted the oppression and just tried to survive. Day by day, she never fought back until given the courage in the end. Sofia, on the other hand, was an example of how women fought back against the sexist ideas that men could do whatever they wanted to overpower their wives, including beat them. Relationships were significant in the development of the novel.
The relationships between women and women, men and women, and people and God were illustrated. Just like there was love among the women, there was also jealously. The bond between Shug and Celie started off with jealously as Shug was prettier and was able to get the attention of Celie’s husband and stand up to him. The women stayed within competition of one another until they were finally able to ban to together and rise against the men in their lives that were keeping them down. The relationship between Celie and Shug was one the most prominent relationship in the story. After their bond was formed Celie learns many life lessons that ultimately help to liberate her from the captivity of male dominance in the story.
Next, the relationships between men and women often lacked love and passion in their marriages. The men were too busy following after their fathers that they never learned how to truly love their wives. Depicted in the novel, Black men felt they had to “wear the pants”; this idea transcends through The Color Purple as the men fail to break away from the tradition of trying to tame and train their wives. In doing so, some lost their wives respect and love in some circumstances.
Instances such as when Harpo observed his father’s relationship between him and his wife. Harpo formed the conclusion that by beating his wife like his father did to Celie, he might create a more controlling and accepting relationship between him and his wife. Trying to earn her respect by watching his father’s relationship with Celie, he beats his wife, Sofia. In response, Sofia lashes out and fights back. She was the perfect example of women who were true to themselves in mind and physique. Additionally, the males in the novel let their violent fathers dictate how they handled their own relationships.
Furthermore, the relationships that Celie encounters with men in her life cause her to feel no type of attraction or passion from men. “Naw, I say. Mr.______ can tell you, I don’t like it at all. What is it like? He git up on you, heist your nightgown round your waist, plunge in. Most times I pretend I ain’t there. He never know the difference. Never ast me how I feel, nothing. Just do his business, get off, go to sleep”(77). In this excerpt, Celie describes how she felt about having intercourse with her husband. Unfortunate enough, no love or passion is felt, just abuse.
Last, but not least, the relationship among people and God was exemplified through Celie and how she views God. After being raped Celie loses her sense of love with God. To Celie, God was a male therefore, she lost faith in him like all the other males she had to encounter in her life. Writing to him out of loss of hope, she loses sight of the color purple and the liberation of life. By the end of the novel, Celie realizes the color purple is nature and the two combined is God as well. Viewing the two as one, she grasps the feeling of joy and being free.
Symbolism takes place throughout the novel. Like God, the color purple, represented nature. It stands for all the beauty that nature beholds and one of the unrecognized truths Celie had yet to understand. Celie had no idea of what the color purple was in the beginning. She lived life only to get to the next day. It was not until Shug came into her life that she gets a sense of the color purple. Then she is able to liberate herself from the control of her husband and move forward in life. “Until you do right by me, I say, everything you even dream about will fail. I give it to him straight, just like it come to me. And it seem to come to me from the trees” (206). This quote is evident of Celie’s transformation. Once wounded, she is now a warrior. Unrecognized, the color purple was the main idea of the story carried forward, hence its name.
Later on in the novel once Celie is living her life freely without the strong hand of men, she begins to make pants. Gaining a sense of actuality, beauty, and confidence in herself, Celie wears the pants as well as making them. The pants symbolized how Celie overcame the sexism she always was subjugated to. Since pants, culturally was a male article of clothing in the early 1990s, wearing and producing them gave Celie a sense of power she never felt before. The idea that men wore the pants was no longer a belief of Celie and it proves true in the novel. She no longer felt oppressed and afraid emotionally or economically. Her clothing business consisting of only pants was one of the starting blocks in her life that she was not afraid of men and she did not need them to support her emotionally or financially either. Therefore, pants being symbolic of manhood in many ways, making them was liberating for Celie.
God was also a symbol, not just the color purple and pants. Writing to God is what kept Celie life moving. Her letters to God were an indication that she was still alive and sane. Furthermore, the letters added to the verisimilitude of the novel. The employed symbol was used to give insight to the setting through Celie’s eyes which helped to create realism.
The Color Purple expresses the theme that everyone has a story to tell. Celie’s story was told in the novel. Going more in depth, the plot of the story helps enlighten readers on all the themes discussed in the previous paragraphs. The plot shaped the Walker’s story into a tragic love story that of two sisters trying to reunite once again. The violence, abuse, and sexuality of the plot are told from Celie’s perspective and through her writing of letters the other themes in the novel are revealed: symbols, marriage, and race.
As stated in the Masterplots Revised Second Edition, “Alice Walker’s novel is unique in its preoccupation with spiritual survival and with exploring the oppressions, insanities, loyalties, and triumphs of Black women.” Speaking to many unrecognized truths and possibilities of life, The Color Purple employs symbols in order to let those truths become understood. Setting, structure, diction, and dialect serve the purpose of verisimilitude for Walker. She uses them to create realism and credibility for her readers. Although criticized for her portrayal of African American men, the novel is still to this day a classic. The critical analysis of sex and lesbianism caused much uproar in some high school including Little Axe High School resulting in the banning of the novel in the school’s curriculum. Yet, it remains a best seller.
Sexism In The Color Purple
In The Color Purple, Alice Walker writes of a predominantly sexist setting through the frequent beating of women, the stereotypes cast upon people, and the thoughts and feelings of the Olinka peoples. The author writes about the common and frequent beating of Celie by her father as discipline and of Mr. _____ to present a sexist setting. To show the predominantly sexist setting, Alice Walker includes the stereotypes cast upon people such as Celie’s wearing and making of pants and Mr.
_____’s sewing. The writer includes the thoughts and feelings of the Olinka people through their not educating females and their thought of a woman’s ideal role.
The thoughts and feelings of the Olinka people are depicted through their choice to not educate females when Nettie asks an Olinka why she thinks this and when Tashi’s father tells Nettie that there is no place for women to have important careers. While in Africa, Nettie asks an Olinka woman why they choose to not have their daughters educated, and the woman responds, “only to her husband can [a woman] become something” and she later goes on to say that she can become “the mother of his children;” these remarks imply that Olinka women are meant to be mothers and nothing else that they would enjoy (Walker 162).
When Nettie informs Tashi’s father of his daughter’s great intelligence and the great careers she could pursue, he immediately responds “there is no place here for women to do those things;” this shows how the men of the Olinkas have it preset in their mind that women should not have the same career as a man does; this, along with stereotypes, add to the sexist setting.
The stereotypes cast upon people show the sexist setting when it is found out that Mr. _____ sewed as a child with his mama and when Celie predicts what Albert will think if she wears pants. Albert admits to Celie that he “use[d] to try to sew along with [his] mama;” this goes against the common stereotype that men do not sew (Walker 279). When Shug spontaneously decides that she should make a pair of pants for Celie to wear; Celie states “Mr. _____ not going to let his wife wear pants” without even asking him his opinion. Along with these stereotypes, the common beating of women adds to the sexist setting (Walker 152).
The common beating of Celie by her father in her youth and by Albert to dominate her both help contribute to the sexist setting on the book. While in church one day, Celie’s father catches her eying a boy and when she goes home, Celie write in her letter to God that “[she] don’t even look at mens,” and then says the she does look at women “cause [she’s] not scared of them;” this demonstrates the fear that she has of men from her abusive father (Walker 6). When Harpo has a conversation, Celie tells him “[if] you don’t do what he say, he beat you;” this shows that Celie has learned this lesson by simply not obeying a command in The Color Purple (Walker 66).
Through the common beating of women, the stereotypes cast upon people, and the attitudes of the Olinka people, Alice walker writes about a predominantly sexist setting in The Color Purple. Walker writes about his to show how things really were in black as well as white culture in the past. If Alice Walker were to write about something more recent, she would write about sexism and discrimination of other cultures or religions.
Self and Identity in The Color Purple
In African-American texts, blacks are seen as struggling with the patriarchal worlds they live in order to achieve a sense of Self and Identity. The texts I have chosen illustrate the hazards of Western religion, Rape, Patriarchal Dominance and Colonial notions of white supremacy; an intend to show how the protagonists of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple as well as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, cope with or crumble due to these issues in their struggle to find their identities.
The search for self-identity and self-knowledge is not an easy task, even more so when you are a black woman and considered a mule and a piece of property. Providing an in depth analysis of these texts, this essay attempts to illustrate how both of these Afro American writers depict and resolve their respective protagonists’ struggles.
Religion is believed by many to serve as a means to achieving or finding self or identity. However, in the Euro-influenced Christian religion especially, directly after ‘finding one’s self’, one is called to deny one’s self in the name of a white ‘God’.
‘Humble yourself and cast your burdens to God’ they say, for ‘He will make all wrongs right’. Logically however, one must ask…what interest does the white God (who is especially portrayed in Afro-American writings such as The Color Purple and The Bluest Eye as a further extension of Patriarchal values) have in black people? Moreso, if the Christian bible is so heavily influenced by white man, what interest does the God it portrays have in black women?
In The Color Purple, Celie’s original intended audience is a white, male God who does not listen to her prayers, and her letters remain anonymous. Celie explains that she stopped writing to God because he gave her ‘a lynched daddy, a crazy mama, a lowdown dog of a step pa and a sister [she] probably won’t ever see again.’ Celie distrusts a white male God because he does not listen to ‘poor colored women.’ Shug encourages Celie to reject ‘religious beliefs which reinforce sexist and racist domination’ and insists on ‘the primacy of a spiritual life’. If Celie looks for God in a white church or a white written Bible it is inevitable that she will encounter a white God, therefore she must look at her immediate environment for guidance. Celie then accepts and employs Shug’s ideology that ‘God is inside you and inside everyone else.’
In her rejection of the Euro-central God who doesn’t listen to her prayers, Celie liberates her ‘Self’ and finds identity – evident in her signing of her letters which she now addresses to Nettie. For the first time in Celie’s life, the colour people (purple) are recognized by God and she is liberated with the belief that the colour purple/people is/are noticed as a part in God’s majestic composition, and that this God is everything and everywhere. It is thus possible to identify Celie with the color purple by realizing that she has gone unnoticed and is finally being noticed as she asserts her existence. This existentialist epiphany becomes manifest when Celie writes, “I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here.”
In The Bluest Eye however, the Eurocentric images and influences of the Western God have a lasting negative effect on many of the black characters. There is colour people playing a part in this God’s composition, instead, focus is on the colour blue – that his eyes are portrayed to be. This colour suggests coldness and blindness towards people not sharing in His whiteness. Pecola Breedlove is the prime character that is influenced by these negative images of God, and the influence of the Western religion’s ‘values’ shown in the novel pushes her into an unfortunate type of lack of ‘Self’. This comes about in this novel due to the interactions with white and pseudo-white characters who have subscribed to the idealized notions of white superiority. The first instance of this is Pecola’s encounter with Mr. Yacobowski – the shopkeeper, who basically ignores her existence because she is black, his attention instead focuses on a picture of the Virgin Mary.
This leaves Pecola with the view that it is the white God itself disregarding her existence through the symbolic Mr. Yacobowski, as he is said to be religious but ignores her very presence. This negative image of the Western God lends greatly to Pecola’s self hatred and her eventual destruction. If she is not even acknowledged by the white people in her community then she must have no worth. She sees this as a situation in which she cannot prosper thus beginning to hate herself and her color, as, if these supposed ‘representatives’ or followers of this white God won’t accept her, who is she to think that He will?
This view is strengthened when Pecola visits the pseudo-white character Geraldine’s house, whereby she is cursed by this woman and chased from her farcical ‘Dick and Jane’ style home. Home is where the ‘heart’ is, but all Pecola sees as she flees from this place she admires is a “portrait of the [white] angelized Jesus looking down at her with sad and surprised eyes…” This white figure of Western religion is perhaps “unable to help her” as she is not of his kind, thus giving substance to Pecola’s belief that she has no worth nor hope for acceptance by this idealized white world and its ‘God’.
This Euro-influenced religion with its patriarchal God may thus be found guilty of a discursive rape of the values of black people, and to a greater extent – black women. This is another critical aspect in these examples of Afro-American literature, as rape is no stranger to the black women in these texts – guilty of undermining their sense of self as well leading to a loss of identity, whether the rape is discursive, or actual. Bell Hooks holds that rape is portrayed as a positive force in The Color Purple because Celie ‘accedes to the violation of her body in order to protect her sister Nettie from the sexual advances of their stepfather’.
Squeak also uses her body to help free Sofia from jail, sacrificing her body in efforts to aid Sofia’s circumstances although Sofia knocked her teeth out. This rape in particular – of a black woman by a white man is depicted, according to Hooks, as a positive force because ‘even though it acts to reinforce sexist domination of females and racist exploitation’, it is also ‘a catalyst for positive change’. Not only does the act free Sofia; it also empowers Squeak, as, when Harpo says “I love you, Squeak” (84) she stands up for her own identity by replying “My name Mary Agnes” (84).
In the case of The Bluest Eye, Pecola’s rape by her father leads to her becoming “the town’s scapegoat and places her in company with the books other outcasts; the prostitute Miss Marie and the quack mystic Elihue Whitcomb, dubbed ‘Soaphead Church’. It is through the whispers about Pecola and the spurning of her that the town ‘justifies’ the image of good and beautiful. It is because Pecola becomes pregnant with her father’s child that she no longer has the ability, if such ever even bore a remote chance of existing, to be beautiful in the eyes of society. The pregnancy has also destroyed any chances of her ever receiving her mother’s love and approval forever, as she is now even dirtier than before in her community’s eyes.
The rape by her father is the final evidence Pecola needs to completely believe that she is an ugly, unlovable girl. While in most modern cases a father figure is one to whom little girls should be able to look to for guidance and approval, Cholly is the exact opposite. He hurts Pecola in a physical way that in one attempt measures up to the years of hurtful mockery. He took away from her the one thing that was utterly and completely hers. After the rape, Pecola was never even remotely the same: her appearance was met with utmost disgust. Adults looked away; children, those of which who were not frightened by her, “laughed outright” (204). The damage done was immense and she spent her days, walking up and down her head jerking to the beat of a drummer so distant only she could hear. Elbows bent, hands on shoulders, she flailed her arms like a bird in an eternal, grotesquely futile effort to fly. Beating the air, a winged but grounded bird intent on the blue void it could not reach – could not even see – but which filled the valleys of the mind (204).
In short, after the rape, Pecola went insane. Her ‘discursive rape’ was delivered at the hands of the society in which she lived, where her blackness was met with disgust. This rape made her wish to be white – to possess blue eyes, as this was the accepted quality of ‘beauty’ in her society, the physical rape only serves to further push her completely over the edge. Pecola’s society is in turn ‘raped’ by Colonialism and concepts of white supremacy, leading them to act with ‘insane’ disgust towards their own blackness and to aspire for their own ‘bluest eyes’ i.e. Geraldine and her house/way of living.
Martha J. Cutter, in her article Philomela Speaks: Alice Walker’s Revisioning of Rape Archetypes in The Color Purple, argues that Like Pecola Breedlove, who ends the novel “flail[ing] her arms like a bird in an eternal, grotesquely futile effort to fly” (204), Celie also appears to have been “driven into semiotic collapse by the rape.” She notes that The Color Purple also uses bird imagery imagery to “connect Celie with her mythic prototype, Philomela as well as to revise the mythic prototext.” Cutter is of the view that the ancient Greek story of Philomela has resonated in the imaginations of women writers for several thousand years … mark[ing] the persistence of a powerful archetypal narrative explicitly connecting rape (a violent inscription of the female body), silencing, and the complete erasure of feminine subjectivity.
Cutter holds that in The Color Purple, Walker “paradoxically [uses] … birds … [in the following scene] …[as a] positive symbol to Celie of how nature persists in displaying its beauty despite the despoiling patterns of humanity.” The example Martha Cutter highlights is
where Celie tells Albert that she loves birds (223), and Albert comments, ‘”you use to remind me of a bird. Way back when you first come to live with me…. And the least little thing happen, you looked about to fly away”‘ (223).
Cutter concludes, “Unlike the archetypal narrative, then, Walker’s novel uses bird … imagery to suggest Celie’s metamorphosis not from human to subhuman, but from victim to artist-heroine.” Thus the novel differs from the myth as well as from Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, as it commences rather than ends with the incident[s] of rape and that “the rape becomes not an instrument of silencing, but the catalyst to Celie’s search for voice.” By writing about her rape, Celie externalizes her experiences thus escaping destruction whereas Pecola internalizes (in the form of a dialogue with an imaginary ‘friend’) them and is thus inadvertibly destroyed. Thereby Walker “revises the archetypal paradigm [which] depict[s] rape as an event that encapsulates women in patriarchal plots as the site of silence, absence, and madness” thus giving her back her sense of agency and voice.
Also evident in the texts is the theme of migration, whereby characters emigrate to the North from the South in order to escape, or better themselves – thus further finding or losing their sense of identity and self. According to Elena Shakhovtseva in her article «The Heart of Darkness» in a Multicolored World, “Walker retells a mythic story of the movement from the South to the North as an ideal embodiment of freedom, and back to the South for reconciliation.” Shakhovtseva argues that Celie’s eventual move to Memphis symbolically marks the black community’s twentieth century migration to the North with the emphasis both on the economic liberation the North provides (Celie’s “folkpants” business) as well as the threat it presents to black cultural identity (attempts to change Celie’s dialect, etc.).
Thus, the return of Celie to the South through her successful business and attainment of a home, Shakhovtseva notes, “represents Walker’s argument for black reclamation of a Southern homeland.”
Celie’s migration to the North represents both liberation and potential loss of identity. This is seen when her employee, Darlene, makes an effort to ‘improve’ Celie’s dialect, to make a more ‘refined’ (different – once again views tainted by white supremacy) person out of her. However, Celie is mostly disinterested and maintains her creole way of speech, suggesting comfort in her sense of identity. When she returns to the South, Celie accomplishes a ‘wholeness’ of her physical and spiritual existence, and reclaims the family home, farm and store in Georgia, which she rightfully claims after her stepfather’s death. In essence, Celie migrates from oppressed ‘slave’ to her husband, to strong, independent, black woman – land and store-owner nonetheless, Walker’s obvious inversion of race and gender.
Walker is accused by many of subverting realist concepts, her novel’s ending… lacking verisimilitude. It can be argued that she appears to have been influenced by Shakespeare’s romances, possessing a like Utopian and somewhat unrealistic vision. The opposite is seen in Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, where when Pecola’s parents – Cholly and Pauline, moved North everything changed. The colours went out of Pauline’s life. She states “I missed my people. I weren’t used to so much white folks…Northern colored folk was different too.”
Additionally, she continues by saying that their marriage became “shredded with quarrels” as she developed a desire for new clothes which Cholly disapproved of, money becoming the “focus of all their discussions, hers for clothes, his for drinks” (118). To make up for the neglect and her own insecurities, Pauline sought comfort through movies as she sat and watched the perfect “white” world of Hollywood. Here she attempted to re-find her colours on the “silver screen” (124). However, the colours she does find and have a longing for end up having a negative effect on her life and the lives of her family until it destroys them, especially Pecola.
In conclusion, using the two texts studied, with emphasis placed on their respective protagonists, this essay has attempted to illustrate the treatment of Self and Identity in African-American works, showing the similarities as well as profound differences between the two writers used to illustrate the hazards to, and responses to black self and identity – namely that of the black woman whose struggle is most critical. Morrison holds strong to the Afro-American pattern of destruction of black female by Patriarchal society and the white supremacy ‘values’ it holds dear, thus denying their self and losing their identity. Walker on the other hand, a little too fantastically, provides an inversion of these patterns in the form of an almost unbelievably (Utopian) happy ending for her black female protagonist, who overcomes all the hazards she undergoes, finding her ‘Self’ and strong sense of identity – coming out on top in a brutal, patriarchal society. The Epistolary form Walker uses provides an “instruction” to her readers as well as to her protagonist Celie, seen also in the epigraph by Stevie Wonder provided
Show me how to do like you
Show me how to do it (1).
Whereas Morrison utilizes the Eurocentric primer of a white nuclear family that is burned into the minds of black children, as she distorts and fragments it to illustrate the confusion white ideology causes in the minds of blacks as it contrasts sharply with their own lives. Removing the punctuation, then applying this primer to the story of blacks and namely Pecola’s lives, proves that the story is far from the truth and gibberish. In a sense, by speeding up the machinery of the Dick and Jane story to show how it does not work, Walker proves that it degenerates into meaninglessness under any kind of scrutiny. But in the descent into senselessness, it also parallels Pecola’s descent into madness – a sharp contrast to the similarly Euro-influenced and patriarchal epistolary form used by Walker – a sharp contrast because, Walker’s protagonist uses this… the only form available for her, the voiceless, to overcome the patriarchal oppression and gradually find her ‘Self’.
The Color Purple
Alice Walker’s epistolary novel The Color Purple demonstrates how the mistreatment of a woman cannot prevent her from fulfilling her destiny. The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Celie, is a young, uneducated black girl who is verbally and sexually abused by her supposed father, Alphonso. He fathers two children with her, kidnapping both and presumably killing one, if not both. Because of the unwarranted trauma, she struggles for the rest of her life to recover from his abuse and establish her own power.
Celie has a much smarter and prettier younger sister Nettie, whom she loves, and of whom she is very protective. Celie saves Nettie from marriage to a suitor referred to only as Mr. when their father forces her to marry him instead. Celie’s stepson Harpo, weds a strong-minded woman, Sofia, who is the complete opposite of Celie. Sofia’s refusal to be abused by anyone, – man or woman – sparks a curiosity that makes Celie take a closer look at herself.
The catalyst of the story is Mr. ’s lover, Shug Avery.
Although Celie realizes Shug is her husband’s lover, she does not resent Shug; in fact, Shug becomes Celie’s best friend, lover and even mentor. These influential women, each trying to find their own happiness, fighting their own personal demons, tremendously impact Celie’s life. The women help to educate Celie, whose natural intelligence and talents have been stunted by years of constant humiliation and abuse by her father and husband. It is through each character’s definition of life and struggle within The Color Purple that Alice Walker is able to tell the story of victorious transformation.
Walker’s narrative symbolically illustrates a woman’s psychological journey rising from the mentality of an abused victim of poverty to become a strong, independent and confident woman who establishes her own place within her society. The sexual abuse Celie endures at a very early age leaves her powerless with nowhere to turn. Alphonso’s (Pa) sexual abuse is taken a step further when he gives Celie’s two children away to a family. Celie’s ignorance, due to her age and poor education, prevents her from understanding why the children were taken from her, but she does not believe they are dead.
Alphonso entices Mr. , a widower with four children, to take Celie instead of Nettie, so he will not have to care for her anymore, by throwing in a cow with the deal. Walid El Hamamsy characterizes the combination package of Celie and the cow as further “patriarchal oppression” and a way to continue to “dehumanize” her. Her brutality is continued in her loveless marriage to Mr. , who beats and uses her for sexual convenience. One way to endure the torture is to tell herself “Celie, you a tree” (23). The other way she is able to tolerate her plight of isolation and despair is through writing letters to God.
The letters affords her a voice which otherwise she does not have. Celie’s relationship with her sister Nettie goes beyond just a sisterly bond. Nettie turns out to be the first person to show Celie true unconditional love. With Celie’s children being taken away from her, Nettie fills her void of motherly obligation. Celie wants to guarantee Nettie’s well-being and puts Nettie first for everything. Celie’s view of Nettie as someone filled with potential is in direct contradiction to how Celie sees herself; however, it never stops Nettie from trying to teach Celie so she can open her mind to what is going on in the world around her.
When Celie’s husband tells her Nettie has to leave, it is like a ton of bricks lands on Celie. Nettie is the only person from whom Celie ever felt love. When Nettie leaves, she encourages Celie “to fight,” but Celie is so broken she says she only knows how to “stay alive” (18). Celie’s mental state is still that of an abused victim: she is encapsulated in a world of deep despair, but Nettie has planted a seed that will grow and eventually take her to a place of confidence.
Alice Walker introduces Sofia, a bold, headstrong woman that illustrates assertiveness and self-dignity. Mr. ’s son, Harpo, marries Sofia because he loves her, but later tries to make her succumb to him through brutal force. Harpo has grown up seeing his father physically abuse Celie in order to get his way and when he asks Celie what he should do to get his headstrong wife to submit to him, Celie tells him he should beat her. Celie sees little or no value in herself. She survives victimization by accepting that fighting back will only cause more harm than good.
Anyone can do or say anything they want to Celie since she has accepted her place and submits to the violence. With telling Harpo to beat his wife, Celie is once again showing her abused mentality: she truly believes that physical oppression by husbands is normal. Critic Stacie Lynn Hankinson contends Celie portrays “a survival-of-the-fittest perspective, which pitted her against, rather than aligning her with, other women. ” After Sofia learns of the betrayal of Celie, she boldly confronts her only to figure out Celie is actually on her side.
Sofia tells Celie “All my life I had to fight” (40). Sofia embodies something that would not allow her to be a victim, no matter who she has to fight. Celie professes her jealousy of Sofia because she unfortunately did not have the strength to fight and was continuously a victim. Sofia offers something to Celie she never had before; moral support. Sofia’s constant retaliation against Harpo assists Celie to understand that rebellion, fighting, is a way to escape victimization. Celie’s lack of confidence resides in her fear of not being loved.
When Shug Avery, a Blues singer and her husband’s lover, enters Celie’s life, Celie become conscious of an intimate, trusting love, which empowers Celie to assert herself. Shug enables Celie to freely express herself and talk about all the unfortunate things that have happened to her over the years. Shug also helps Celie find her voice and change how she views herself. After Shug tells Celie “you still a virgin” Celie starts to look at herself less as a victim and gradually lessens her acceptance of ill treatment and stands up for herself (78).
Shug shows Celie how having a powerful voice can be pivotal in changing their life. Walker uses the relationship between Shug and Celie as a way to emphasize consistency and a strong bond. Shug is not only Celie’s confidant but there is a role reversal and Celie becomes Shug’s confidant. Their conversations bring up points not only do they think about, but the reader might as well. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it” (197).
After her conversations with Shug Celie realizes she must strip her mind of the impression of God that her male-dominated society has placed on her and replace it with a holistic one. Celie’s recognition of God as a Creator allows her to establish a place in her society and finally love herself, just as she is. Marc A. Cristophe agrees as he writes in his essay The Color Purple: An Existential Novel, “she has rejoined the community of men and women; she has found herself, her own place …and is able to marvel at the creation, at life itself. ”
"The Color Purple" by Alice Walker: Critical Analysis
In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Celie leads a life filled with abuse at the hands of the most essential men in her life. As result of the females who surround and help her, Celie ends up being stronger and conquers the abuse she experienced. The 3 most prominent ladies in Celie’s life are here sister Nettie, her daughter-in-law Sofia and the vocalist Shug Avery. These are the ladies who lead Celie out of her shell and assist her turn from and shy, withdrawn lady to somebody who was free to speak her mind and lead her own independent life.
Celie is inspired by her sister’s self-reliance, decision and perseverance in Africa among foreign people whom Nettie appreciates deeply. Celie saw the impact that a woman could have on others and felt empowered to get rid of the abuse she experiences. Nettie is somebody that Celie tries to shelter from the physical and sexual abuse of their daddy. It is also Nettie who Celie aims to for education when her daddy pulls her out of school, and for assistance when she moves in with Mr.
____ where she was abused by him and his children. When Nettie flees, Mr. ____ conceals the letters sent out to Celie consequently cutting off the sibling’s interaction, which left them sad.
See more: how to write a critical analysis outline
“I sit here in this big empty house by myself trying to sew, but what good is sewing gon do? What good is anything? Being seem like a awful strain.” [sic] (Walker 262). Upon discovering Nettie’s letters, Celie finds a new desire to live because her sister was alive. Nettie also serves as Celie’s only link to her children. Nettie gives Celie pride in her children who were intelligent and prosperous in Africa, which gives Celie newfound confidence. All her life, Nettie was the one who always supported and loved Celie but when Celie wasn’t receiving her letters, she looked to Sophia for inspiration.
Sophia is a strong woman who at first intimidated Celie but after getting to know each other they become friends and are there support each other in the course of the abuse they each suffer through. Sophia’s size and attitude came as a shock to Celie when Mr. ____’s son Harpo brings her to the house for his father to meet. She does not let Harpo’s father talk down to her, and talking…
Walker & Celie and Shug's growing relationship
Alice Walker uses a variety of techniques in ‘The Color Purple’ to present the growing relationship between Celie and Shug. Using pages 68-70 as a starting point I will be exploring attitudes towards sexuality as well as a number of lexical, grammatical and phonological choices. As soon as Celie encounters Shug Avery, we get the sense that she already has a sub-conscious sexual desire for her.
“First time I got the full sight of Shug Avery” she says, “I thought I had turned into a man,” and from this description we can see that Shug Avery is a big factor in expanding Celie’s mind and feelings towards other desires and ideas.
This point in then developed by a subsequent sentence, “I wash her body, it feel like I’m praying. ” Celie, being a strict believer in God, is obviously moved in new and different ways by the presence of Shug. Celie uses prayer to escape from her life and talk about issues that have, or are currently, troubling her.
Thus, the presence of Shug allows Celie to mentally free herself; even though Shug is slightly bitter towards Celie. Later on in the novel Celie discusses her frequent rapes by Alphonso; thus reinforcing the point that Celie is able to discuss private and sensitive issues with Shug only. A close and personal link is created by Celie and Shug’s first physical encounter. Celie’s sexual urges for Shug continue to develop in a later letter. “If I don’t watch out I’ll have hold of her hand, tasting her fingers in my mouth.
” The syntax of this sentence shows a change in desires; the caesura splits a relatively soft, harmless urge with one of more extreme consequences; thus showing Celie’s confusion over her desires. The use of a complex sentence represents that Celie does not wish to pause whilst describing the event as it offers her too much pleasure. On the other hand Shug still resists Celie and does not wish to know her, “Can I sit in here and eat with you? I ast. She shrug. She busy looking at a magazine.
” It becomes obvious that Shug has other issues and matters on her mind; conceivably Shug is thinking about her current relationship with Albert and where her future lies. The relationship between Albert and Shug begins to upset Celie and make her jealous, but jealous of whom? “He love looking at Shug. I love looking at Shug. But Shug don’t love looking at but one of us. Him. ” Celie could be jealous of Shug, as she believes Albert is her husband and relationships should relate to the marital situation. Although, Celie could be jealous of Albert in that she doesn’t want Albert sleeping with Shug, Celie wants Shug to herself.
This could reflect Celie’s growing feelings for Shug and the fact that Shug is beginning to become more involved in Celie and her life. The use of the third person singular object pronoun, ‘him’, portrays that Celie has little respect for Albert and that she is too disgusted to mention his name. The fact that it is a sentence on its own conveys that Celie wishes Albert was not involved in a relationship with Shug and also that Celie was not married to Albert. Celie views Albert as an intruder in her relationship with Shug.
This visual diary created was inspired by many aspects of The Colour Purple
This visual diary created was inspired by many aspects of The Colour Purple. The purpose was to pose questions that allowed individuals to reflect and change so that we can continue to mature as humanity. The issues presented in the novel are obviously still very relevant to today’s society so a more contemporary style was adopted for the exploration of these themes.
Celie’s journey through oppression allowed Alice Walker to explore the theme of self-discovery. Celie should have been too broken to do anything with her life but was able to stand up for herself with the help of the strong women around her.
When Albert interrogates her about her choice about moving up north with Shug, she tells him, “You a lowdown dog is what’s wrong, … It’s time to leave you and enter into the Creation.” (p.g. 202) She has really been able to create a better life after gaining confidence and independence, proving those who looked down on her wrong and making a social stand against stereotypes.
The self-discovery of Celie was an important point in her character arc where she finally realises her potential and unnecessary reliance on the male dominions in her life. Without this development of character, Walker would have been unable to highlight the importance of freedom from the oppression of minorities.
While the symbol of pants is to show the journey of self-discovery and freedom from oppression, it is also a symbol of opposing gender standards. The pants that Celie was making were for women, and she makes a point to say that “anybody can wear them” (p.g. 276). When Albert and Celie’s relationship has become more genuine, Albert admits to wanting to sew but never doing it in fear of discrimination. The males are also oppressed because they feel like they have to avoid and even demean feminine traits and activities to fit in. Walker is showing that conventional gender standards are harmful to everyone when taken to the extreme and that we should move towards creating safer environments for everyone to develop equally and in their own style.
Walker explores the topic of gender, stereotypical roles, and sexuality throughout the novel and shows how close-mindedly keeping traditional views can be harmful. Some characters tried to break the boundaries of gender roles but this disruption of society’s long-established stereotypes caused them many problems. Being very sexually confident and bold in nature, Shug is branded a tramp. Sofia will not take anyone looking down on her lightly and says “hell no” (p.g. 87) to any acts of repression, resulting in a backlash. Harpo feels insecure about his masculinity and was pressured to follow his father’s actions, so he tries to beat Sofia in order to “make her mind.” (p.g. 36) The Author has blurred the lines so much that even the characters cannot distinguish between the different roles;
All of these show that traditional gender roles can be very restricting with many consequences. They should be full of fluidity to allow expression of self to be explored to its fullest. The ways in which we conventionally understand gender roles are, in reality, not that simple and Walker overturns these ideas by creating strong characters who defy these roles.
A visual diary of a 21st-century designer was created to allow the themes to be applied to the modern world and to mirror Celie’s letter/diary writing and her being a pioneering designer. It was the best medium that was capable of imaginatively exploring the themes because the thought processes undertaken were easily portrayed as the character’s. It was also chosen for they are used to freely express artistic creativity which is related to the theme of freedom of expression. The character of Ember Oriaan was inspired by Celie and her development. However, Oriaan’s journey is only visible from when they had their breakthrough with their journey of self-discovery, while we see Celie’s full maturing process. Both believed that people should not be restricted to one particular style of clothing, and consequently began to design garments that could be worn by anyone.
A modern twist was put on these themes so that the issues explored could be seen from a contemporary light. The letter on page 3 is a similar self-discovery to Celie’s where they want to make a change after being oppressed. The title page was drawn with an irremovable calligraphy pen because the designer was certain that they wanted to start a new chapter of their life. Despite this, a lead pencil was used throughout the rest of the diary because there was still uncertainty in this new challenge they were taking on. By designing clothes that were functional in a variety of settings, they would both allow people the opportunity and freedom to express themselves. Both the skirts and the pants have represented many topics such as societal change, creating freedom from oppression and blurring the lines between gender, illustrating the fluidity of the symbolism in these garments. The mind map on page 4 not only shows the brainstorming process and inner conflict of the designer but also how complex the topic of gender can be.
Alice Walker’s use of character development, plot and dialogue in The Colour Purple helps to explore and examine the many themes at a deeper level. The oppression of minorities, the journey of self-discovery that can lead to freedom, and gender roles that reinforce stereotypes are issues that people will hopefully be more open to discussing.
It is evident that the people still feel face the same issues and feel the same emotions, even if they are set in two different centuries. Both are therefore deeply empathetic and have a desire to help people question themselves and grow into better individuals.
The Color Purple Gender Roles
The Color Purple follows the traumatic life experience of Celie, the main character in the movie, a young African-American woman. She was raised in the rural parts in Georgia and grew up thinking that someone had to have power over her because of the position of her father. Her father was a man that thought that women had to do whatever ever to please him and satisfy all of his needs.
This left no exception to his daughter, Celie, who was repeatedly raped by her father, and ends up giving birth to two kids at a very young age because of it. Her father takes the kids away because he doesn’t want anyone to know what was going on and because if someone knew his daughter had been pregnant, he wouldn’t be able to marry her off. Celie has a sister named Nettie who the father seems to protect and care for more because when a man comes to marry her, the father urges him to take Celie instead. This situation was no better for Celie because if it wasn’t the same it was worse than her being abused by her father. exploitation.
Celie writes letter to God and explains to him all the details of her life because she feels like nobody else is listening. Her father always told her to tell nobody but God and that stuck with her through all of her tragedies and triumphs because she was able to get through it that way. But throughout the movie Celie meets women who all have very different personalities and ways that they deal with the men in their life. By building these relationships with other black women, Celie gets strength and is able to develop insight from all of their point of views. In the end she gets to develop a sense of her own right knowing who she is and what it means to be a woman. She is able to grow her own values and understand what her experiences have done for her and how they shaped who she was able to be. It allowed her to see that she was independent and didn’t need a man to take care of her or provide for her.
In the film, the gender roles are shown very clearly. The males in this film are shown as having the most power and being the leader of the household and controlling everything. They don’t do work, are very dominant and show no affection of care. They have the most control over the women in the film because they show them as bowing down to the men as a sign of respect. The women in the film are seen as obedient and submissive and someone without a voice. We see this with Celie because she is given away as a piece of property to her husband Albert, who is referred to as Mr., without any consent or choice in the matter. She becomes a slave to her husband and has to stay in line with his views or else she would be severely beaten and punished. Celie has lost all of her freedom through this and we see this because when Mr. wants to have sex, even if Celie does not, she is forced to do so. Celie is talked down to and seen as small by all the men in her life. She is supposed to do everything from the cooking, cleaning, tending to children, working in the fields, and is still seen as less to a man.
There are other characters in this movie that challenge their gender roles. The first one that we notice is between Harpo and Sofia’s relationship. We get to see a big difference in this relationship the what we see in Celie and Albert. Sophia is not the norm when it comes to marrying Harpo and he begins to clearly see this after they are married. She shows that women can be powerful and dominant in a relationship and that there should be a balance. Sophia is not one that can be bossed around and states how she will always make her own decisions. She will not be the wife that listens and does whatever Harpo has to say. She wanted to feel respected by her husband and she wants Harpo to talk and share ideas with her. Sophia and Harpo get into a fight and Sophia actually wins the fight. This is different because he is he man, and his wife is fighting him back and now he feels like less of a man and we can see that Sophia is very clear that she won’t back down to bow down. In the end, Harpo is the one that changes and is he is doing all of the things which are normally left for the woman to do and he is accepting of this. He came around and understood that it was okay to not have that dominant power but to be equals and that he doesn’t need to conform to the general standards of their society.
Because of the disruption of traditional gender roles in the film The Color Purple, we see a lot of growth in the women that are presented throughout the movie. We get an understanding on how they are being oppressed and how they can overcome it. It shows a lot of female solidarity because a lot of the women lean on each other in the movie for advice and companionship and through their experiences they are able to grow and unify as women. These women are looked as lesser than their male counters, but we see just how strong they are. They fight for their freedom and I think that is the best thing about the movie because they do it together with each other’s guidance and support. In the end, the movie came full circle with the women being strong and independent. The women were able to celebrate what it meant to be a female. It showed how their experiences developed and guided their emotional strength and how they were able to take control of their life.
The movie challenged the traditional female and male roles and it showed how women can be the provider and men can let their female partner show masculine characteristics and it not be something that isn’t accepted by society. This movie showed the parallels between the third wave of feminism. It was able to show how African American women were rooted in their culture, religion, and history. It showed how there was growth in the movement but that there is still working to be done so that women aren’t seen as objects that are weak, but very strong. I think The Color Purple showed many different parallels to gender roles that are traditional today and some that aren’t. It also suggested many ideas that gave the viewer insight on what it means to be a male and what it means to be a female. It gave clear views on what society views as what is acceptable and is normal, but it also showed what we might need to think twice about and what we should change. As a viewer, I enjoyed this film because it showed no matter what gender you are, you deserve equality.
The Depth of The Color Purple
This book starts with a memory of Celie of her father telling her to never speak of his abuse to her. Then the remaining of the novel consists of letters. Her first letter was to God.
She begins to ask God to help her because she was confused on what was going on with her. When Celie was fourteen she was already pregnant with her second child. This was due to the rape and incest of her father. Her father, whose name is Alphonso, turned to Celie to satisfy his sexual urges because her mother was very sick which made her incapable to endure Alphonso’s sexual demands. Regarding the level of abuse Celie has been through in the hands of her father, she still manages to build strength throughout her weaknesses as well as several other characters in this novel (Walker, 115). Personal strength can be explained as transferable skills that is transferred from one situation to the next. Some include people skills, planning skills, and the analytical problem-solving skills. Personal traits and personal strengths are very similar. Personal traits refer uniqueness of a person. For example, flexibility, dependability, and working hard among others (Walker, 72).
Personal strengths in this book are exhibited through the protagonist, Celie. Throughout the novel we see how everything was stripped away from her, for this reason she decides to flip the script and take control after all the years of being controlled. There is more in store for this character than we thought because she beautifully begins to change. As the story goes on, she really starts to grow and develop. In the Celie was victimized and oppressed her only way out was to write letters to the only one she thought that could save her, God, because she was forbidden to ever speak of what she was going through. Celie had only the mindset to survive neglecting the thought to fight. Strength in her is exhibited by how she transformed from the victimized and oppressed character to taking charge and finally being independent. All of what she has being through made her believe men was all trouble. She says that whenever there’s a man, there is trouble (Walker, 205).
Sofia’s strength is also expressed verbally and how she had to fight all her life. She continues saying she had to fight her family including her father, brother, and her cousins. However, there was a weakness detected in a statement said saying that a girl child isn’t safe in a family full of men. This statement may true to some people, but doesn’t apply everywhere. This can be stereotyping and can be the character’s weakness (Walker, 40). Sofia shows a strength of characterizing like a man. She breaks the cage of stereotyping of women by fighting her husband. Her attitude seems to suggest that she made resolutions with her life and that no man will ever trouble her. She exhibits a personal strength of having independence and direct personality. She acts like man (Walker, 40).
It is essential to understand that this book was narrated in first person and that it’s difficult to know if the audience is reading the author’s opinion or that of the character. It’s easy to think that Celie is the projection of the author’s emotions of the southern culture and the sex prejudice that was known at that time setting. The author does a tremendous job by keeping the reader intact but still informing a very important history lesson, with a style of both subtle and blindly. Character’s growth and expressions of personality are all done through imagery. There are random quotations regarding color and texture which happens to be parallelisms of a character’s exact emotions (Walker, 102).
Some of the initiatives that the author makes to highlight areas of character’s strengths and weaknesses shows the true traits of them. The author does this by the use of quotes uttered during a given situation and by showing a characters’ perception of particular issues. Walker also shows the correlation between one character to another. She highlights the strengths and weaknesses in a character by revealing the impacts a given character has on the other regarding their relationship. In this way, the audience can determine the strengths and weaknesses of the particular character (Walker, 247).
The relationship between Shug and Celie highlights some areas of strengths and weaknesses. In the book Shug is described as an alluring woman. She is an entertaining singer. She is more so entertaining not by just her role in the story, but because she is basically that light Celie needed to see to climb out that deep dark shadow that her weaknesses was keeping her hostage. Shug Avery is the source of the reason Celie becomes an independent woman, through the book she doesn’t change very much she is more of the same. She is presented as a sex symbol or more of being very good at loving which in her case is her strength but a weakness simultaneously. It is a weakness because she loves entirely too much. Walker portrays Shug as a person that cannot be in a committed relationship and someone that needs to be adored and admired by others. She is also depicted as the reason why Celie is lesbian (Walker, 247).
Walker uses Nettie who is Celie’s younger sister to show the perfect example of a good life. Nettie’s strength was portrayed by her living with an independent lifestyle. She is the complete opposite of Celie. Another strength Nettie hold is that she is educated and untouched by men. However, all this happens to be Celie’s sacrifice. Celie indirectly protected her younger sister even though she wasn’t a fighter (Walker, 237).
Walker also uses the language to show the difference between strengths and weaknesses of Celie and her younger sister Nettie as well as emphasizing on how Celie transitions throughout the story. It’s the use of language that the reader can know whether a character has had formal education or not. In the beginning through speech the author reflects Celie’s childhood and lack of formal education. Noticeably she happens to use shorter sentences with improper grammar. This shows a weakness of Celie. In her statements, she uses more complex sentences that have diverse vocabularies. This defines her strength in communication (Walker, 238). Alice Walker also uses tone. Through the novel the tone was somewhat bitter, but still holding to bits of forgotten hope characterized by the personal tragedy and Celie’s immense loss. He builds relationships with those around her regardless of the traumatic life she holds.
In conclusion, through the book the author used many different character and themes to exhibit areas of a character’s strength and their weaknesses. The several letters told in this novel emphasizes much on self-expression in developing one’s sense of self.
- God, Their Eyes Were Watching, and Alice Walker’s. The Color Purple.. The Hollins Critic (1994).
- Spielberg, Steven, et al. The color purple. Warner Bros., 1985.
- Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Access and Diversity, Crane Library, University of British Columbia, 2008.
- Walker, Alice. The color purple. Open Road Media, 2011.
The Color Purple and Gender Roles
The Color Purple is an African American staple piece of literature. The film released in 1985 directed by none other than Steven Spielberg won a Gold Globe for Best Actress: Whoopi Goldberg, Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, NAACP Image Award for outstanding Motion Picture and earning $142 million box office sales. The author of the book The Color Purple Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983.
Walker included topics of symbolism and realism in her work such as loyalty, strength, racism, marriage, happiness, love, sex, and rape just to name a few. These same topics of realism happening all over the world highlighted in Walker’s writing were the same reasons for it being banned numerous times from its release in 1982 until present day.
A topic that was depicted in both the book, the movie, and stage play of The Color Purple was gender roles. The idea of black woman in society and how men, black men in this case, dominated and oppressed women of color throughout their daily lives. The topic of rape, incest, arranged marriage; all were at the forefront of this literature. The topic of violence against women is heavily described as well as women’s strength and authority to leave their abusive husband. This is seen in Sophia and Harpo’s relationship, where she has the moral authority to leave her husband who abuses her and takes her children to live with her sister. This book also challenges the topic of religion and God. Through the book there is a shift in the main characters view of God as a white man to God being more of a universal being. Celie’s emotions towards femininity and masculinity open up her emotions and attraction of women over men. Ceilie is afraid of men, they scare her and instill fear in her, so she avoids looking at them and doesn’t feel attracted to them. Where as women are more friendly and able to reproduce the love and affection our main character Celie desires. So here we see topics of sexuality and non-heteronormativity.
Before we can analyze why this book suffered its trials and tribulations of being accepted into American society. We must look at what was going on in this country up until this point. Ronald Reagan was elected two years prior and the Iraq War was in its early stages. Segregation was abolished a little over twenty years prior to The Color Purple’s release, although there was still inequality. Marginalized people across the country protested for equal rights along with the protest of the Vietnam War were the tone of the 70s and 80’s. At the release of this book and the many controversies that revolved around its content. I almost wonder if the real problem lies within America not wanting to recognize a powerful African American piece of literature.
This book has been challenged and banned from libraries and school reading list since its release up until 2014 for its subject matter. What troubles me the most is why we feel the need to restrict audiences from literature that touches on the truth in society. The book addresses the life of a woman in Georgia dealing with the day-to-day oppression of a man and her inner desires of love. This same woman uneducated, beaten, raped by someone who supposedly loved her but she doesnt share the same emotional connection with in her forced arrangement of a marriage. I feel that the challenges made against this book were solely unjust. In what ways can we be aware of past occurrences if they aren’t made available to us to analyze.
During the most recent challenge of The Color Purple in 2014 the book was challenged due to complaints of obscenity, language, and sexuality when assigned to an Advanced Placement eleventh grade class. My question isn’t that the sole purpose of being apart of an Advanced Placement course? To be able to analyze complex literature you may not have access to in regular courses. It seems to me that these children are being punished for their intelligence. The argument was that the pieces of the book that described, sex, violence and rape don’t serve any literary value to the AP students. My question is who is to determine whether these real world experiences are of literary value? If these topics weren’t of some issue Alice Walker wouldn’t have took the time to document the many adversities black women and women in general face. Although it is often the parents who are eager to censor their child’s learning experiences from reality this parent was defeated and the color Purple remained in Brunswick County, North Carolina.