The Color Purple and The Boys in the Boat: Two Perspectives on American Culture
Throughout the years, people have had many different experiences in the United States. Differences in people, the era, and many other factors cause the ways of life to change in a country giving us different perspectives about what the United States used to be like. Although the main characters in the novels, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, and The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, go through completely different lives, they were both able to give an insight about the American experiences, culture, and the society that they lived in.
To begin with, the two novels described what the American Culture that they each lived in was like. In The Color Purple, the main character, Celie, was a poor African American girl who was given to a man to be his wife but Celie had explained that, “He beat me like he beat the children” (Walker 22). In American culture during the times that Celie was working for her husband, African American men were dominant over the African American women. The men treated their wives as slaves even though they were all lower class in America. In The Boys in the Boat, Joe did not grow up in an ideal household as he was told by his father that, “…he would have to move out of the house. Joe was ten” (Brown 36). Joe’s dad chose his new wife over his own child. At this time, the Great Depression was going on, so many people did anything they could to cut back on spending money, and this was one way to do that. These two books have completely different plots, however they both demonstrate how American culture had an effect on their lives.
Furthermore, in each book there is information about the American society as it was when the story took place. In The Color Purple, it is obvious that the white people have priorities over the African Americans when the mayor’s wife, Miss Millie, asked Sofia, “…would you like to work for me, be my maid?” (Walker 85). This shows how the African Americans in the United States were treated very poorly by the Caucasians. The discrimination and segregation in the American society was at an unbelievable rate at this time and was getting worse and worse as time went on. Society was also seen in The Boys in the Boat when it had explained that “It was the fourth year of the Great Depression” (Brown 8). At this time, one in four Americans, ten million people, were out of jobs. The society in America was at a very unstable state. The amount of stability changes often in every country and this is seen when these two books are compared to each other.
Lastly, these character both go through different American experiences. Celie, for example, had very few opportunities in life so when she got the chance to when Shug said, “You coming back to Tennessee with me,” she quickly agreed (Walker 177). Celie did not get many choices in life, like many African Americans at this time. The African American people in the United States were in much lower class and social status during this era. In the book The Boys in the Boat for example, they young men in the boat had a dream and they, “…worked harder than ever before to finish first at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” (Brown 351). The only thing that these boys had to do, in order to reach their dreams, was have pure dedication and commitment to their team. In this generation in America, there were many difficulties with money however, people knew that in order to pursue their dreams and goals, they to work hard and never give up, which was their American experience. It is obvious that everyone has different experiences with their lives, the same goes for experiences in America, none of which are the same.
All in all, there is a lot to learn from the experiences the characters have, the society they live in, and the culture around them. Change happens often, which is why, we as human beings, all have something to learn and think about when we consider other people’s life styles in the United States over time. Learning from the people around us today and the people in the past, are what have caused the world to evolve immensely over time.
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