B4 English 11 H
10 October 2012
I read The Color Purple by Alice Walker because my mom recommended it to me as a fantastic read and because Alice Walker is an American author. The Color Purple was published in 1982.
The Color Purple fits into the category of drama. Drama focuses on the human struggle by employing brutally realistic events as the setting for the emotional development of a character. Miss Celie undergoes an intense transformation while living in the southern United States as she undergoes events that question all she has ever known. Alice Walker addresses difficult topics such as incest, sexual orientation, and rape to ultimately change Miss Celie and the way by which she perceives herself and her surroundings.
Miss Celie begins as a fourteen-year old girl living in Georgia. She gives birth to two of her father's children who Miss Celie's father gives away to a good Christian family. Miss Celie's father finds Miss Celie a husband named Mr. ______ who already has three children of his own from a previous marriage. They marry, not out of love, and Miss Celie takes care of Mr. ______'s children. Miss Celie and Mr. _______ have sexual encounters almost every night, but Miss Celie claims virginity because the experiences bring her no pleasure. After so much sexual and verbal abuse, Miss Celie turns to Shug Avery, Mr. ______'s lover of the past, who helps her to gain self-confidence as well as the letters that he has withheld from her. Eventually Miss Celie gains enough confidence to tell Mr. _____ what she really thinks of him and she and Shug move to Tennessee where Miss Celie opens a clothing store. Miss Celie returns to her home as a successful businesswoman to find that Mr. _____ has changed. She inherits her childhood home after the death of a family member, Alphonso, and regains custody of her two children.
I learned that people can change. Alice Walker showed me that it may take a lot and it may not always come in the way that one would hope or expect, but that change does happen. I also learned that stereotypically, men act like idiots towards women and that this has to stop for the progression of mankind to continue.
Theme: Oppressed individuals can overcome difficult challenges such as domestic violence and remove themselves from unfortunate circumstances by forging strong friendships and uniting themselves with others to gain voice and worth.
“You got to fight them, Celie, she say. I can't do it for you. You got to fight them for yourself. I don't say nothing. I think bout Nettie, dead. She fight, she run away. What good it do? I don't fight, I stay where I'm told. But I'm still alive” (Walker 22).
This passage illustrates the attitude that Celie has towards doing anything that will improve her plight or anything that will benefit her in general. The abuse that she experiences causes her to believe that life has no greater purpose than survival. Men take advantage of Celie's willingness to work and her naiveness in all things sexual and exploit her as an object; as such, Celie treats herself as an object which should experience no gratification nor pleasure and which should demand nothing. People do not respect Celie partly because of her femininity and her ethnicity and partly because she does not value or respect herself. Respect from others closely follows the respect of one's self, and because nobody has ever taught Celie that she has value or worth, she does not respect herself. Celie has trouble expressing herself to others because she worries that they too will use her as just another means to advance themselves and their interests in the eyes of others. This difficulty results from a horrific past of domestic violence that Celie accepts as a normal part of life.
“All womens not alike, Tobias, she say. Believe it or not. Oh, I believe it, he say. Just can't prove it to the world” (Walker 59).
Women in The Color Purple receive much of the same treatment from men. Men abuse them, violate them, and take advantage of their womanly parts while refusing to become involved with their emotions and personalities, the things that truly define them. To Mr. ______, Celie merely presents herself as a way for him to release his sexual needs. It would not matter to him if she had slept with a hundred other men, so long as she sleeps with him. Similarly, Harpo marries Sofia more because tradition would have him do so than because he truly respects and desires her as a person. Once he does marry her, he desires dominion over her in order to maintain his ego and to gain respect from his father, not because he cares about Sofia. Generally then, men act towards women in The Color Purple mechanically and without any thought at all. Sofia turns to Shug because all of the men in her life prove to her that they are not worth the effort; Sofia knows that she can find compassion from a fellow female.
“Used to be when he touch me I'd go all out of my head. Now when he touch me I just don't want to be bothered. Once he git on top of me I think bout how that's where he always want to be. She sip her lemonade. I use to love that part of it, she say. I sued to chase him home from the field. Git all hot just watching him put the children to bed. But no more. Now I feels tired all the time. No interest” (Walker 69)
“He never ast me nothing bout myself. He clam on top of me and fuck and fuck, even when my head bandaged. Nobody ever love me, I say” (Walker 117).
Sofia, the speaker in the first quote, expresses disappointment in her decline in interest in sex. The eventual failure of Harpo and Sofia's marriage depicts the reality that marriage cannot be founded on physical lust only, but also on affectionate emotional interest and love. However, whereas Sofia once found making love to Harpo enjoyable, Celie never enjoys it because to her, Mr. ______ performs an act of violence on her each time it occurs, not one of love. He alienates her from the experience and thus, makes her just another means of accomplishing his purpose of pleasure. Miss Celie eventually learns to enjoy the sexual experience with Shug, but only because they share deep, sisterly bonds and confide everything in each other. These bonds extricate Celie from the cycle of domestic violence and give her the strength and confidence to demand more from Mr. _______ and from life in general.
“Naw, I think I feel better if I kill him, I say. I feels sickish. Numb, now. Naw you won't. Nobody feel better for killing nothing. They feel something is all. That better nothing nothing” (Walker 151).
“Yes, Celie, she say. Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice tat tress do everything to git attention we do, except walk?” (Walker 204).
Throughout The Color Purple, Celie consistently expresses feelings of apathy. Her drab lifestyle may requite such an attitude, but it seems more likely that a person given Celie's circumstances would act angrily or with a violent attitude towards life. The reason for Celie's indifference towards the outcome of her life presents itself in the amount of time that men have oppressed Celie. Celie has learned that she copes better with trials when she removes herself from difficult situations, thus creating a separate sphere of aloofness in which to retreat. People often find it difficult to come to terms with themselves without the assistance of a confidante. Perhaps this explains why people sometimes confide very personal and confidential things in utter and complete strangers: they have nobody else in whom to divulge their secrets.
“Let's make quilt pieces out of these messed up curtains, she say. And I run git my pattern book. I sleeps like a baby now” (Walker 44).
Originally, Celie advises Harpo to beat Sofia because Celie believes that domestic violence solves the problems in her marriage to Mr. ______. However, Miss Celie feels intense remorse once she sees the physical evidence of Harpo abusing Sofia. From that point on, Miss Celie and Sofia enjoy a friendship forged by common environments and challenges. Interestingly, the two women do not discuss their difficulties much, but rather choose to focus on lighter, more pleasant things, escaping into a world of their own creation. People tend to find companionship in those who experience similar things as them because they feel that they can empathize with one another more easily and subsequently, feel better about their situations.
“Well, us talk and talk bout God, but I'm still adrift. Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing” (Walker 204).
This passage suggests a shift in Celie's perception of God. She admits to imagining God as an “old white man” at one point, but now she begins to recognize the beauty of everything around her and connect it to the ultimate figure of deity. The color purple often symbolizes royalty or majesty, so Celie's association of God with purple signifies that Celie now views God as royal and majestic. Celie once believed God to be some distant figure far from involved in her life, but the dear friendship of Shug brings new perspective on life to Celie. Celie's attention to the little things and interest in details that once seemed insignificant to her reflect the impact that somebody taking a genuine interest in her have on her and her outlook on life.
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, demonstrates the transformative powers that one person can wield; individuals have the power to completely alter lives, whether their own or that of a friend, for the better, much as Shug does to Miss Celie. This power largely results from the willingness of a person to communicate with other people around them. Shug helps Miss Celie to realize that human beings need and deserve the love that often accompanies this communication to achieve happiness. Although Celie may find love in an atypical way, once she does, she realizes that life has much more to offer than mere survival. Alice Walker uses the concept of diction to demonstrate that strong voice coupled with the ability to assert selfhood can combat oppression effectively.
Undoubtedly, Sofia gains her voice first. Walker chose a particularly strong expletive for Sofia: “Sofia say, Hell no. She say, What you say? Sofia say Hell no” (Walker 90). Sofia repeats the phrase a third time to the mayor's wife and receives years of jail time for her insolence. In this case, Sofia's voice cost her years of quality time with her children and eventually her marriage. However, it does help the overall progress of civil rights, which in turn, fights oppression of racial minorities across the United States. Sofia's boldness in her refusal to watch Miss Millie's children advances the battle against persecution and establishes her as a strong female amongst a world dominated mainly by men.
As a result of Sofia's bravery, Squeak also gains a voice. After a violent rape by the prison warden, Squeak begins to demand respect from Harpo. “Harpo say, I love you Squeak. He kneel down and try to put his arms round her waist. She stand up. My name Mary Agnes, she say” (Walker 102). Squeak, a particularly weak character, endures just as much abuse as the other female characters. She requires respect from a man who ultimately has the power to cause her great harm. Her courage earns her safety from Harpo and a better relationship in the end.
Conversely, Celie finds her voice not by herself, but with the help of her dear companion Shug. Shug, the flamboyant woman who commands respect from all, barrels into Celie's world and undermines all of the weakness that has become ingrained in Celie's mind. She encourages her to ask for more and gives her a good reason to live. Celie can eventually express her thoughts well enough to humble Mr. ______ for his years of abuse. Shug strengthens Celie to such the extent that Celie gains independence and leaves the shackles of Georgia behind.
The voice of women plays a major role in The Color Purple. Sofia, Squeak, and Celie all discover their true worth on their quests to stand up for themselves and acquire the respect that they deserve. And in acquiring that respect, the women battle the cycle of oppression so that those that follow them do not have to experience the same challenges that they did.