Advanced Literature 11
16 March 2018
Liberation From Sexism and Patriarchy in The Color Purple
From the earliest of civilized societies, both, men and women have had separated roles in society. Oftentimes it is the man who is placed as the head of the household, leader of a community, or ruler of a nation. In relation, women are often given the household duties, such as, raising and educating children, cooking, cleaning, etc. From these differing responsibilities, one trend becomes evident; men are the dominant physical rulers in society. Alice Walker explores this development in her novel, The Color Purple. Through the social liberation of African American and woman protagonist Celie, Walker communicates the possibility of rebelling against one’s injustice place in society. Realizing her value, Celie stands against her oppressors and demands her place as a powerful woman in society. In The Color Purple, Alice Walker uses symbolism, imagery, and epistolary structure to convey her theme of women's liberation from persecution, sexism, and patriarchy.
Walker’s symbolism within the novel indicates Celie’s transition from an oppressed woman into an independent individual. Of these symbols, perhaps the most relevant is one that goes unnoticed: pants. For most of her life, Celie never wore pants because she, like her society, saw pants to be solely purposed for man. Her decision to attire herself with such a piece of masculine apparel, and even more so to start a pants-making business, allows her to rid herself of some of the physical and visual regulations of gender within the society. This development has been agreed by different authors over time; writer Trudier Harris, explains in his article, “From Victimization to Free Enterprise,” “Celie learned to abandon her vindictive state of mind and found peace through abandoning social norms. Pants no longer brought fear into her mind but strength and rebellion” (Harris). This small and seemingly inconsequential act of defiance allows Celie to begin her liberation from patriarchy. At one point in the novel, Celie and Shug converse on this specific topic:
“Well, she say, looking me up and down, let's make you some pants.”
“What I need pants for? I say. I ain't no man.”
“Don't git uppity,” she say. “But you don't have a dress do nothing for you. You not made
like no dress pattern neither.”
“I don't know, I say. Mr.___ not going to let his wife wear pants.” (Walker 146)
Celie’s creation of the pants-making business also helps her take a step toward her independence by providing her with a stable income. Charmaine Eddy writes in her article, "Marking the body: the Material Dislocation of Gender,” how Walker indicates the rarity of women wearing pants during Celie’s time period, which shows the difference between Celie and Shug’s world. However, once Shug helps Celie make her first pair of pants, Celie opens a new beginning for Shug. (Eddy). Celie’s pants-making business becomes a...