In ‘The Color Purple’ Walker shows that the empowering relationships between women can outweigh the suppression inflicted upon them by men.
To what extent do you agree?
Alice Walker was raised by African American farmers during the feminist and civil rights movement, her novel, ‘The Color Purple’, was inspired by stories of her ancestors and her concern for not only women, but specifically the greater extent of oppression inflicted on black women. The novel reflects the attitudes of early 1900 society, exploring the status of black women and how acceptable it was for men to oppress them. Through her targeted concern, she came up with the term womanism; she stated “womanism is to a feminist as purple is to lavender”, to encompass the perspective of black women. Despite the degree of suppression inflicted on women, walker explores how bonds between women evoke their independence and strength, empowering each other through boosting confidence and self-love.
Walker utilises the voice of a young black girl Celie from the age of 14 years old, for 40 years. As a consequence of sexual abuse from her ‘father’, being oppressed by race and gender, she is forced to feel worthless and blames herself. Celie’s only way of liberation is through letters to God. These letters highlight her lack of education through her poor spelling and grammar, “He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it. But I don't never git used to it. And now I feels sick every time I be the one to cook.” Celie’s letters make extensive use of direct speech, which makes the account of her experiences dramatic and immediate. Celie’s narrative deepens the sympathy we feel towards the characters and therefore the readers are exposed to neglected issues such as the fact African-American women are silenced by men and also how the discovery of a voice allows them to achieve freedom from oppression. The letters follow a female literary tradition, diaries and letters were the only means of expression for women in the early 1900s. Walker’s purpose is to show the ill treatment black women have endured and to show how they have struggled to free themselves. In effect, through her letters, Celie literally writes herself into being as she changes from being a young, confused teenager into an older, self-confident adult. By choosing Celie as the narrative, Walker creates a significant feminist focus. Therefore, evokes both sympathy towards the oppression of women and celebration of their empowerment.
Celie’s relationship with Shug is very significant. Shug is the first person Celie feels a sexual attraction to, through this she is introduced to self-worth; doing things for her because she wants to, not because she has to. After being brought up constantly told she had no worth, Alfonso tells her “you black, you ugly, you a woman, you nothing”. Walker emphasises the extent of oppression inflicted by men when Celie suggests sex was only for male pleasure “You never enjoy...