THE COLOR PURPLE
This book is written from a unique writer, Alice Walker, that tells a story of black women and which some parts could be a story of her own as a black woman. She demonstrates the brutal living conditions of what women face and how they live with abusive, arrogant male partners with more pressure from the white domination. Walker intends to show the imbalance of freedom, liberation and equality. The main character, Celie, becomes a link towards female consciousness as she goes through a journey of hardship and later a heroine. (Ping & Jinling: 2006).
Women are transformed to what they are usually known for to unheard stories like those of Celie’s story. Gender roles are questioned and the concepts of married wives at home are revealed under shocking circumstances. Celie acts as a voice for young girls that go through a journey of silence and no control over their livelihood. The black cultural heritage is presented into the book and Walker challenges the domination of the male species which is quite similar to the white domination; the desire to control.
LANGUAGE AND GENDER
Walker’s work is more of a Black feminist, not only does she point out the patriarchal oppression but voice out the stories of black women. Walker demonstrates the lines between femininity and masculinity. She develops her characters through analysing gender roles and the impact they have on one another.
Gender is explored through language; men and women use the same words but can be said differently. When a woman embraces her feminine side it becomes part of her culture which Simone de Beauvior states. Nettie sends a picture to Celie of the Olinka wives and talks about how these women were treated remind her so much of their vicious father. They lived in a male dominated environment and had to respond to the men’s instructions. The women are taught a submissive language as to always obey while men use language to gain power. Power is only known to be for a male being only and since women are not educated their first goal is to marry in the Olinka culture. Tashi’s parents were not supportive of her interests of studying and learning with Olivia (Celie’s daughter); she can only be regarded as something once she marries. They believed that a woman’s identity can only be defined through her husband and the greatest victory would be to marry the chief. Once a woman rebels against her husband she will be sold and is considered useless.
A bravery character, Sofia, that chooses to not be suppressed by anyone even the white domination. She stands up for herself and fights her way through abusive men. Her strength to fight back makes Harpo father dislike her more. Harpo tries to be the masculine one and have control over Sofia but he has been following instructions from his father that he does not know how to take control. Sofia has masculine features and seems to be in more control over their relationship. However later on, Sofia gets a new boyfriend that has the common features of a tall black masculine man but is not violent and harsh; Sofia is still able to remain the dominant figure in the relationship. Walker shows the intention of women having the desire to think as they please and to act against violence and inequality with a character like Sofia.
Shug has both feminine and masculine characteristics, she in between the lines of what is expected from a woman and what a woman desires. Shug introduces Celie to a world of freedom, bravery, and happiness. Celie becomes more aware of her sexuality and attraction towards Shug. Shug also inspires Celie to sew pants not only for men but for women too; they grow into having a more than a “friend” relationship.
Shug makes Celie aware of God, she describes God as “it” and is everywhere around us including the “color purple field”. The God that Celie prays to and writes letters to is right beside her. When she realises that God is actually in every aspect of her life just like how nature surrounds her, she begins to refer God as Dear Stars, Sky. Trees, Everything. Her image of God transforms from a white male figure that the white race describes Him as to a loving Mother Nature which Shug shows to Celie.
The gender conflicts experienced in society can only be explained through social relations. How men and women treat one another socially becomes their everyday routine and it is up to individuals to act to according to how they feel what may be right or normal. Overall race plays a role in the social environment; one is treated differently based on their race which impacts their social interaction towards others. Miss Millie (the mayor’s wife) takes advantage of Sofia by mistreating her and putting her in prison, she then later becomes her maid. Sofia had a stable financial status with her boyfriend and could not tolerate the unfairness of the white race, but Miss Millie could still take away everything away from her because she is white and represents the male domination.
In the black culture even the different shades of colour, makes people treat them differently. Mr._’s father disapproves of Shug, simply because is considered as “black as tar”. On the other hand, Squeak, which is Harpo’s girlfriend, is more pride in her lighter complexion. She discovers she is related to Bubber Hodges, her uncle (a white man). This explains her lighter complexion that the black community finds pleasant especially to men. When she goes over to Hodges to help Sofia with her time in jail, she is raped by her own family member. Squeak is still considered weak, vulnerable and insecure even though she has a white relation. The authority seems to only belong to men and this shows a cycle of abusive men whether black or white. (Pi-Li Hsiao, 2008).
Pi-Li Hsiao. (2008). Language, Gender, And Power in the Color Purple. Available: http://www.scribd.com/doc/213193066/Language-Gender-And-Power-in-the-Color-Purple#scribd
Ping & Jinling. (2006). The Color Purple and Alice Walker’s Female Consciousness. Available: http://en.genderstudy.cn/html/scholar/4686-0.htm