Discuss Alice Walker’s presentation of the plight of women in a mans’ world in “The Color Purple”Throughout the story, men mistreat many women. Through the collection of letters that Celie wrote, the reader could see that Celie has struggled for her happiness her entire life. As a positive criticism, Gloria Steinem believes that the reason Celie changes from writing to god to Nettie is because ‘she must tell some one the truth and confirm her existence’.
When she was only a little girl, her stepfather sexually abused her. He than sold her to a man named Albert or Mr._____ who had no intention of loving her, ‘No matter what I feel. It just him’. Mr. _____ verbally and physically abused her. He made her do all the housework and demanded that she took care of his children, ‘they look at me there struggling with Mr._____ children’.
If Celie refused, she was punished. In the marriage of Celie and Albert there was no love or devotion1.They were just stuck with each other. Celie married Albert because her stepfather told her to and Albert married Celie because he wanted a full time maid. Albert gave orders and Celie like a duty full wife carried out these orders. The women in those days were thought of as something that a man owned.
Once the woman was his he was to do what he pleased with her2. Celie was to obey him and only him, she was to be with him and only him and did not matter whether he was faithful to her or not. Celie was like a slave3.
‘He does his business on top of me’.4 Celie wrote this in her journal. This shows that having sex wasn’t to deal with love or even passion; it was just Albert doing what he had to do. Through all these traumatizing events, Celie lost respect for her and forgot how to love. Her life was full of darkness, without a single trace of life.5However, Celie met a woman named Shug. The relationship between Shug and Celie cuts very deep.
Both of them help each other become what they really need to be. Celie depended on Shug for love and security. Being constantly told that she was ugly had affected her; Celies sense of self-esteem was exceedingly low. ‘But what you got? You ugly. You skinny. You shape funny.
You too scared to open your mouth to people…. You not that good a cook either…
. This house ain’t been clean good since my first wife died. And nobody crazy or backward enough to want to marry you, neither’. That kind of verbal (and often physical) abuse was part of Celie’s life. Celie forgot how to love because of this. Shug taught Celie about love. Once Celie loved Shug, she was then ready to love herself.
Once Celie started loving herself, it became easier for her to spread out her love to the surroundings and the people in it. The love that Celie and Shug had for each other can be interrupted as a sort of lesbianism6. When Shug leaves Celie, Celie goes through a crisis. Shug had taught her a lot of things; Celie had depended solely on Shug for company, for love, for caring. When Shug was not there, Celie learned how to take care of herself.
At that moment, she became truly independent. Philip Royster said that the most important contribution to Walker’s political visions is ‘the pivotal role the erotic plays in Celie’s movement toward freedom’. He also added that it is through Celie’s awareness of her right to the passion, creativity, and satisfaction possibly in life that she empowers herself.
Another character presented by Alice Walker is Sofia. Sofia is portrayed as a strong woman. She too is, insulted, beaten and underestimated, she is willing to change the system and change the image of black women that American black and white men possess. She wants to change the system but the society breaks her7.Sofia is a radical woman, who would do anything to be treated equally with the rest of the world8.
Sofia is discriminated against by Harpo, who is taught by Mr._____, and he believes that men are superior, that women exist in this world to serve the males and to have babies, and also they serve the use of being beaten, when something troubles them or simply because they are women and there wives. ‘Harpo ast his daddy why he beat me. Mr._____ say, cause she my wife’.
Mr._____ says this to convince his son that women serve no use other that work, have babies and be beaten. Harpo, following his father’s example, goes on to beat Sofia. But Sofia’s response is unexpected. Harpo thought Sofia was going to act like Celie and do what she was told to do, but this strong woman, beat Harpo, who is a weak character. Harpo continues to try to make Sofia mind about his superiority, but she does not want to undergo all these problems any more, and decides to leave Harpo and seek for a better life. This is an example of her fight for equality, or superiority of the female gender in the world. In the novel, The Color Purple, Celie’s and Sofia’s lives are a menagerie of limited choices, imprisonment and abuse, which greatly impacts their view of self.
9In the past, women had dreams to be free or being successful. Yet they could never fulfil their fantasies because of men. However, by helping each other and teaching them to feel alive, Women could overcome all obstacles in any situation. Alice Walker has presented women in the light of truth, in the past women have been treated badly and Walker has shown this through the life of Celie who is the main character in the novel, a young black woman growing up in the poverty of south. In order to find her self and gain independence, Celie must deal with all abuse including racism and poverty.Males are portrayed in many different ways in the novel ‘The Color Purple’. All men are portrayed fairly of bad characters although there is some good imagery of men too. The four male main characters in the novel are Alfonso, Mr.
_____ Samual, Adam and Jack. Some of these characters are portrayed good and others as bad. From the beginning of the novel we get bad imagery of Alanso, Celies stepfather. We see him as a child molester, a wife beater and an overall bad husband. ‘He never had a kine word to say to me. Just say you gonna do what your mammy wouldn’t’. Richard Wesley said that as a black man himself he found very little to be offensive to the images of black man and those that do object are the ones that are trying to sweep the past up under the rug. Wesley also added that he believes that if black women writers like Alice Walker are to be criticized for ‘decaying the insensitivity of black man to black women,’ then shouldn’t black male writers that broached the same subject have to come in front of the same crowd and account for their literary transgression.
On the other hand we have Mr. _____ whose image goes from bad in the beginning of the novel, to good towards the end. In the beginning Mr. _____ is a horrible husband who looks at Celie in the same way as her stepfather did.
Harpo is another male character whose male image changes throughout the novel.Women bond with each other to protect one another. For example the time Kate defends Celie and orders Harpo to ‘git that bucket and bring it back full’ this indicates how women defend Celie as oppose to men who abuse her.10 Watkins illustrates how ‘Celie frees her husbands repressive control bolstered by her contacts with other women and by her affection for her younger sister.11As a result by helping each other through struggles and hard ship, also by being companions to each other, Alice Walker has shown that women can overcome all obstacles and can fight to be equal in the world of men. We see the theme of sisterhood reoccurring between the women throughout the novel.