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Untitled Essay Research Paper By Jennifer CroweAlice

Untitled Essay, Research Paper

By Jennifer Crowe

Alice Walker does not like to be called a feminist. Instead she prefers to

use the term: womanist. Walker defines a womanist as being a Black Feminist.

The word derives from the phrase ‘You’re acting womanish…’ willfull

or outrageous. As she defines it, it’s a woman who loves other women, sexually

or non-sexually and men sexually and non sexually. It’s also a woman

who loves music, loves to dance, and who loves her spirit. Walker states

that a…’woman is to feminist as lavender is to purple’.

So why would I choose the book, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, to illustrate

my views on the “feminist approach” to literary theory? I believe

The Color Purple to be the most complex, real and truthful novel I have ever

read. Walker does not hide the harsh realities that Black woman had to, or

still have to suffer. However, not only did Walker apply the feminist approach

to literary theory, she also managed to use the common sense approach.

The book was written in what Alice termed as “Black Folks English.” It was

the kind of speech that wouldn’t intimidate men and women whom she knew all

her life. Walker just presumes that her “alien” readers will understand

the language. When I first began the book, I had trouble understanding words

such as ‘cussing’ (p. 4) and ‘git’ (p. 68). After awhile,

however, one begins to slowly unravel the language, and smile at the mistakes

the characters make, and how different other cultures can be.

Walker also believes that her opinion is right. She says that she is not

a feminist as such, however she manages to drive the maltreatment of Black

woman home. Quotes such as ‘…he [Mr. ______ ] beat me like he beat

the children. Cept he don’t never hardly beat them. He say, Celie git

the belt. The children be outside the room, peeking through the

cracks…’ (p. 22) really manage to shock the readers, and help us

picture the wrong that has been placed on woman in general. ‘She [Sofia]

say, All my life I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had

to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family

of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house …

I loves Harpo, she say. God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before

I let him beat me’ (p. 38). Those few lines manages to sum up the point

that Alice Walker appears to be trying to convey: women seem to be getting

tired of being taken advantage of, and are starting to stand!

up for their own rights.

Walker paints colourful characters in The Color Purple, each of them undergoing

a series of changes. In the beginning of the novel, Celie proves herself

to be a pathetic character, almost begging the readers to say she should

stand up to Mr. ______ and fight back. Sofia is a tough character, but her

experiences show that fighting back does not work. Shug Avery begins are

a mistrusting role model for Celie, but actually proves herself to be a force

of strength for her in the end.

The men start off as being the strong ones in the novel, however as their

flaws being to show, and the women (especially Celie) start to rebuild their

lives, the men become weaker, and weaker. Shug begins to show Celie the truth

about the relationships between the men and women, in the patriarchal society

they live in, in the following statements: ‘Man corrupt everything,

say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio.

He try to make you think he everywhere. Soon as you think he everywhere,

you think he God. But he ain’t. Whenever you trying to pray, and man

plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure

up flowers, wind, water, a big rock. But this hard work, let me tell you.

He been there so long, he don’t want to budge. He threaten lightning,

floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Everytime I conjure

up a big rock, I throw it.’ (p. 168).

‘Although she received a lot of praise for her novel, Walker received

criticism from some in the African-American community who thought her novel

portrayed black men in negative stereotypical fashion as abusers and

rapists.’ I believe that Walker did not aim to portray the men in her

novels as such violent abusers, however there must have been some truth in

her story, as it seemed straight from the heart. In the view of feminist

criticism, Walker proved herself a true “womanist”, allowing the

issue of patriarchy to shine through with her portrayal of Mr. ______, and

Celies “father”. Gender equality was also evident, as the woman

worked in the field, and yet still came home to prepare a meal, serve their

husbands, and well as their friends drinks.

‘Mr. ______ not going to let his wife wear pants’ (p. 124) is a

classic example of gender equality, as well as it being perfectly acceptable

for Celies “father” to choose who she may marry.

Walker managed to captivate me from the very first line in the book, and

as I read on I found myself thinking The Color Purple to be a perfect way

to illustrate feminism in literary criticism. Walker laid the cold facts

down, and allowed us to become aware of them. She believes she is right,

as one can tell from her strong language and shocking contents. I am interested

to read more works by Walker, as I am sure she shall tackle the issues as

she has done so effectively in The Color Purple.