The Color Purple Essay, Research Paper
/Question. Choose a movie from the list provided below or find a newspaper story which depicts a social issue over time. (If you choose the latter, include copies of all relevant newspaper clippings).
Movie: The Color Purple
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The Color Purple is the richly textured, decades-spanning story of Celie, an uneducated woman living in the rural American south. Forced to marry a brutal man she calls “Mr.,” Celie turns and shares her grief only with God. She is transformed by the friendships of two women, acquiring self-worth, and the strength to forgive. We see issues like power in the family, white power over blacks, oppression, invisible walls; we also see private troubles and public issues that are evident and will be addressed. I will discuss the role of ‘Ideological Power’ and show how it is conveyed. I will speak about a character in the story that is different from myself and give my opinion on his or her character. I will also pick out a character I do not like in the movie and express my opinion as to why I do not like him or her. All these will be looked at in the following essay.
The theme in this story is about a young girl who suffers right from a young child through her adult years. Since Celie was a young child, she was abused by her father, abused by her husband, and abused also by society. The abuse centered in a community where there were many invisible walls and they were very easy to distinguish in this movie. The most significant invisible wall in this story is the color of their skin. At this time in history blacks were looked at as the lesser race. Although a lot has changed, racism still exists today. Whites owned the businesses and the stores; they ruled the country by electing white politicians. If blacks wanted to fit in, they worked for the whites as servants, maids’ etc. Blacks were segregated to their own little communities and mingled with their own. One point in the story shows Celie in a store being asked by the owner to leave if she was not going to buy anything. This attitude is carried throughout the movie and surfaces again with Sophia (Harpo’s wife) in town with her children. The Mayor’s wife makes a remark to the children about how clean they are and if they wanted to be her made. Sophia speaks up and says “Hell no.” This was a major turning point in Sophia’s life because after she was confronted by a group of whites and bludgond to the ground, Sophia worked for Miss Millie, the Mayors wife. This is where the audience clearly sees racism and classism.
When identifying ‘private troubles and public issues,’ there are many we see in this movie. The incest abuse of Celie by her father is supported by Celie having babies very early in life and her father telling her not to tell anyone but God. Celie is sold to a man who really wanted Nettie the other sister, and would continue to abuse Celie by physically beating her, raping (I say rape because it was against her will) and mentally hurting her. In these days the family problems stayed in the family and were not yet public issues. The public issues, which would now take place are child abuse, abuse, alcohol abuse, family violence, grief, incest, racism, and sexual abuse to name a few. We can see how far social work has come over the years by seeing these problems and setting up programs to help families work together as a unit.
Both the female and male characters in the movie express power and oppression. The male of the family holds the power for most of the show. The wife or family must cater to him or risk getting beatings. The female of the house lives in oppression and does what she is told. Nettie comes to visit her sister Celie and is forced to leave when she refuses to give Mister (Celi’s husband) the sexual favors he asks for. Mail is kept from Celie for years and Nettie didn’t know if she is dead or alive. This was mentally draining on both of the girls as they lost each other’s friendship. At the same time outside the black community the whites continue to oppress the blacks by treating them as the lesser of the two races. They are forced into their own communities, pushed around outside the community and work for the whites if they want to mingle. For a black to own a business meant that they would cater to their own kind. Examples of this would be Harpo’s Jube Joint where Shug Avery would sing and other blacks would party. Celie would also open a clothing store with her inheritance and sell her wares to other blacks in the community. I illustrate my thoughts about this power in a poem that I wrote at the end of this essay.
Concerning Ideological power, we see examples of this in the black family by the way the women are treated. The father of Celie’s husband believes that women should be put into their place, and tells his son to take control of the household. We see this happening at the family dinner table when Celie finally decides to leave with Shug Avery and her husband. When Celie does finally stand up to husband, he looses control of the family way. This is very undesirable to him, as he would not be able to control his wife anymore. Celie not only stands up for herself, but for black women all over the country. This is a turning point in the movie as to how things are done in the black family. Ideologies come from ideas forming the basis for political, economic or social system. Whites treat blacks unfairly by enslaving them and the black female of the household is a slave to the husband.
Language is used in different ways in the movie to define what is normal or abnormal. There is one scene where Celie and Shug are sitting on Celie’s bed after witnessing a fight at the Jube Joint. Shug shows Celie what a real kiss is like on the lips, and Celie shows she wants more. The scene leaves the audience unsure if the kiss is innocent, or suggests lesbianism. This could also be thought of as the outcome of a history of sexual abuse, from other parts of the family. The language of anger is brought into the story by physical abuse, sexual abuse etc. At one point we see Celie’s husband raping her as if it doesn’t matter if she consents to it or not. This is the way life is according to the male and whether or not the wife agrees, it doesn’t matter as long as he’s in control.
Celie is very different from me in regards to the way she was brought up. She comes into the world black, born to poor farmers, and lives a life of oppression. I admire her standing up to her husband and refusing to take the beatings anymore. She blossomed from a girl too scared to speak, to changing the way black women are treated. Women of any race should be treated with respect if not equal. I really had a problem with the father of Celie’s husband. He carried old-time values of the way a family should be run and continued to push these values on his son. These values were eventually spread to other members of the family such as when Celie told Harpo to beat his wife when she wouldn’t listen. A bad seed can spoil plenty if you let it. If I had to work with the family in a working relationship, I would redefine family roles. He was hanging on to what he was taught, and this tells me that the family really was important to him. He needs education and adjustment as to how to keep a family together without the abuse.
This movie is very powerful and shows a turning point in history as to how women can speak for themselves. Celie and her sister were reunited at the end of the show, and Celie’s husband ended up alone. The audience is let with a good feeling as to how things worked out for the Celie and I feel her husband deserved to be alone at the end. This movie demonstrates a message of hope to the oppressed and should inspire all to bring about change as to how society is run.
Spielburg, Steven (Producer and Director) & Duval, Allen (Co Producer). (1985). The Color Purple [movie]. Hollywood, Ca.: Speilburg Produtions.