A Liberating Exclamation by Celie
“I’m poor, Black, I may even be ugly, but dear God, I’m here! I’m here!” A liberating exclamation by Celie, who, up until this point, had lived most of her life feeling undeserving and invisible. The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a nonfiction novel, detailed from the perspective of the lives of poor black women in Georgia during the 1910s-1940s. Walker is a Georgia born American novelist, poet, short story writer and activist. Walker won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for The Color Purple in 1983. The book focuses primarily on the struggles of black woman due to poverty, racial discrimination, and abuse throughout the south. In this novel, the women are expected to be housebound and take care of men and their families, only to be seen as items and constantly condemned and mistreated. Following the narrator over a period of 30 years of her life as she experiences these struggles as she learns about the world, was well as ultimately discovering a sense of identity. This novel shows its reader that no matter what, it is always important to stay strong and to keep fighting because one will find their truth in the end.
Celie, the narrator of the novel is an uneducated, young black girl living in Georgia with her sister Nettie and her abusive step-father, Alphonso. Celie begins to write letters to God to cope with Alphonso constantly beating and raping her. He was the father of her two children, Adam and Olivia, those of which he stole and gave away to another family soon after each birth. Nettie, who was considered smart and beautiful, helps Celie learn to write and read. In the letters she finds out that her sister is still alive and in each letter she documents her time in Africa on a missionary trip with a couple named Reverend Samuel and Corrine, they’re the couple who adopted Celie’s children. Thirty years later, Nettie finally returns to America with Reverend Samuel and Celie’s children. Celie says that although she is now old, she has never felt younger.
Though the book focuses on the struggles of black woman and men due to poverty and racial discrimination throughout the south, many other important things are happening around the world in the duration that this novel takes place such as, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and WWII are devastating the rest of the world. Economically, the United States is at a serious downturn, and WWII was the largest conflicts in history. Also during this time, was the progressive era of woman standing up, demanding rights, and pushing for social equality and suffrage. As well as, prohibition, school issues, and public health. However, these movements were centered in the best interest of white woman and black women remained struggling for empowerment.
At this period in time, women around the world are refusing to be silenced, especially by men. The main struggle in this book is between the woman and the powerful male dominance that is in their society and households. Men and women during this time period have unhealthy and troubled relationships with one another. Men are thought to work and bring home the money, and women are taught to obey, have children, and tend to the house.
This is true for Celie and Sofia, as well as Ms. Millie, Sofia’s boss and the Mayor’s wife. Although it is seen as a greater honor to be a white housewife than a black one. Black women were not only a doing hard work in their own households, but in white households too. Although this novel takes place in a post slavery society, black women are still used to tend to white people, even having to raise their children. While Sofia is seen raising Mrs. Millies daughter, Harpo is trying to make her obey him by trying to beat her. However, Sofia, unlike Celie, isn’t afraid to fight back. After Celie sees Harpo and Sofia physically fighting in their living room, Sophia says to Celie,“All my life I had to fight. 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, God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before I let him beat me.” Here, Sofia is demonstrating the female angst and defiance against males circulating during this time.
While black men lacked power in the white dominated society, they turned their anger on the female figures in their lives. Black women were being not only oppressed in their own homes by husbands and fathers, but as well as in society by white women and white men. Thus making black women at the very bottom of the rankings in social hierarchy. As the famous quote by Malcolm X goes, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.” The brutal rape and abuse that occurs in Celie’s life causes her to lose her self worth and individuality. Although she has to endure this everyday, she maintains her faith in god and keeps pushing forward. She then meets Shug who helps her restore her identity and empowers her until she is able to stand up to Mr. and move out on her own. Walkers interpretation of this time period is very compelling and eye opening to the internal struggles and anger these woman felt due to the mistreatment that they endured. Through her writing, she expresses their feelings in great detail that makes you feel the agony along with the characters, as well as the many triumphs and moments of tenderness.
Another prominent theme present in this novel is post slavery culture in the South. Although the abolition of slavery had already occured, the economic and social structure to black lives remained primarily the same. Black people were no longer slaves but still were working as sharecroppers, nannies and maids for white people during this time. Many facilities such as schools, chuches, houses, etc. were segregated and there were not many opportunities for black people to create a better life for themselves. However, black people were beginning to own their own businesses.
For example, Celie’s biological father owned a corner store in which he took great pride in because he had the rare opportunity to make a living for himself and family. His store and life was taken away from him when a group of white men burned down his store and lynched him because they claimed he was taking away their business. It was reasons like these that black people were afraid to make a name for themselves. Walker accurately depicts to racism that continued throughout the south and that black people, even now, are seen as a inferior and continue to be subject to bigotry. Contrarily, things like this do not stop Shug from singing around the world in clubs because she is not afraid to be herself, she also helps Celie not give up on her dream of sewing pants and she eventually is able to open her own store and they become widely popular.
Although some of the scenes can be very graphic in the book, Walker does a great job in detailing the turmoil these woman go through daily with the abuse from their husbands and the things they are expected to do in everyday life. Each character in the story starts of with an underlying conflict whether it be internally or externally that they struggle with daily. For Celie, it was her self worth and finding her voice as a poor black woman who was abused all of her life. In the end she finds herself and becomes confident, and comfortable in her own skin.
This book is great for a student who is taking APUSH next year. This is because this novel was incredibly interesting and captivating, this book was read in matter of about two and a half days because it was so hard to put it down. It felt like an honor to read this book because the message and the story is a staple in black culture and is thought of as a must see or read. However, this book would only helpful to students who are interested in learning about the perspective of black lives and struggles during this time period, particularly black woman.
This book is in fact valuable historically, because of the way it brings into light the oppression of black women in society, as well as their own homes. This isn’t something that is widely known, spoken, or discussed in the historical education system. The Color Purple is written in such an abhorrent way because of its portrayal of racism and sexual violence. The author uses such great details about the characters and they way the feel and do things that causes one to connect with them and become attached. For these reasons, The Color Purple is a valuable literary resource, giving the reader an enthralling insite of the lives of black women in the early 1900s.
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A liberating exclamation by Celie. (2019, Dec 18). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-liberating-exclamation-by-celie/
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