The colour purple is set in ruralGeorgia. The genre of the novel is fiction and drama which mainly focuses onthe African-American women in the 1930s who faced many issues living in apatriarchal society. Walker explored themes such as racism, segregation,discrimination and feminism which was apparent in the 1930s. Walker uses thesethemes to throughout the novel to act out what was happening in the reality.
Although slavery was long outlawed, its effects were still heavily felt bythose African- American people still living in southern united states. Racism and discrimination was veryapparent in society as the ‘black men’ would be discriminated and humiliatedfor the colour of the skin and because they could not retaliate they would takeit out on their women. Women would then have to face double the oppression asseen throughout the novel from each female character such as Celie. The readerssee Celie tell her story through her letters to God about the suffering she hadto endure for more than half her life. The character Celie represents most ofthe black women who faced the double oppression she faced for more than fortyyears, being sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her ‘father’ andhusband, Celie cannot find a voice of her own and writes to only God to seeksome sort of comfort. Celie represented a lot of the black women facingdiscrimination and oppression their own partners and the society they live in. The letters Celie writes shows herpoor literacy skills, evidently shown in her letters which consists of spellingmistakes, short simple sentences and limited vocabulary.
Celie spellsphonetically because she writes how she speaks and because she is uneducatedshe has not been taught the formal way or writing or speaking but through herfragile state she tries to find help through her letters to God. Walkerpurposely uses this to show the readers how a young uneducated black girl isshowing her struggle with all the problems she faces even though she is not educatedenough to formulate a proper sentence, she looks to God to try and save herfrom abuse she is enduring. The readers are shown from the beginning of thenovel, Letter 1, Celie quotes what her father has said to her ‘you better notnever tell nobody but God. It’d kill you mother’ because of the installed fearfrom her father, Celie looks to no one but God for comfort and guidance. Celieis inspired by other female characters such Sofia and Shug who show confidencewithin themselves and the ability to stand against any man who tries tobelittle them.
The women in the novel help each other through their friendshipsWalker shows Celie progression ingaining confidence within herself to stand up to Mr and take charge of her ownlife. The readers see this throughout the novel, Celie understanding herenvironment but becomes more confident enough to have her own voice.The extracts that I have chosenfrom The colour purple is page 34, 35, 75 which presents the abuse womensuffered from their men, especially they’re own men and the racism they facedin society. For my non-literary text I have the chosen ‘Iknow why the caged bird sings’ by Maya Angelou. The reason for choosing this isbecause Maya’s autobiography is written from her personal experience of beingsexually abused by close family members and the discrimination she facesthrough her childhood and adult life. Maya Angelou is a civil rights activist,best known for one of her most celebrated books ‘I know why the caged birdsings’ and is a respected spokesperson for black people and women. Throughoutthe autobiography the readers learn of the many obstacles Maya faced, leadingup to the age of 17 when she began her career as a civil rights activist.
Angelouuses her autobiography to project the themes of identity, abuse and racism.Similar themes used in the colour purple like the character Celie, Angelou’syounger self also represent most of the black women living in America, a maledominated society at the time. With both the literary andnon-literary material, I am going to focus on the linguistic devices used toexert the themes of racism, oppression of women and feminisms that makes theaudience understand the moral of the stories. Maya Angelou’s autobiographyillustrates the strength of a character that overcomes the trauma and racismfaced in society and finds her love for literature. Whereas, Walker presents asimilar purpose, the character Celie has a love for sewing and pursues afterovercoming the trauma she has gone through most of her life. The readers mostlylikely consist of young adults/ adults reading both texts. 791 ReviewMary, K.
(2012) writes about thecurrent laws that are now being altered to protect families and women of harm. Violenceagainst women ‘goes beyond beating’ and it includes forced marriages, martialrape, forced abortion and emotional abuse. Walker also writes of Celie’sexperiences of abuse that she had to endure that damages her self- esteem andsense of self that it takes her years of courage to stand up for herself. However, changing attitudesaccording to Ms.
Kaba (2012) is that ‘we have to get more women to know theirlegal rights’ she argues that it can benefit society when women are offeredbetter protection. Walker makes it clear throughout the novel how importantfemale relationships are in order to regain a voice and be a strong individual.Whereas Walker presents Celie as a weak character in the beginning who onlyconfides her problem through her letters to God.
Towards the end Celie developsa strong sense of self and is confident and assured in herself to stand up toher husband and live her own life.Tracey Playle (2003) identifies theomission is deliberate and significant ‘I have always been a good girl’. Bycrossing through the verb ‘to be’ Celie is removed from being. In other words,she does not exist in her own right, she has no sense of identity or selfhood.Although Celie is after all a black women struggling with the white man’slanguage, Playle points out that Celie cannot successfully define her ownidentity through the ‘voice and form of a culture to which she does not belong’.Celie successfully towards the end of the novel gains a sense of self which isimportant according to Kaba in order for to be better protected in society. Mel Watkins (1982) identifies thatas the novel progresses Celie grows in experience ‘her observations becomesharper and more informed’. A number of memorable female characters emerge suchas Shug whose pride, independence and appetite for living acts as ‘catalyst forCelie and others’.
This leads to Celieand Sofia to leave the overbearing husbands but to challenge the oppressionthey face in society. Anita Sethi describes Maya Angelounovel ‘I know why caged bird sings’ as the ‘painful’ experiences of being’unwanted’ that haunts Angelou early childhood as she also undergoes the traumaof rape but finds her voice and a love for language and books. Whereas Celieused her knitting to make a living for herself. James Baldwin also describesAngelou’s novel ‘liberating’ for the readers into life simply because Mayaangelou ‘confronts her own life with such a luminous dignity’ the novel showsthe strength May have to overcome the trauma she has suffered at the hands of afamily member and allowing the readers into her world. AnalysisHow do Walker and Angelou create a narrative voice for the character?The language used by Celie does notfollow non-standard language, reflects her background, her dialect in ruralGeorgia. Celie writes the way she speaks, with no grammar or punctuation usedproperly.
Celie’s letters are not written in standard English but in her folkvoice in the style of direct address. Through her letters to God the readersunderstand that Celie is an uneducated young black female, who struggles toformulate sentences to express how she is feeling or capture what she is seesor tries to explain. The novel starts off with Celie’s first letter to God, thereaders are caught off guard as this is not a prayer or the usual letter to godbut a description of the sexual violence Celie has started to endure at the ageof 14. Celie describes the act using words such as ‘titties’, ‘his thing’ and’pussy’ to describe the act as she is still a young innocent girl, thereforethese are only terms she knows.
Walker uses dialect and literacydevices to express the moral of the story through on of the main charactersthrough Celie whose language is a typical representation of the many uneducatedblack young girls living in rural Georgia. For example, Instead of Celie to usesay ‘ask’ she writes ‘ast’. This puts the readers into the world of the ruraluneducated black people living in Georgia in the 1930s.
Although Celie hasdifficulty expressing her feelings and thoughts in her letters to God, thereaders are able to understand the hardship Celie Is still going through andtherefore feel empathy for the Character. Walker’s use of language presents themany women who would have to face oppression with no one to look for comfort orencouragement and therefore the only person Celie conforms all her problems tois God. Furthermore, Celie is after all a black women struggling with the whiteman’s language, Playle points out that Celie cannot successfully define her ownidentity through the ‘voice and form of a culture to which she does notbelong’.From the early diary entries, wesee that Celie is writing exactly as she speaks and thinks only towards the endof the novel Celie gains enough self-esteem to sign her name with pride whereasshe did not before because she may have felt that she was of sufficient worthto sign her name. Celie successfully towards the end of the novel gains a senseof self which is important according to Kaba in order for to be betterprotected in society. Similarly, Angelou also describesthe events of being sexually abused at a young age and the trauma she went throughthat left her feeling guilt and shame of been sexually abused, she seems toonly find comfort from Bailey and only speaks to him, whereas in the ‘Thecolour purple’ Celie finds comfort from God. The silence represents the traumaMaya goes through, she can no longer find her voice or seek the help she needsin order to move on from this difficult experience. However, towards the endMaya finds help from Mrs Bertha who helps her to regain her voice through thebooks of poetry given to her.
Similarly, Celie is comforted by Shug andinspired by Sofia with their own strengths that help take part in her standingup for herself against her husband. How are pronouns used to portray the character’s views?Through Celie’s letter, Walkerrefers to the characters only with pronouns such as ‘she’, he’ and ‘they’. Therepetition of masculine pronouns in Celie’s letter suggests Mr_’s dominanceover her. The short and ellipticalsentences ‘Mr__’ adds drama and convey the strength of Celie’s feelings. Celiemay have not been able to see his name because of the power and control herhusband had over her to the point she may have felt that she was of sufficientworth to sign her name. As well pronouns being used to refer to everyone elsearound Celie.
From the first letter, Imagery is used to describe the vividabuse Celie endures from her father, ‘he pushed his thing inside my pussy’ thisproduces a feeling of mental and physical abuse, Celie is going through at 14 yearsold. The abuse Celie endures throughout the novel is the same abuse black womenfaced in society at the time from white people and at the hands of their ownmen due to their own fear of being lynched they took out all frustration onthem which is the case for Celie. The use of onomatopoeia is deliberately usedto show how young and un educated Celie is, she writes exactly how she wouldspeak, which is the only way she knows how to get her message across toGod. Whereas, Angelou uses metaphorswhen referring to everyone else around her, the first encounter of a metaphoris the title which Angelou uses to describe how the caged sings because shefeels caged in herself. Angelou describe her mother would be ‘to write about ahurricane in its perfect power’.
Her mother is described as a hurricane,suggesting that mother can be dangerous and powerful, but there is somethingabout that pulls people in she appears beautiful yet harmless and charms thosearound her. Maya also compares racism to situations it creates a tragic play ‘Wewere like actors who, knowing the play by heart, were still able to cry afreshover the old tragedies and laugh spontaneously at the comic situations.’ Inthis simile Maya describes the conflict she has with street clerk even thoughthey have no personal history with each other, there must be conflict because racismdictates it. She compares the both of them to the two characters in one of Shakespeare’splays Hamlet and Laertes, two characters doomed to fight because of theirancestor’s mistakes. This comparison is significant because Maya shows thereaders that instead of people to take responsibility for their actions andstop the cruelty they inflict on others, the replicate and repeat thoseactions. How is Dramatic Irony used?Celie is envious and jealous ofSofia’s strong character. Sofia refuses back down from a fight if anybody pickson her and Celie admires this quality, but because of Celie’s jealousy ofSofia, she advises Harpo, the husband to beat Sofia. This is irony becauseCelie does not like being beaten by her husband but puts Sofia in harm’s way.
The similes used ‘wives is like children’ isadvice from Mr.__ encourage Harpo to beat his wife into submission. However,when Harpo comes back looking worse with ‘one of his eyes shut like a fish’ afterhe tried to beat Sophia, seems to backfire because he comes backing lookingworse than Sophia which shows just how strong of a character she is. This isironic because the reader would think that the man would be the one to come outunaffected by the fight, but the exact opposite happens. In addition, thereaders understand why Celie encourages Harpo to harm Sofia, Sofia begins tounderstand why Celie told Harpo to do this because Celie is jealous of Sofia’sstrength and confidence, something Celie does not possess and therefore wantsSofia to feel just as weak as she does.
However, towards the end Harpo reformshis ways and effectively continues to cook, clean and takes care of hischildren which breaks the stereotypical gender roles that males should be moredominant than women. The colloquial language used by all the characters in thenovel suggests that the majority of black people in the 1930s at the time, thelanguage was ‘informal’. Playle also suggests that Celie is one of the manyblack people struggling with the white man’s language. Whereas in ‘I know why the cagedbird sings’ dramatic irony is used, Maya’s rape is tragic, yet a key event inMaya’s life and as a result impacts Maya’s development and sense of self, shewithdraws physically and emotionally from everyone around her and refuses tospeak to anyone besides bailey. Although nobody in her family understands whyMaya behaves the way she does, they punish her especially her mother who isunable to deal with Maya’s post-rape trauma. Even so, modern readers are ableto identify the signs of PTSD or the need of rape survivors to speak withpsychological professionals, therefore the behaviour of Maya’s family seemscruel.
However, during this time, Psychology was in its early stages ofdevelopment and therefore the effects of rape was not widely understood. AlthoughMaya undergoes the trauma of rape, the ‘painful’ experiences of being’unwanted’ that haunts Angelou early childhood as described by Sethi, she findsher voice and a love for language and books. ConclusionIt is clear that both texts usesimilar themes that express how women dealt with the emotional and physicalabuse black people, mainly women who faced double the oppression had endure insociety. Whereas, Celie is young at the beginning when she first encounters theabuse by her father, Maya is also a young child raped by a close family member,her mother’s boyfriend.
The two young ladies are forced to into silence aboutthe abuse and confides with only the people they can find comfort from. Celieconfides with God through her letters and Maya only speak with Bailey. Thetrauma both women experience follows them throughout their lives unable to findthe appropriate help to help deal with their problems. However, through both texts we see the character’sstrengths that help them overcome these difficulties to pursue the things theyenjoy the most, for Celie it was sewing which she then makes a business out ofit and Maya also finds her love for literature that helped through herdifficult times also. Angelou’s autobiography covered thecommon topics written by black African women in the years following the civilrights movement, it explores the subjects such identity, racism and rape. Shealso writes on how women lived in a male dominated society. Similarly, Walkeralso uses similarly subjects to explore when using the main Character Celie asan example of on the many black women facing depression in society alongsidethe other female characters.
However, Celie alongside many of the femalecharacters learn to challenge the oppression they face in society, Melidentifies that as the novel progresses Celie grows in experience ‘herobservations become sharper and more informed’, suggesting she is growing as acharacter and is learning to gain more confidence within herself and identity.