The Color Purple Analysis Essay Example
The Color Purple Analysis Essay Example

The Color Purple Analysis Essay Example

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  • Pages: 8 (2091 words)
  • Published: October 11, 2017
  • Type: Analysis
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"American literature of the 20th century not only showcases a robust political essence but also offers substantial understanding of human life and emotions." By conducting an in-depth study and comparison of The Color Purple and another chosen literary work, elucidate your viewpoint on how much this perspective can be applied to writings from the 20th century.

Set in the early 20th century South of the United States, The Color Purple recounts the life story of Celie leading up to just before World War II. This novel sheds light on both adversities and joyful instances encountered by black people, with a particular emphasis on hardships suffered by black women due to men.

Towards the end of the book, our attention is drawn to Nettie, Celie's sibling, who serves as a missionary in Africa. Within this context, we observe levels of oppression that are comparable to t


hose previously seen. This includes not just Africans being subjugated by Europeans but also African women experiencing suppression from African men.

The structure and narrative style of the novel is unique as it is written in the form of letters. This approach allows for dual perspectives and writing styles from the two main characters, Celie and Nettie, who serve as first-person narrators. These letters play a crucial role in advancing the overall storyline. Initially, Celie writes to God as her only confidant, but as the story progresses, the sisters begin writing letters to each other, serving as acts of faith and keeping their spirits alive during difficult times. However, Mr_ conceals Nettie's letters, obstructing their ability to establish connections with one another. This action suggests that he may be intentionally hindering their sisterhood.

The letters

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serve as a time indicator, sometimes with dates and other times without. This requires the reader to calculate the timeframe, spanning from days to weeks or even years. This elliptical approach allows Walker to stretch the novel's timeline to cover 40 years.

It is evident that Walker's work was influenced by various contemporary movements as it was written in 1982.

The impact of the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950's and 60's compelled integration in the United States. Walker's novel emphasizes the injustice in America, particularly for non-mainstream groups like black people, as well as the importance of liberation through self-acceptance and fighting against constraints.

Shug Avery's fearless attitude and disregard for public opinion reflect her strong nature. In letter 33, Shug defies societal norms by performing at Harpo's juke joint. Her audacity parallels the brave black individuals who challenged segregation on buses and in restaurants, striving for equal rights for all black citizens.

Furthermore, the feminist movement of the 1960's has a significant impact. Walker exposes the previous exploitation and suppression of women, as seen in Celie's initial letter where her "father" rapes her, within a patriarchal society. However, the author proceeds to depict how female characters, particularly the main character Celie, attain independence, freedom, and move closer to achieving gender equality. For instance, in letter 77, when Celie establishes her own enterprise called "Folkspants, Unlimited". Traditionally, men held the roles of businesspeople and "breadwinners". By choosing to have "pants" be the product of her company, Walker amplifies the themes of equality and female liberation even further.

While addressing political issues, The Color Purple also delves into various other subjects that align with daily life and humanity

as a whole.

The novel addresses the issue of education and literacy, specifically focusing on the character Celie. From the beginning, it is clear that Celie lacks proper education. This is evident in her first letter where there is a noticeable crossing out of words:

"I am fourteen years old. I am I have always been a good girl..."

Nettie plays a significant role in educating Celie, as mentioned in letter 9. Similarly, Olivia secretly educates Tashi, which goes against the beliefs of the Olinka tribe who reject the idea of educating women (p.132-3). Albert also goes to great lengths to prevent Celie from receiving Nettie's letters. This illustrates men's ongoing efforts to further suppress women by denying them education.

The letters provided us with a critical perspective of the world. Celie's letters depict neglect and abuse while Nettie's letters shed light on the inhumanity of both white colonists and African men.

As the novel progresses, Celie's letter-writing skills enhance, serving as a symbol of her development and heightened self-understanding.

Writing can also be seen as a powerful tool for many women, providing them with the only avenue to express themselves and communicate their feelings.

The novel places significant emphasis on religion. Each of the initial 51 letters, as well as the final one, start with "Dear God". In addition, all correspondence from Celie to Nettie concludes with "Amen", which is also the last word in the entire book. At first, Celie places a lot of importance on God since she perceives him to be her only confidant. Yet by page 151, her faith starts to wane. She begins to suspect that either God was ignorant or didn't care about her real

parentage and being separated from Nettie. Frustrated by this realization, she asserts that God is male and wonders how things might have been different if he had paid attention to marginalized women like herself (p.164).

In The Color Purple, Shug attempts to explain that God exists within every person, including herself. She argues that God is not an old man with a white beard, but rather permeates all of creation, such as trees. According to her, humanity corrupts everything and one must remove societal influences from their perception in order to gain true insight. By liberating one's mind from misconceptions about God, they can also break free from religious taboos and restrictions, such as those surrounding sexuality. Eventually, Celie is converted to this newfound faith, which is why the final letter she writes begins with salutations to God, stars, trees, sky, and all living beings. This suggests that religion in The Color Purple advocates for the overthrow of patriarchal society in order to establish a superior and untainted world.

Patriarchy, men's violence, and power are likely the most significant themes addressed in the novel.

Walker gives a detailed description in her book about the abuse Celie has suffered. For example, on page 97, there is an account of a distressing incident where Celie states, "...he never asked me anything about myself. He climbed on top of me and had sex with me, even when my head was bandaged..." Even within Harpo and Sofia's seemingly content relationship, violence emerges as a result of Harpo being brought up to believe that it is acceptable to physically harm women if they fail to meet men's expectations. This belief becomes clear during

a dialogue between Harpo, Albert and Celie on page 34. Here Albert asserts , "...Wives are like children. You have to let them know who has the upper hand. Nothing accomplishes that better than a good beating..." Walker depicts men as not necessarily gentle despite their weaknesses.Characterizations such as Albert, Alphonso, Harpo and Grady bring out male frailties along with their tendency towards oppressive behavior.Harpo and Grady may not resort to physical violence like others but still reflect insensitive behaviors by maintaining conventional norms which consider women inferior serving solely for men's benefit.As seen when Grady casually comments while staring at Squeak,"Aw,Mama,you know I don't mean any harm..." (p.98). Through Albert’s strong assertion on page 176 that women are subordinate due to race,economic status,lack of beauty,and gender,Walker reiterates this common perception among all men.
He states, "You are black, you are poor, you are ugly, you are a woman.'re nothing at all." Yet in a male-dominated society that subdues the voices and rights of women, Walker uncovers an existence of unity or "sisterhood" among her female characters.

Despite her challenges, Celie keeps her faith alive with the hope that she will meet Nettie again someday. Their determination to keep writing letters to each other, despite the distance and doubts about each other's safety, highlights their resilience, defiance and deep bond.

Sofia's strength ("All my life I had to fight..."pg.38) and Shug's love and independence also contribute to the growth and empowerment of Celie's character, which ultimately gives her the strength to confront Albert:
"The jail you plan for me is the one in which you will rot....I'm pore, I'm black, I may be ugly and can't cook...but I'm

here." (p.176)
Tennessee Williams explores similar themes in his play A Streetcar Named Desire.

The play, written in 1947, takes place in New Orleans (American South) right after the war. It highlights the country's efforts to recover economically and portrays the struggles of working-class men returning from service to restore their lives to normalcy. The key figures include Stanley Kowalski, a strong and aggressive individual, Stella, his wife, and Blanche DuBois, Stella's sister who came to stay with them.

Williams' work was undeniably influenced by the war. In his play, he examines America and its people within society, expressing a combination of anguish, criticism, and pity.

By portraying the struggles and challenges of contemporary America through Stan and his poker friends, in contrast to Blanche who embodies the traditional and idealistic South, the text presents the realization that the "American Dream" is merely a myth. It suggests that individuals have two alternatives in life - to confront the harsh reality or to attempt to evade it, as exemplified by Blanche.

The prominence of patriarchy and male power remains a significant factor once more.

Stanley is portrayed as crude and chauvinistic, reducing women to mere objects. The stage directions reveal that his primary focus in life is the pleasure he derives from interactions with women, engaging in power dynamics akin to a confident male bird surrounded by his female counterparts.

Clearly, Stanley holds a position of dominance within the household and firmly believes that a woman's duty is to cater to the needs of men. His perspective is exemplified when he speaks to Stella, demanding his supper without consideration for her own desires and needs.

Additionally, Stanley displays significant aggression and violence

due to his inability to control his temper. This manifests in scene 3 when Stella retreats out of view while he advances toward her, ultimately resulting in the ominous sound of a physical altercation.

Stanley embodies the archetypal working-class man of that era in every aspect. He dresses roughly, lacks refinement, and revels in uncivilized behavior such as participating in poker games with fellow "lads" where sexual conversation and drinking are the norm. His overall attitude towards women, and specifically his wife, is characterized by a lack of respect.

In stark contrast to Blanche, who is meticulous about her appearance and speaks with refinement, Stanley comes from a less privileged background. Blanche's language is poetic and theatrical, emphasizing her desire for a more idealistic and sheltered world. Blanche feels the need to shield herself from the harsh realities of society, constantly seeking protection from its evils. Stanley, on the other hand, disapproves of Blanche's superiority and intentionally creates uncomfortable situations for her. Despite Stanley's animosity, Blanche's strong bond with her sister Stella helps ease the tension. Stella often defends Blanche, showcasing a sense of sisterhood akin to that in The Color Purple. However, when it comes to believing whether Stanley raped Blanche, Stella ultimately sides with him, highlighting a contrast to The Color Purple where nothing could come between the unbreakable bond between Nettie and Celie- especially a man.

In my opinion, twentieth century American literature has the ability to explore political matters, which is evident in the writings of Walker and Williams. Walker's work is evidently inspired by the Civil Rights and Feminist Movements, whereas Williams takes a more critical stance towards America in the aftermath

of World War II. Specifically, he focuses on the false perception of the American Dream and the economic consequences.

In addition to this, the authors also opt to explore current subjects including domestic violence, patriarchy, relationships, and the pursuit of individual freedom.

I believe that in order to create a successful piece, a writer needs to consider both societal movements and personal experiences that shape a person's existence and outlook on life. By taking these factors into account, the writer can enhance the enjoyment of the work and enable readers to interact and relate to specific situations.

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