Black Women And Feminism In Alice Walker's The Color Purple

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‘The Colour Purple’, published in 1982, was written by Alice Walker and demonstrates the brutal treatment of black women within the early 20th century. During this time, there was much oppression, particularly for black women. They were mistreated purely because of their colour and gender. The form and content of the novel can be viewed as a slave narrative that reflects the struggle for one woman’s independence. Female independence and freedom from the patriarchal society are topics that many feminist literary theorists tend to explore, particularly those that belonged to the third wave of feminist writing. The third wave of feminism derives “from the emergence of a new postcolonial and post socialist world order, in the context of information…show more content…
The relevance of this is that during the third wave of feminism female independence, both within society and literature, became more prevalent. Thus we can explore, using the feminist ideology of this era, how female independence within literature often gets a strongly negative connotation.
When studying this novel from a feminist perspective, it is important to acknowledge that Walker favours the term ‘womanist’ for a black feminist. Walker’s commitment to womanism inspired not only ‘The Color Purple’, but many of her other novels including ‘Possessing the Secret of Joy’ (1992). Celie suffers over thirty years of physical and mental abuse. Throughout the novel and particularly in the opening pages, Walker depicts vivid scenes of rape and violence that are so tactfully described that the reader immediately sympathises with Celie. Her extensive use of direct speech makes her experience of abuse more dramatic and immediate. The tone of these opening letters to God reminds the reader of the naivete of a
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Shug’s strong mind and independent attitude results in her assuming many roles for Celie. She is her confidant and takes on the maternal role for her. She even stands up to Mr.___ for her, depicting another example of where a character in this novel goes against the traditional patriarchal rules. Her courage to help and stand up for Celie is arguably one of the main influences for Celie’s transformation. She not only teachers Celie to love herself and others, but to realise that she does not have to accept to treatment she is given by men. Overall, Walker displays a character who gives independence positive connotations.
Alice Walker’s intention within ‘The Color Purple’ is to raise the social status of African-American women from patriarchy, sexism and racism. We can suggest that her intention is to give a voice back to these women by using characters to depict ways in which they can achieve equality, both in gender and race. Despite this, those females that gain independence are portrayed in a negative light, while those who are unable to break free from patriarchal oppression are presented more positively to the reader. Overall, female independence is given negative connotations within ‘The Color
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