Freedom from Racial Barriers in The Color Purple Essay

This essay has a total of 2805 words and 12 pages.


Freedom from Racial Barriers in The Color Purple





Freedom from Racial Barriers in ‘The Color Purple’

Rape, incest, sex, forced labor, and a little reefer on the side. These are all of the
components of a novel by Alice Walker. All of these views are illustrated proficiently in
Alice Walker’s third novel, “The Color Purple.” Each one of these
aspects had a lasting impression upon the ideals and notions of the time. Walker's
writing's helped to break the racial barrier that existed in some people's minds.

One way that the barrier was destroyed was through Walker's depiction of an imperfect
black person. If a white person wrote about a less than perfect black person than it was
considered racist. Now that a black person is writing about other blacks that are
foretaking in acts that are, in their eyes, immoral and corrupt, the subject is brought
into a new light. These actions are discussed out in the open, and the idea that all
people have their own "flaws", is thought to be more fisable. Walker combines all of
these issues in her story in a deceptive way.

They all are linked together by way of a semi-believable story line with one major
overlaying theme. Prescott sums it up nicely, "Love redeems, meanness kills"(p74). This
is illustrated in many ways in Walker's novel. One perfect example of this is Mr. _____.
Mr. _____, as he is called throughout the novel, was a wife beater, who, having been
denied Celie's sister, marries Celie to look after his children. He beats her and rapes
her and is just plain nasty to her. Finally, one day, after Celie discovers another mean
thing that Mr. ____ did to her, she leaves with her girlfriend to start a new life. Mr.
_____ is left all alone. He starts to fall apart. He becomes afraid of the dark, and
just gives up on life. That was his meanness that started to destroy his life. Now, just
as Mr. ____ is nearing death, his son Harpo, starts to take care of him. Mr.___ starts
to love him again. Now Mr.____'s life takes a toward revival. He becomes a new man.
Once he starts to love his life starts to look up again. His and his son's love redeemed
him.

"The more I wonder, he say, the more I love.
And people start to love you back, I bet, I say.
They do, he say, surprise. Harpo seem to love me."
(Walker, pg. 290)
Walker's novel is very unique in regards to style. Her use of black idiom is very
effective and adds the extra fragment of actuality and authenticity to the story line.
"Walker's use of language, especially Black idiom, is masterful and adds poignancy and
depth to the narrative." (Another characteristic of Walker is the inclusion of highly
controversial and unique circumstances in her novel. For example, many authors of the
time, black or white, would address the idea of either inter-racial or same-sex relations.
Walker was an active feminist and her voice and opinions show through in many of her
novels. The Color Purple includes many dynamic characters throughout.

Mr._____ is a good example of one such character. In the beginning of the novel he is a
mean, strange old man who only marries Celie because he needs somebody to look after his
kids. Mr.______ is really in love with her sister, but their father decides that her
sister Nettie is too young for marriage so he settles for Celie. This shows how unfeeling
Mr.____ is in the first portion of the novel. He beats his wife and overworks her and
rapes her and abuses her. He is an all around bad guy. "First he put this thing up
gainst my hip and sort of wiggle it around. Then he grab hold my titties. Then he push
his thing inside my *censored*. When that hurt, I cry. He start to choke me, saying you
better shut up and git used to it." (Walker, pg. 1,2) However, Mr.____ comes upon a big
change in his life when Celie finally leaves him. Mr.____ is left all by himself and
forced to survive and maintain himself on his own. Here is where he runs into some
problems. Here is where the big change takes place. Mr.____ changes his evil ways and
begins to show some compassion and love. The end of the novel depicts a markedly
different Mr.____ then the beginning of the novel portrays. In the end of the novel
Mr.____ and Celie actually have a civilized conversation and begin to see face to face.
They become friends and often visit each other's homes and chat on the porch while sewing.
"Mr.____ look at me real thoughtful. He not such a bad looking man you know, when you
come right down to it. And now it do begin to look like he got a lot of feeling hind his
face." (Walker, pg. 280) Mr.____ is not the only character that changes during the course
of this novel, Celie also takes a drastic turn in her realm of thinking.

Celie starts out in the beginning of the novel as the "slave" to her father. First
allowing herself to be raped and bearing his children and taking his abuse. Then on to
the abuse that her "husband", Mr.____ shows towards her. Celie takes all of this
treatment in stride, this is the only life that she has known. She thinks that since she
is only a woman this is the way that she is supposed to be treated. Then, all of the
sudden a certain event causes her to dramatically change her course of thinking. This
change is caused by the influence of a character that is new to the book. This character
gives Celie the love and the respect that she always lacked. Celie was given the sense of
being, a sense that she was a real person. A person with feelings, with a heart and a
soul. A person that could love and be loved. This person gave her all of these feelings
as well as a fresh new start and a new outlook on life. "For Walker, redemptive love
requires female bonding." (Prescott) This person became her lover. This person was Shug
Avery.

Shug Avery was an old lover of Celie's husband, Mr.____. She had been brought back to
Mr.____'s house because she was sick and Celie was to look after her. Shug was also a
different person in the introduction of her character. She was a snobbish, high class
brat. The Stereotypical rich, spoiled woman. At first she treated Celie and Mr.____ as
if they were nothing but her hired help. Then she began to take a liking to Celie. At
first they talked and sewed together. Then there relationship moved to the next level.
Shug is the one who gave Celie her new outlook on life. She began to treat Celie as a
real person should be treated. She offered her love and warmth and gave her a reason to
be. She single handedly turned Celie's life around for the better. Shug knew of all of
the opportunities that existed out in the world, she had seen a lot of it because she was
a singer that toured around a lot. She told Celie of these prospects and began to start
Celie thinking of leaving Mr.____ in search of a better life. The final straw that led to
convincing Celie to leave was the horrifying act that Mr.____ had been withholding letters
to Celie from her sister Nettie.

Nettie was the luckier of the two sisters. She had met the people that had adopted
Celie's children, befriended them and traveled to Africa with them. Once there she lived
among the Olinka tribe. All the time that she was in Africa she wrote letters to Celie.
She never got any reply but she never gave up hope. Celie really admired Nettie, and she
was a powerful influence upon her life even though she wasn't present. "How I'm gon keep
from killing him, I say. Don't kill, she say. Nettie becoming home before long. Don't
make her have to look at you like us look at Sofia." (Walker, pg.150) Nettie always had
the insight that Celie lacked. She knew right away that Mr.____ was abusing her. She
even wrote to Celie and told her "You've got to fight and get away from Albert. He ain't
no good." (Walker, pg. 131) The two sisters longed for each other the entire time that
they were separated. When they finally were reunited they were so happy that neither of
them could say a word. They just stood there and hugged and hugged and emersed themselves
in the love that they felt for each other.

In The Color Purple, there are three main characters who demonstrate meaningful traits of
women. Celie, the main character, is the most important of the three. She is influenced
by other characters in the novel and is inspired to let herself seek their virtues.
Celie’s two friends, Shug and Sofia, are both strong women who teach Celie how to
achieve the happiness she desires.

Sofia is a woman with authority in her life. Her life has been a constant struggle and
can no longer endure conflict. She is strong physically and that gives her confidence in
herself. The only opinion of any value to her is her own. Sofia is very upset with Celie
when she tells Harpo to beat her and she reveals to Celie details of her painful past.
“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. 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.” (42). Sofia can no longer tolerate this kind of abuse and she thought
that when she married Harpo she had finally escaped it.

Later Celie admits that she told Harpo to beat her because she is jealous of Sofia. Celie
is jealous because Sofia can fight back and she knows she can’t. Sofia tells Celie
how she feels sorry for her because Celie reminds her of her mother and how she never
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