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The Color Purple is a novel written by Alice Walker. Alice Walker is an American poet, activist and author. She was born on 9th February, 1944 in Eatonton, Georgia. She was the youngest child of Willie Lee Walker and Minnie Tallulah Grant Walker who had eight children. Her parents were poor; her father was a poor sharecropper while her mother worked as a maid. The environment in which Alice grew up in had lots of violent racism and poverty. In 1952, while Alice was playing with her brother, a BB gun pellet blinded her right eye (Mel 1). Due to her family’s poverty, she could not be taken to a hospital for quick treatment. She was taken to a doctor after a week and by then the eye was permanently damaged. After the incidence, Alice became painfully shy and self-conscious. In the damaged eye, there formed a scar tissue which made people stare at her. This made her feel like an outcast. While she was growing up, she listened to stories which were narrated by her grandfather. While growing up, she faced violent racism. Jim Crow Laws expected black children not to attend schools but go to farms. A white plantation owner once said to Alice’s mother “black people have no need for education,” her mother replied to him “My children need to learn how to write and read and don’t you ever tell me again that my children don’t need an education.” (Mel 1).
This essay will discuss the color purple; a novel by Alice Walker.
Summary of the Color Purple
The Color purple is a novel. The novel has letters written by Nettie to Celie and by Celie to God. The novel begins by describing Celie. She is a fourteen year old and abused black girl who is vulnerable. She turns to God for help. She writes letters addressing them to “Dear God.” At the end of the novel, thirty years later, Celie has gained back herself worth despite challenges from a racially prejudiced and male-dominated society. Through life, she fights her way and questions all that is not clear to her. In her first letter which is addressed to God, we learn of her rape. She is raped by Alfonso, her father, who tells her not to tell anyone. Her major challenge is changing her idea of God from an old, white bearded man into a God who lives within her and who all knows (Jacobson 1).
Alice Walker’s childhood experiences influenced the writing of The Color Purple novel. Alice began writing while she was eight years old. She expressed herself in writing because she lived in a family in which she had to keep a lot in mind. Her growing up in racism, secretive and poor environment affected her writing (Evelyn 1). For example, racism and poverty are some of the themes included in the novel. The novel, The Color Purple, talks about the lives of two black women, Celie and Nettie, who are sisters. Alice descriptions of Celie’s marriage as poverty-stricken and harsh arrangement are a reflection of her poor background. At the end of the novel, Alice describes that Celie was able to gain herself worth back. This is a reflection of Alice’s life; that despite encountering challenges in her life, she was able to overcome them. For example, Alice overcame the challenge of losing sight. Celie’s expression of her feelings to “Dear God” is a reflection of Alice’s life when she was eight years old (Evelyn 2).
The Time Period in which The Color Purple by Alice Walker is Set
The novel is set in the twentieth century, probably in the first half of the century. It is set in County of Macon, Georgia. The majority of the population in Macon County has been African American, descendants of slaves. Before the American civil war, the slaves worked on plantations. Most of the population has been rural inhabitants with high rates of poverty. In the first half the twentieth century, due to poverty, thousands of African American slaves moved from Macon County to Industrial states for job opportunities (Taylor 1). Those who were left back in the county have since struggled with poverty. The main race in the county has always been Black or African American. Booker T. Washington urged blacks to focus on agriculture, domestic service and mechanics while he urged whites to focus on improving economic and social relations between races. Leaders such as Du. Bois disagreed with Booker Washington’s ideas and regarded his opinions as being oppressing to the black race. The black community was eager to get as much training and education as the whites (Dittmer 1).
The novel, The Color Purple by Alice Walker depicts the period of the first half of the twentieth century. In the novel, Alice expresses the struggle of African American women, and their lives in a sexist, violent and racist society. In the novel, The Color Purple, Celie faces sexism by being forced into sex by her step-father. Celie, just like most of the black women in the first half of the twentieth century, she is ignorant and uneducated about how English grammar should be written (Tomberline 1). In Celie’s letters, she expresses herself with ungrammatical grammar. Celie tells us her stories in her own voice. This means that in her writing she does not follow the standard rule of English grammar but the rules of the African oral tradition (Walker 1). The use of African oral tradition by Alice Walker in the novel, The Color Purple, is a reflection of Alice’s grandfather use of the oral language. The novel portrays racism. In the novel, the story of Sofia illustrates the hazards of being African American. Sofia is assertive, independent, strong and spirited and yet she is made to feel inferior when she is courageous enough to answer back to the mayor’s wife. The mayor’s wife is creature just like Sofia (Walker 1).
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The novel, The Color Purple, both reflects and critiques the time period and society in which it is set. Critic accuses Alice Walker of portraying black men as being harsh and violent. Critics have condemned the negative portrayals as unnecessary. Critics also say that Walker has a tendency to refer to characters with pronouns. This encourages readers to refer to characters as anyone to whom the pronoun can well describe (Smith 1).