In the time period and region of the entry in which this novel is set, it was socially acceptable for the men to show the women who were boss through violent actions and condescending words. As a result, many women in that time period were abused, emotionally scarred, and injured. Through the oppression and discrimination of society on females in southern America in the mid-1 sass, Alice Walker reveals that humans can gain independence, despite the hatefulness and discrimination of others.
The mid-sass were notorious for sexism.
Taken from my own knowledge, sexism is defined as an individual believing that the opposite gender is impolitely inferior to their own. In the time period in which this novel is set, sexism was a common act acted upon by females from males, especially in the southern region of the United States, where the population was primarily African-Americans. The males would repeatedly beat and rape their wives to show them who was boss, and feel no guilt whatsoever because that is what was socially acceptable.
It was not until the women’s suffrage movement of the early 1 ass’s in America, in which women gained the right to vote, that the men decided to back off. And since those rights still only applied to white omen, in the region of America where this novel is set, the movement had no effect on the actions of males towards females. Because black people still had no rights, the black males believed that they could oppress black women. Throughout this novel, every female character is condescended upon by the male characters- Celli by her father and husband, Squeak and Sofia by Harp, and Chug by Collie’s husband.
Throughout the novel, feminist viewpoints and gender role reversals are used to reveal the womanish background, and ultimately reveal a major theme. For instance, Collie’s independence which she eventually gains from en causes her to become happy (Carline & Inappropriate 56). Near the end of the novel, Celli makes pants for a living, as a successful business. As the orders Start piling up, Celli writes “Then Chug want two more pair just like the first. Then everybody in her band want some. Then orders start to come in from everywhere Chug sing. Pretty soon I’m swamp” (Walker 213). Pants are a universal symbol for masculinity.
Collie’s pants-making shows that she is becoming more isolated from men, becoming more masculine, becoming more independent. The pants “allow her a creative expression and suggest Collie’s liberation from men on an economic as well as a physical level” (Killeen 2610). Walker effectively employs gender role reversals throughout the novel. Harp and Sofia reverse gender roles the most obviously out of anyone else in the novel. Sofia wears pants while repairing the house and working at a job, and Harp enjoys housework such as cooking and cleaning, which was traditionally a woman’s work in the home (Winched 46).
Celli “hire[s] Sofia to clerk in [their] store” (Walker 280). This causes Sofia to become much more independent, gaining power that she previously lost hill working as the mayor’s wife’s housemaid. Meanwhile, as she gains power, Harp blends into the background and takes on the woman’s role in the home, revealing Walker’s feminist viewpoint. The gender reversal shows how when a woman takes a man’s role in society, she can find happiness, and also Walker’s opinion that men should more often take the woman’s role to understand more about women.
They also show “that there can be respectful relationships between black men and women” (Killeen 2610). The gender reversals represented throughout this novel reveal the extreme sexist views f southern America in the depicted time period, in comparison to the characters original gender roles. Collie’s relationship with Chug helps to reveal that with independence comes happiness. Chug believes that God is an “it”, just like Celli originally thinks Chug to be an “it” (Rollways 4700). Celli writes than ‘When I dream, dream of Chug Avery. She be dress to kill, whirling and laughing” (Walker 6).
Chug is basically God to Celli, because of her ability to control evil and her power to change Collie’s life (Rollways 4699). Her neutral gender representation to Celli informs her, and causes Celli to love herself. The fact that Chug is God to Celli, and that Chug is female, helps Celli to become certain of herself. Celli never has felt any affection for a man, be it her father or her husband. She feels affection for the first time when she bathes the ailing Chug (Winched 42). As Celli is bathing her, she thinks that she has ‘turned into a man” (Walker 49).
This sudden show of affection, compassion, and physical feelings for a woman shows a gender reversal in Celli. Sexism of the time period is revealed because Celli does not feel oppressed by Chug, a woman, like she goes by every man in the novel. Because Chug is female, Celli does not fear her, and learns how to feel compassion. The female-female relationship between Chug and Celli underline the discriminatory morals towards women in southern, black America in the mid-sass. Cell?s viewpoint of God reveals the sexist society that southern America once was.
She imagines God to be a man, because she is afraid of men, and she wants to be a proper, God-fearing woman (Winched 41 Celli describes God as “big and old and tall and graybeard and white. He wears white robes and go barefooted” (Walker 194). This is how Celli views God after studying the Bible, and because of it, she fears God as she fears all men. Her view of God as a man shows how Celli is afraid of men in general. As Celli gains her independence, she changes her view of God to one within herself (Winched 41). Celli not only fears God because she sees him as a man, but hates him because of it.
She says to Chug that “the God I been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other men’s I know. Trifling, forgetful and lowdown” (Walker 194). The fact that she views God as a man alone causes her to become bitter with God. To her, God is scum because of all the things he let her experience- rape, forced marriage, and losing her sister, to name a few. She believes that God is punishing her, just like she believes all men punish her. If Celli had viewed God as a woman instead, she might not have hated God at all.
However, Celli becomes accepting of God after she hears Chugs point of view. Chug says that “God anti a he or she, but a It,” and goes on to explain that she “believe[s] God is everything… Everything that is or ever was or ever will be” (Walker 195). When Celli accepts God as a neutral being, she gains her independence. She feels like a weight has been lifted off her chest- a weight composed of fear. Collie’s religious views in this novel depict the sexually hostile environment that was present in the mid-sass in southern black America.
The actions of men in this novel reveal the oppressing morals of the time period. For example, Squeak’s rape by her white uncle reveals how white men could basically do anything to black men without getting in trouble (Carline & Inappropriate 55). Harp gets angry about the rape and states “My wife beat up, my woman rape… I ought to go back out there with guns, maybe set fire o the place, burn the crackers up” (Walker 95). This is akin to how white slave masters would rape their black slaves in times when slavery was legal in the United States.
Squeak is being oppressed by a male, who is white, nonetheless. This action was quite common in southern black America. Another instance is the fact that Harp calls his woman Squeak, not by her real name. Celli tells Squeak to have people call her Mary Agnes (Carline &Napierowski 61 Celli writes, “Harp say, I love you, Squeak. He kneel down and try to put his arms round her waist. She stand up. My name Mary Agnes, he say” (Walker 97). After this incident, Harp has more respect for her. Before this happened, Harp regularly condescended her, and she felt like there was nothing she could do about it.
Squeak was being oppressed by Harp, but Collie’s advice helped her to change her personality. Lastly, Albert hiding the letters to Celli from Nettle shows how men oppressed women (Bloom 71 Celli hates him so much for it that she does not know “How [she’s] goon keep from killing him,” and when Chug advises against that, Celli remarks, “Ana, think I feel better if kill him” (Walker 144). Though Celli agrees with her oppressor in the idea that a woman should only obey, work, and be silent,” (Carline & Inappropriate 61 this act is unforgivable to her.
Throughout the novel, the male characters actively discriminate against the female characters, which underlines the morals of society in southern black America in the mid-sass. The language of the letters depicts how black women in the South were not allowed to receive an education. Celli, who speaks in “black folk English”, lets “life in the world of a poor, black, rural sharecropper family unfold” (Carline & Inappropriate 52). Her language is choppy and her grammar is very poor. Her father punishes her for supposedly winking at a boy in church, but Celli states “l don’t even look at men’s” (Walker 5).
Collie’s ‘Hack folk English” brings the reader closer to the character’s experiences (Carline & Inappropriate 56). Cell?s father refusing to educate her reveals how she is oppressed by men. While Collie’s language reflects her lack of education, her sister Nettle’s standard English shows that she received a better education than her sister (Carline & Inappropriate 56). Her sentence structure is much more formal. In letter to Celli, she says that the language the Oiling tribe speaks is ‘Very different from the way we speak English, but somehow familiar” (Walker 148).
The way that Nettle writes is much more different than the way that Celli writes in terms of diction and grammar. However, Nettle’s letters are less intimate than Collie’s because of her use of standard English and the fact that she did not suffer nearly as much as Celli did (Carline & Inappropriate 56). This is because Nettle is not quite as emotional as her sister, as she has not been through as many emotionally scarring events as her. Nettle is not in southern America like Celli is. Therefore, she is allowed an education, and ends up better off. The language of the novel “not only….
Enhance(s) the story-telling qualities of the novel, but the changes in Collie’s language also illustrate her emotional growth” (Killeen 2609). In the beginning of the novel, Celli writes that her father had “kilt [her first child] out there in the woods. Kill this one too, if he can” (Walker 2). Her restriction is shown by her poor language. But by the end of the novel, she writes Thank you for bringing my sister Nettle and our children home” (Walker 285). Collie’s letters to God reflect who she is, and how she changes from submissive to independent (Carline & Inappropriate 55).
The language she develops illustrates her happiness. By the end of the novel, she is no longer restricted by men, and she focuses on receiving a better education. The language used in this novel reveals the fact that black women in southern America could not receive an education because the men would not let them, which Walker believes was an unacceptable condition for women to live in. Through Collie’s transformation, it is revealed that women in this time period ere not sexually independent and free from men, and were continually oppressed. For example, by the end of the novel, Celli is in a pants-making business.
By this point, her independence is beginning to develop from underneath her shy, meek disposition. She makes pants to keep her mind off of murdering Albert, which is a symbol of their gender reversal (Winched 47). These are much stronger thoughts than she used to think about people she disliked, and she is thinking them because she finally understands that she is allowed to. As Celli sews, she holds “A needle and not a razor in my hand, hind” (Walker 147). The creativity is essential to her survival and transformation from a submissive housewife to an independent businesswoman (Bloom 45).
If she was not keeping herself busy with this creative project, her thoughts would be much more dangerous and murderous. Celli does not become independent until the end of the novel, which is when she finally reaches an audience (Rollways 4699). Her audience is her sister Nettle, who Celli now knows is alive and well. Celli did not find that out until she had taken the letters from Albertan safekeeping. His action f hiding them angers her greatly, but Celli eventually forgives him. She writes “l got love, I got work, I got money, friends and time. And you alive and be home soon. With our children” (Walker 215).
The knowledge that she can finally communicate with someone she loves without fearing judgment causes Celli to become confident with herself. Nettle’s “faith in Celli, shown through years of unanswered letters, coupled with Collie’s reciprocal faith, even after Nettle’s supposed drowning on the return ship, underscores the kindred spirit of the long-separated sisters” (Killeen 2610). If Nettle had not en persistent with her letter-writing Celli would have remained passive, because she would not have wanted to write to anyone, for she would have believed that no one was listening or paying attention to her.
Collie’s transformation illustrates “Walker’s desire to project a positive outcome in life, even under the harshest conditions” (Carline & Inappropriate 48-9). As the female characters in Alice Walkers novel The Color Purple are consistently discriminated against, the sexist morals of society in southern black America in the mid-1 sass are revealed. In the time period that this evolve is set in, it was socially acceptable for the men to condescend their wives, mothers, and sisters, once they were old enough to get married and own land.
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