Does ‘The Color Purple’ relate to racism or sexism?
‘The Color Purple’ by Alice Walker, a black women novelist who dramatically engages the reader of the difficulty of the life of the main character Celie, a Southern American uneducated young women, sexually abused and oppresses by male relatives and friends.
Celie’s journey represents that of many women, where male dominance exists, preventing women to live freely and have rights to education, protection and employment, Walker’s novel refers to women living in the south as this is synonymous to oppression and racism due to structures utilised to oppress social and individual powers. This novel represents the sexism, racism and feminist attitudes which are cultivated throughout the novel.
The issue of sexism is represented in many ways, significantly in the mistreatment of Celie by Mr_____, and Sofia by the Mayor and his wife, also Harpo with emphasis of Shug by other women. Insults to Celie, “she’s ugly” further strengthen the tone of exploitation of women and lack of any inclusion or respect for female equality. Despite Celie’s struggle, at the end of the novel she escapes male dictatorship and is able to establish her own independence gaining freedom through determination and perseverance.
Racism weaves through this historical novel, Walker ever conscious of herself as a black women empowered to narrate the stories of specific black women, themselves creators of black female cultures, marginalised by race, class and colour to have their voices heard as described by Elliott Butler Evans. Walker writes “to find a voice with which to repress the minority can tell its story” as we can see in the character of Sofia, a black women who does not normally fight and is oppressed by white characters in the novel.
The reference to being enslaved made by the critic, Collins, illustrates the identification of Celie and Sofia being trapped by a male dominated system and values resulting in the inability to fight for freedom and voice.
To conclude ‘The Color Purple’ a popular, evocative novel, exposes Celie’s struggle highlighting issues of racism, sexism and feminism. Walker’s emotional account of the characters lives and their communities are a small significant view and fictional exposure of overriding racism which has dominated many lives, throughout America and beyond. Racism is ambiguously, intertwined in association with the main characters especially Celie, an individual seemingly enslaved to her oppressive life who eventually escapes into independence.