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The Color Purple Essay

1247 words - 5 pages

Discuss the thematic concerns of the novel

The feministic and historical fictional novel “The Color Purple” written by Alice Walker focuses on the thematic concerns of the early 20th century. The thematic concerns that Walker discusses are racial tensions, the African experience, feminism and religion. These themes are portrayed through the main characters Celie and Nettie within an epistolary (letter) format.

The thematic concern of racial tension is adequately shown through Celie’s perception to convey white supremacy over the African-American community of the southern states. The racial tension is intertwined throughout he novel as Celie’s father ...view middle of the document...

The thematic concern of the African experience is adequately shown throughout the novel in Nettie’s letters to Celie from Africa whilst on her missionary journey with Corrine, Samuel, Adam and Olivia. Nettie’s experiences as a missionary take place among the Olinka tribe. The missionary group approach the African coast in a state of considerable excitement. This is evident through Nettie’s perception “ something stuck in me, in my soul, she say, like a large bell vibrated”, later in the novel it turns into disillusionment of various forms. A primary interest in Africa for the Americans is the connection with their slave ancestors and the discovery of their roots. This, however, turns out top be the first confusing element; the Africans themselves don’t want to know about slavery or its effects, and therefore, acknowledge no responsibility for it, and actually see the Americans as alien. This is seen in “ you Christians come here, try to change us, get sick and go back to England, or wherever you come from”. Nettie, Corrine and Samuel have a certain novelty value because they are black, but the fact that they are from another culture is much stronger than any thought of racial unity. Nettie also disapproves of the African customs of female circumcision and the scarification of young people’s faces. The strongest element in the descriptions of Africa is not the impact of the missionaries on non-Christians, which for the most part is entirely superficial, but the sense of a society in a state of economic turmoil. There is a sense in which both black Americans and Africans are the victims of white oppression, but very little indication that they can be of much assistance to one another. Walker focuses on the African experience heavily in the second half of the novel to highlight how Americans attempted to avilise the word and show the treatment if blacks on another continent.

The thematic concern of feminism is portrayed throughout the book, mainly in Celie’s letters. This is highlighted in her letter that Albert discovers, stating how Celie has been spending her time since leaving him and states “mens spose to wear the pants”. This shows the male attitudes of the time. In Celie’s first letter, it contains an account of Alphonso’s rape of Celie. Also, when Mary Agnes (Squeak) helps Sofia get out of prison, she gets raped by her own uncle, this shows male dominance. The freedom of Celie and Shug is the main emotional issue in the novel; as many of the women are weak; united, their force is more than equal to the dominating men. The feministic quality that Walker shows is...

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