The Life of African American Women in the Color Purple

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According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self- respect is defined as “the pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity.” (Merriam- Webster). The Color Purple is about a poor, uneducated black female named Celie, who grows up surrounded by racism, sexism, and abuse from her father and husband. She has trouble figuring out who she is and accepting herself because of the challenges she has faced.

Alice Walker illustrates the life of African American women and how they display empowerment when overcoming obstacles and hardships that life inevitably forced upon them. Throughout the novel, women faced a tremendous amount of disrespect and hatred. Together, as a community of women who feel worthless, stood up with pride to gain a sense of self- respect. All things considered, men harmed the way the women viewed the world. As a consequence, men took advantage of the women by beating and sexually abusing them. They also dominated the women physically and mentally. This disfigured but also influenced the female characters. After all, the empowerment of one female impacted all the female characters within the novel.

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In The Color Purple, Celie illustrates the struggle of women who deal with hatred and sexism, despite this Celie can gain self-respect. In the novel, Alice Walker tends to show a theme of male dominance; showing the lack of equality between men and women. Celie, the main character, has a hard time discovering her worth and accepting herself for who she is. During the time period in which the novel was written, girls were born into male-dominated families. Young children were being raised thinking that it was appropriate to let men treat them as servants. The young children were also taught that rape was normal, and they were raised understanding that a man's desires are more important than a women's right to say “no”. Due to the way the women are treated, they feel as if they have no purpose, including Celie. “He beat me today cause he says I winked at a boy in church. I may have got something in my eye but I didn’t wink. I don’t even look at men. That’s the truth. I look at women, tho, cause I’m not scared of them.” (Walker, 5).

Alice Walker shows how most African American women are dominated by men, and how Celie and other female’s dealt with to gain acceptance and to be seen as people who deserve fair and equal treatment. From here on, Celie has the feeling of unimportance. “He never had a kind word to say to me. Just say You gonna do what your mammy wouldn’t. First, he put his thing up against my hip and sort of wiggle it around. Then he grabs hold of my titties. Then he pushes his thing inside my pussy. When that hurt, I cry. He starts to choke me, saying You better shut up and get used to it.” (Walker 5)All things considered, Celie has faced emotional hardships. Her father commits many forms of violence against her, including rape. As she continues to write letters to God, she has difficulty finding her self-worth and understanding the purpose of her life. Celie is afraid to improve her lifestyle. Male characters shape, break and influence Celie and other female characters in a negative manner. Celie lived in a time period where women had a difficult time exposing themselves. “ 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. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house.” (Walker 31). As a world where women are dominated by men, especially those of a darker race, Celie wishes to be like Sofia, someone who stands up for herself.

During this time, no women imagined standing up to the men but Sofia is determined to. Sofia illustrates everything that Celie is wishing to be. In addition, all the women, including Celie, have the empowerment and courage to stand up but are afraid. “ Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9). Alice Walker examines the struggle women have had to deal with to gain acceptance; as people who deserve fair and equal treatment. Ultimately when women are left with no voice they continued to cope and managed to deal with the tragedy alone. This is evident as Celie has dealt with emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. She is in a position in life where she is confused and depressed; Celie feels she has no purpose in life. Considering the feeling of self- respect, Celie had begun to understand how important it is to love and care for the people within her community, including her sister. Nettie traveled to Africa, she explained to Celie how much love was shown throughout the community. Nettie explained how beautiful the people were and how she learned to appreciate herself. 'Oh, Celie, there are colored people in the world who want us to know! Want us to grow and see the light! They are not all mean like pa and Albert, or beaten down like ma was. ”(Walker 124). Not only does Celie begin to realize the other side of things, but she also continues to focus on herself. As Celie continues to write letters to God, she encounters Shug Avery, who helps turn her life around. As Shug’s relationship with Celie develops, Shug begins to fill the roles of Celie’s mother, lover, teacher, and friend. Celie sees something incredible as she begins to grow up with Shug. “Shug act more manly than most men… he say. You know Shug will fight, he says. Just like Sofia. She found to live her life and be herself no matter what.” (Walker 55). Shug is very important to Celie, so important that they show real love towards each other, the love Celie has never felt before. As Celie's relationship grew with herself and Shug, she learned how powerful one person can be. The Color Purple is a story about growth, strength, faith, and support.

Throughout the novel, Alice Walker displays a very clear understanding that, when people receive love and respect, the world becomes a better place. It is possible for people of different races and sexes to create relationships and to accept and offer guidance to one another. From here on, despite the racial and sexist world the women struggle to live in together they grow as one and live in a world they never imagined would exist. In The Color Purple, Celie illustrates the struggle women have dealt with including, hatred and sexism, despite this Celie is able to gain self-respect.

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