How Alice Walker signifies on the slave narrative in her novel The Color Purple

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The Color Purple written by Walker Pulitzer is the first novel written by an African American woman to fit within the traditional definition of the epistolary novel. In the ninety-four letters that cover the span of over thirty years between the two world wars, we hear and symbolically bear witness to Celie’s story, a young female physically and psychologically battered in a serious of abusive relationship with men.  At fourteen years old, Celie is raped and impregnated by her stepfather whom she thought was her real father and soon after, is bartered off in a loveless arranged marriage. Significantly, the first section of the letter is addressed to God, whom she thinks is a white, male, and conspicuously silent in her persecutions. The choice of God as the addressee of her letters signifies upon her isolation from the human community surrounding her. It is signifies the complicity of the male patriarchal system that stifles her voice and leaves no outlet for confession and introspection except a God graven in the image of her persecutors (Walker 66). It is at this instance that Celie develops a support system of females around her, in specific through her relationship with Shug Avery and her sister Nettie, whom she thought had died and her letter retained from Celie by her abusive husband. This makes Celie to develop a positive self-image and is able to change to address the letters to her sister Nettie. The letters that shape the novel thus become Celie’s psychological growth markers, and development of woman-driven life philosophy. Additionally, Celie, through the letters, discovers a fresh system of gender equity and a burgeoning sexual identity that reflect her growing sense of independence and selfhood (Funderburg & Altman 56-58).  Thus, the Alice Walker uses various methods and tactics to signify on the slave narrative in her novel The Color Purple. This papers main objective is to identify and elaborate theses tactics and methods as used by Alice Walker.

The first aspect used by Alice Walker to signify on the slave narrative is by the use of slave narrative. This might appear more complicated, for instance, suppose we take the slave narrative as our best example, for this case, Celie narrates her own story to portray the slavery elements in the novel. She proves and puts it in black and white and more specifically, writes using the slavery language as used by her slave master. This might have been done, not for just other purposes, but specifically for the reader to realize, and fully comprehend the master’s language and discourses. Using Baker’s insight, and Jacob’s historical example, in The Color Purple, both cases shows evidence of slavery. The author makes best out of the era to demonstrate but self-image and public image of slavery. The novel is written in letters and notes, form associated with the women’s history, in regard to slavery (especially women), and the novel uses both narrative and the sentimental romance in its structure. The literature that African American women write refutes the perception not only that their subjects are nothing at all” but that their subjects can be reduced to categories so often imposed on those who are devalued. Perhaps, the setting and the characters can well portray how the African American women were treated.  Though, the slavery aspect is never brought out in openly, but through narratives, letters and notes in this case, and the characters. As Walker writes in her essay, “a black woman is the mule of the world, because we have been handed the burdens that everyone else – everyone else – refused to carry”(5, 237). As well, the novel touches “reclaiming one’s history…inheritance, language…and voice…”(6, 183).

The women oppression, maybe, can be another method of signifying on the slave narrative. The author’s privileging of speech plus other cultural practices, for instance needlework, music, sexuality, and even spirituality all portrays the slave narrative. The novel, to start with, as much as in the first letter, God is the addressee, brings a clear picture that Celie’s writing was not by any means directed to her or method of self-expression. Celie writes, in most conditions, when telling it is impossible, one better tell nobody but God and this is how the novel starts. The taboo is never broken by Celie until midway through when she tells Shug that she had been beaten. This was the community taboo, to tell other people of your problems and misfortunes. Telling was thus confined to spoken, human communication, whereas writing to God does not count on an act of self-empowerment. This appears to the reader, majority in fact, significant distinction to make, because it crucially defines the difference between the dominant (white) culture’s writin.............


Type: Essay || Words: 1615 Rating || Excellent

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