A BOOK THAT CHANGED FEMINISM FROM “SOCIETAL INJUSTICES” TO “WOMANISM”

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Unless you have been residing under a bridge or bypassing bookstores and libraries, you probably know by now that books do make a difference in the world. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is a book that entirely liberated women since the 90’s up until now from the harshest, sexual, social and racial gender injustices in patriarchal societies.

Walker’s novel is an epistolary, made up of letters written by a girl to “Dear God”. It is a treat to lovers of moving yet domestic fiction about a girl child (Celie) who is abused and shamed as she fights her way through life as a woman to know God in a male dominated and racially prejudiced society.

Unlike her sister (Nettie), she is described by her stepfather (Alfonso) as ugly, spoilt and “too dump to keep going to school”. However Nettie disagrees.  So Celie is raped by Alfonso, falls pregnant twice and is taken out of school.

The book is not easy to read as it is not written in Standard English, instead it’s written in “Black English”. Celie is uneducated, however this does not stop her from expressing her thoughts and feelings; and that right there is “the power of narrative and voice”. She therefore writes her letters exactly as she speaks and thinks. The readers are then fascinated and inspired to read more of the story and learn to appreciate Celie’s writing ‘style’ as Walker tries to highlight “her black voice”.

Celie as the protagonist is an audacious, courageous and womanist character. She falls victim to Alfonso’s incest and is married off to Mr_____ (Albert) and becomes a victim of sexism. Nettie on the other hand, feels remorse towards her sister and tells her to fight and show her perpetrators that she has the upper hand. ”But I don’t know how to fight, all I know how to do is stay alive” Celie remarks. So she accepts it as a way of life and allows herself to be used by men.

The novel then changes the course of the plot as Walker presents another womanist character, Albert’s lover and blues singer (Shug Avery). After feeling helpless and hopeless, Celie finds comfort in Shug as they develop a lesbian relationship.

She shows Celie fearlessness and shamelessness and tells her that she is not ugly and has the brightest smile she has ever seen. Shug is perceived as a hero as she helps Celie take charge of her life later in the story. In doing so, Celie becomes an independent woman, leaves her sexist husband and starts her own business of pants.

In my opinion, the novel is centered on womanism and the power of strong female relationships. Relationships among women in the novel form a sense of refuge, providing compassion and love in a world filled with male violence. Most importantly as proven by Walker, these women uplift themselves, redeeming them to sing their truth, their self-worth and their desires.

Almost all the men in The Color Purple are stereotypical monsters that showcase toxic masculinity. However the women ended up breaking sexism and violence by fearlessly talking back to these men that abused them.

This evidently proves that the only way change can emerge is when we speak up not worrying about how difficult or complicated a situation is. Therefore this should not only apply to women but to the nation as a whole with a purpose to speak up and change the lives of the indigenous people. 

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