The and humiliated for the colour of the

The colour purple is set in rural
Georgia. The genre of the novel is fiction and drama which mainly focuses on
the African-American women in the 1930s who faced many issues living in a
patriarchal society. Walker explored themes such as racism, segregation,
discrimination and feminism which was apparent in the 1930s. Walker uses these
themes to throughout the novel to act out what was happening in the reality.
Although slavery was long outlawed, its effects were still heavily felt by
those African- American people still living in southern united states.

Racism and discrimination was very
apparent in society as the ‘black men’ would be discriminated and humiliated
for the colour of the skin and because they could not retaliate they would take
it out on their women. Women would then have to face double the oppression as
seen throughout the novel from each female character such as Celie. The readers
see Celie tell her story through her letters to God about the suffering she had
to endure for more than half her life. The character Celie represents most of
the black women who faced the double oppression she faced for more than forty
years, being sexually, emotionally and physically abused by her ‘father’ and
husband, Celie cannot find a voice of her own and writes to only God to seek
some sort of comfort. Celie represented a lot of the black women facing
discrimination and oppression their own partners and the society they live in.

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The letters Celie writes shows her
poor literacy skills, evidently shown in her letters which consists of spelling
mistakes, short simple sentences and limited vocabulary. Celie spells
phonetically because she writes how she speaks and because she is uneducated
she has not been taught the formal way or writing or speaking but through her
fragile state she tries to find help through her letters to God. Walker
purposely uses this to show the readers how a young uneducated black girl is
showing her struggle with all the problems she faces even though she is not educated
enough to formulate a proper sentence, she looks to God to try and save her
from abuse she is enduring. The readers are shown from the beginning of the
novel, Letter 1, Celie quotes what her father has said to her ‘you better not
never tell nobody but God. It’d kill you mother’ because of the installed fear
from her father, Celie looks to no one but God for comfort and guidance. Celie
is inspired by other female characters such Sofia and Shug who show confidence
within themselves and the ability to stand against any man who tries to
belittle them. The women in the novel help each other through their friendships

Walker shows Celie progression in
gaining confidence within herself to stand up to Mr and take charge of her own
life. The readers see this throughout the novel, Celie understanding her
environment but becomes more confident enough to have her own voice.

The extracts that I have chosen
from The colour purple is page 34, 35, 75 which presents the abuse women
suffered from their men, especially they’re own men and the racism they faced
in society.

 For my non-literary text I have the chosen ‘I
know why the caged bird sings’ by Maya Angelou. The reason for choosing this is
because Maya’s autobiography is written from her personal experience of being
sexually abused by close family members and the discrimination she faces
through her childhood and adult life. Maya Angelou is a civil rights activist,
best known for one of her most celebrated books ‘I know why the caged bird
sings’ and is a respected spokesperson for black people and women. Throughout
the autobiography the readers learn of the many obstacles Maya faced, leading
up to the age of 17 when she began her career as a civil rights activist. Angelou
uses her autobiography to project the themes of identity, abuse and racism.
Similar themes used in the colour purple like the character Celie, Angelou’s
younger self also represent most of the black women living in America, a male
dominated society at the time.

With both the literary and
non-literary material, I am going to focus on the linguistic devices used to
exert the themes of racism, oppression of women and feminisms that makes the
audience understand the moral of the stories. Maya Angelou’s autobiography
illustrates the strength of a character that overcomes the trauma and racism
faced in society and finds her love for literature. Whereas, Walker presents a
similar purpose, the character Celie has a love for sewing and pursues after
overcoming the trauma she has gone through most of her life. The readers mostly
likely consist of young adults/ adults reading both texts. 791



Mary, K. (2012) writes about the
current laws that are now being altered to protect families and women of harm. Violence
against women ‘goes beyond beating’ and it includes forced marriages, martial
rape, forced abortion and emotional abuse. Walker also writes of Celie’s
experiences of abuse that she had to endure that damages her self- esteem and
sense of self that it takes her years of courage to stand up for herself.  

However, changing attitudes
according to Ms. Kaba (2012) is that ‘we have to get more women to know their
legal rights’ she argues that it can benefit society when women are offered
better protection. Walker makes it clear throughout the novel how important
female relationships are in order to regain a voice and be a strong individual.
Whereas Walker presents Celie as a weak character in the beginning who only
confides her problem through her letters to God. Towards the end Celie develops
a strong sense of self and is confident and assured in herself to stand up to
her husband and live her own life.

Tracey Playle (2003) identifies the
omission is deliberate and significant ‘I have always been a good girl’. By
crossing through the verb ‘to be’ Celie is removed from being. In other words,
she does not exist in her own right, she has no sense of identity or selfhood.
Although Celie is after all a black women struggling with the white man’s
language, Playle points out that Celie cannot successfully define her own
identity through the ‘voice and form of a culture to which she does not belong’.
Celie successfully towards the end of the novel gains a sense of self which is
important according to Kaba in order for to be better protected in society.

Mel Watkins (1982) identifies that
as the novel progresses Celie grows in experience ‘her observations become
sharper and more informed’. A number of memorable female characters emerge such
as Shug whose pride, independence and appetite for living acts as ‘catalyst for
Celie and others’.  This leads to Celie
and Sofia to leave the overbearing husbands but to challenge the oppression
they face in society.

Anita Sethi describes Maya Angelou
novel ‘I know why caged bird sings’ as the ‘painful’ experiences of being
‘unwanted’ that haunts Angelou early childhood as she also undergoes the trauma
of rape but finds her voice and a love for language and books. Whereas Celie
used her knitting to make a living for herself.

James Baldwin also describes
Angelou’s novel ‘liberating’ for the readers into life simply because Maya
angelou ‘confronts her own life with such a luminous dignity’ the novel shows
the strength May have to overcome the trauma she has suffered at the hands of a
family member and allowing the readers into her world.



How do Walker and Angelou create a narrative voice for the character?

The language used by Celie does not
follow non-standard language, reflects her background, her dialect in rural
Georgia. Celie writes the way she speaks, with no grammar or punctuation used
properly. Celie’s letters are not written in standard English but in her folk
voice in the style of direct address. Through her letters to God the readers
understand that Celie is an uneducated young black female, who struggles to
formulate sentences to express how she is feeling or capture what she is sees
or tries to explain. The novel starts off with Celie’s first letter to God, the
readers are caught off guard as this is not a prayer or the usual letter to god
but a description of the sexual violence Celie has started to endure at the age
of 14. Celie describes the act using words such as ‘titties’, ‘his thing’ and
‘pussy’ to describe the act as she is still a young innocent girl, therefore
these are only terms she knows.

Walker uses dialect and literacy
devices to express the moral of the story through on of the main characters
through Celie whose language is a typical representation of the many uneducated
black young girls living in rural Georgia. For example, Instead of Celie to use
say ‘ask’ she writes ‘ast’. This puts the readers into the world of the rural
uneducated black people living in Georgia in the 1930s. Although Celie has
difficulty expressing her feelings and thoughts in her letters to God, the
readers are able to understand the hardship Celie Is still going through and
therefore feel empathy for the Character. Walker’s use of language presents the
many women who would have to face oppression with no one to look for comfort or
encouragement and therefore the only person Celie conforms all her problems to
is God. Furthermore, Celie is after all a black women struggling with the white
man’s language, Playle points out that Celie cannot successfully define her own
identity through the ‘voice and form of a culture to which she does not

From the early diary entries, we
see that Celie is writing exactly as she speaks and thinks only towards the end
of the novel Celie gains enough self-esteem to sign her name with pride whereas
she did not before because she may have felt that she was of sufficient worth
to sign her name. Celie successfully towards the end of the novel gains a sense
of self which is important according to Kaba in order for to be better
protected in society.

Similarly, Angelou also describes
the events of being sexually abused at a young age and the trauma she went through
that left her feeling guilt and shame of been sexually abused, she seems to
only find comfort from Bailey and only speaks to him, whereas in the ‘The
colour purple’ Celie finds comfort from God. The silence represents the trauma
Maya goes through, she can no longer find her voice or seek the help she needs
in order to move on from this difficult experience. However, towards the end
Maya finds help from Mrs Bertha who helps her to regain her voice through the
books of poetry given to her. Similarly, Celie is comforted by Shug and
inspired by Sofia with their own strengths that help take part in her standing
up for herself against her husband.


How are pronouns used to portray the character’s views?

Through Celie’s letter, Walker
refers to the characters only with pronouns such as ‘she’, he’ and ‘they’. The
repetition of masculine pronouns in Celie’s letter suggests Mr_’s dominance
over her.  The short and elliptical
sentences ‘Mr__’ adds drama and convey the strength of Celie’s feelings. Celie
may have not been able to see his name because of the power and control her
husband had over her to the point she may have felt that she was of sufficient
worth to sign her name. As well pronouns being used to refer to everyone else
around Celie. From the first letter, Imagery is used to describe the vivid
abuse Celie endures from her father, ‘he pushed his thing inside my pussy’ this
produces a feeling of mental and physical abuse, Celie is going through at 14 years
old. The abuse Celie endures throughout the novel is the same abuse black women
faced in society at the time from white people and at the hands of their own
men due to their own fear of being lynched they took out all frustration on
them which is the case for Celie. The use of onomatopoeia is deliberately used
to show how young and un educated Celie is, she writes exactly how she would
speak, which is the only way she knows how to get her message across to

Whereas, Angelou uses metaphors
when referring to everyone else around her, the first encounter of a metaphor
is the title which Angelou uses to describe how the caged sings because she
feels caged in herself. Angelou describe her mother would be ‘to write about a
hurricane in its perfect power’. Her mother is described as a hurricane,
suggesting that mother can be dangerous and powerful, but there is something
about that pulls people in she appears beautiful yet harmless and charms those
around her. Maya also compares racism to situations it creates a tragic play ‘We
were like actors who, knowing the play by heart, were still able to cry afresh
over the old tragedies and laugh spontaneously at the comic situations.’ In
this simile Maya describes the conflict she has with street clerk even though
they have no personal history with each other, there must be conflict because racism
dictates it. She compares the both of them to the two characters in one of Shakespeare’s
plays Hamlet and Laertes, two characters doomed to fight because of their
ancestor’s mistakes. This comparison is significant because Maya shows the
readers that instead of people to take responsibility for their actions and
stop the cruelty they inflict on others, the replicate and repeat those


How is Dramatic Irony used?

Celie is envious and jealous of
Sofia’s strong character. Sofia refuses back down from a fight if anybody picks
on her and Celie admires this quality, but because of Celie’s jealousy of
Sofia, she advises Harpo, the husband to beat Sofia. This is irony because
Celie does not like being beaten by her husband but puts Sofia in harm’s way.  The similes used ‘wives is like children’ is
advice from Mr.__ encourage Harpo to beat his wife into submission. However,
when Harpo comes back looking worse with ‘one of his eyes shut like a fish’ after
he tried to beat Sophia, seems to backfire because he comes backing looking
worse than Sophia which shows just how strong of a character she is. This is
ironic because the reader would think that the man would be the one to come out
unaffected by the fight, but the exact opposite happens. In addition, the
readers understand why Celie encourages Harpo to harm Sofia, Sofia begins to
understand why Celie told Harpo to do this because Celie is jealous of Sofia’s
strength and confidence, something Celie does not possess and therefore wants
Sofia to feel just as weak as she does. However, towards the end Harpo reforms
his ways and effectively continues to cook, clean and takes care of his
children which breaks the stereotypical gender roles that males should be more
dominant than women. The colloquial language used by all the characters in the
novel suggests that the majority of black people in the 1930s at the time, the
language was ‘informal’. Playle also suggests that Celie is one of the many
black people struggling with the white man’s language.

Whereas in ‘I know why the caged
bird sings’ dramatic irony is used, Maya’s rape is tragic, yet a key event in
Maya’s life and as a result impacts Maya’s development and sense of self, she
withdraws physically and emotionally from everyone around her and refuses to
speak to anyone besides bailey. Although nobody in her family understands why
Maya behaves the way she does, they punish her especially her mother who is
unable to deal with Maya’s post-rape trauma. Even so, modern readers are able
to identify the signs of PTSD or the need of rape survivors to speak with
psychological professionals, therefore the behaviour of Maya’s family seems
cruel. However, during this time, Psychology was in its early stages of
development and therefore the effects of rape was not widely understood. Although
Maya undergoes the trauma of rape, the ‘painful’ experiences of being
‘unwanted’ that haunts Angelou early childhood as described by Sethi, she finds
her voice and a love for language and books.



It is clear that both texts use
similar themes that express how women dealt with the emotional and physical
abuse black people, mainly women who faced double the oppression had endure in
society. Whereas, Celie is young at the beginning when she first encounters the
abuse by her father, Maya is also a young child raped by a close family member,
her mother’s boyfriend. The two young ladies are forced to into silence about
the abuse and confides with only the people they can find comfort from. Celie
confides with God through her letters and Maya only speak with Bailey. The
trauma both women experience follows them throughout their lives unable to find
the appropriate help to help deal with their problems.  However, through both texts we see the character’s
strengths that help them overcome these difficulties to pursue the things they
enjoy the most, for Celie it was sewing which she then makes a business out of
it and Maya also finds her love for literature that helped through her
difficult times also.

Angelou’s autobiography covered the
common topics written by black African women in the years following the civil
rights movement, it explores the subjects such identity, racism and rape. She
also writes on how women lived in a male dominated society. Similarly, Walker
also uses similarly subjects to explore when using the main Character Celie as
an example of on the many black women facing depression in society alongside
the other female characters. However, Celie alongside many of the female
characters learn to challenge the oppression they face in society, Mel
identifies that as the novel progresses Celie grows in experience ‘her
observations become sharper and more informed’, suggesting she is growing as a
character and is learning to gain more confidence within herself and identity.