For thousands of years women have been fighting for many things, one of the most important being respect. Some people may think respect for a woman is simply holding the door for her as she walks through, pulling her chair out for her before she is seated, or maybe just standing when she leaves the table; but respect is so much more than that. Respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements. Respect is a feeling that cannot just be given to someone, it is a feeling that must be earned, fought for, or rewarded.
For the African American woman, respect did not come by so easily no matter how hard they fought or even if they earned it. Examples of the African American woman fighting for her respect, has once upon a time been one of the many themes during all literary periods. The two works that I chose have the similar theme of respect. The literary pieces are “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston and “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker. These two works show the same theme of respect for black women and the struggle for it from men.
Though both stories have comparisons that could go on for days, they just as well have their differences by the way the handle the theme of respect. Alice Walker has been writing stories and poetry for many years. As a graduate of Spelman College she was given great opportunities and was given a solid education. Women’s rights and respect has always been two topics close to Alice’s heart. It has been said, that “Alice Walker expresses the struggles of black people, particularly women, and their lives in a racist, sexist, and violent society. ” Her writings also lean more towards the roles of black women through culture and history.
On March 3, 2008 Alice Walker was arrested on International Women’s Day for crossing the police line at a rally in front of The White House. Walker has set a standard and has never had any need or want to change it. Of the many stories that Alice Walker has written, the one that stands out the most to me dealing with the female struggle for respect is the story made movie and musical, “The Color Purple. ” “The Color Purple,” is a story written in 1982 that has won multiple awards and recognitions for its not so classy taste and realistic views.
Some of these awards being from the Blue Ribbon Awards, Black Movie Awards, Golden Globe Awards, eleven nominations during the Oscars, and plenty more. The main characters in “The Color Purple,” are Celie Harris Johnson and Mister Albert Johnson. Celie has been abused since she was just a young girl; she had two children by her father Leonard and she is forced to marry Albert, a young widower, by the age of fourteen. During her years of being married to Albert, she is taunted, disrespected, beaten, and abused up until she turns her life around when she meets Shug Avery, a well-known Jazz singer, who comes to live with the couple.
Shug takes it upon herself to help Celie raise her self-confidence so she can not only stand up to her husband and demand respect, but to feel beautiful about herself inside and out. By the end of the story, Celie stands up to Avery and is finally reconnected with the family that was once taken away from her. Another great black female author who proudly carries the theme of respect in her stories is Zora Neale Hurston. Hurston, a graduate of Howard University, was a well-known author during the Harlem Renaissance.
Hurston is most known for her famous literary piece entitled, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” which caught the eyes of readers around the world. Like Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston has also won multiple awards for her fabulous novels, short stories, and poems. The story “Sweat” written by Zora Neale Hurston takes place in a small all black town located near Orlando, Florida. This story, like many others with disrespect towards the wife, starts off with husband Sykes taunting his wife Delia by tricking her into thinking that the whip he throws over her shoulders is a snake, knowing she is deadly terrified of them.
Throughout the story, Delia deals with infidelity, abuse, rumors, and taunting from her husband. Towards the end of the story, her husband buys a rattlesnake and refuses to take it back where he found it from, knowing his wife is terrified. In the end, that very snake gets loose, bites, and kills him; Delia stands their watching him die. The website articlemyriad. com states “The reader can speculate on whether or not Delia was too afraid to move to get help for her husband, but it is the general consensus that she purposefully let him die.
While you could argue both, if you are going to contend that she was just afraid, you’d better take a closer look at the text before trying to defend your point. ” One of the greatest comparisons in this story is the lack of respect the husbands have for their wives, a marriage is supposed to be filled with trust, respect, love, and honesty, all of which the two marriages in “The Color Purple” and “Sweat” lacked. Although there are many comparisons, there were also contrasts in the two stories, although not exactly easy to find with a closed mind.
A contrast in these two stories to me that stood out the most were the personalities of the two wives in the stories. In “The Color Purple,” Celie is abused and taken advantage of, but holds a quiet tongue until the end; Delia in “Sweat” is abused and taken advantage of , but she always speaks her mind and portrays her true feelings towards something. With these two stories I felt it was good to have the personalities of the women who wanted respect to be completely different so that I could compare and contrast just a bit more clearly.
One was more hidden and kept feelings to herself, the other more outgoing and stronger like all women should be. In conclusion, respect for women, especially blacks, has been a subject that will always be discussed and fought for. Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker described the struggle for respect in many similar and different ways. I stated earlier that for thousands of years women have been fighting for many things, one of the most important being respect and that respect was a feeling that cannot just be given to someone, it is a feeling that must be earned, fought for, or rewarded.
I am proud of the long way that not only African American women have come, but women all race and I am blessed to have such profound women to look up to. Women in the past who have fought for our rights set a high standard for the rest of us to follow and I look forward to doing just so. Works Cited 1. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature: Second Edition Henry Louis Gates Jr. & Nellie Y. McKay.
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