“A man shall not be judged by the color of their skin by the content of their character,” Martin Luther King Jr once said. But does this logic always apply in the real world? In many societies, there seems to be a shift of roles based not fully on character and quality but on gender, race and class. The community tends to assign positions, drawing itself onto the denial of roles to the odds. Alice Walker, in her book “The Color Purple” brings the readers to the realization of this fact of life, as she describes the life and emotions of a typical black woman, in such a society, seeking happiness and achievement. Racism and discrimination may be long gone but their principles have a lasting effect on the society. Walker vividly demonstrates that most times, there are things one cannot do because he/she is black skinned and there are also things one cannot do because she is female. And, worst of all, there is almost nothing one can do because she is black skinned and a female. “You black, you pore, you ugly, you a woman. Goddam, he say, you nothing at all,” and thats exactly who Celie was seen as (370).
There is no place for women such as Celie to do what they want, in such societies. Black people are expected to live to the expectations of white people and women are expected to live to the expectations of men, and no more than that. These traits of discrimination not only occurred among “white” people but among black people as well. Sexism in Africa was at its extreme as “the Olinka do not believe girls should be educated” (560).women were abused by men and seen just as a tool used everyday for pleasure; they were a source of entertainment to men but not to themselves. Men see women as slaves obliged to do what they please as they say, “women work, I am a man” (44).Stepping into the issue of races, Alice Walker describes the ill treatment of black people by white ones. White people then seemed to be filled with a superiority complex and blacks seemed to be filled with inferiority. Alice Walker tries to express her theme of equality, there being no superiority or inferiority. She believes the whites should not be superior and the blacks should not be inferior; the wrong is on both sides. Why is it that “only white people can ride in the beds and use the restaurant …and they have different toilets from colored” (236)?
In these kind of societies, some white people are disgusted to stay with “some strange colored man” (188). These extreme cases of discrimination destroys the society, hiding the talents of the talented and the knowledge of the knowledgeable. In the story, Alice Walker describes a protagonist who, despite the assumptions or the stereotypes of the society, faces her life with confidence as she awaits the fulfillment of hopes of the real her – the hopes which the society had blinded her of in its ways. She denies the society’s roles and this eventually leads her to self-improvement happiness and accomplishments. The reader sees in the story that although she was hopeless and had nothing to dream, through a series of events and with the motivation of others around her, learned to achieve her dreams and stand to her rights. Celie saw herself as a black woman, but not as the society sees it. She saw herself as a person just the same as every other person in the planet.
From the emotions and reactions of Celie, the reader can realize that she has been through many situations of the worst levels and is ready to face life as it comes when she says, “I know white people never listen to people like me, period” (348). She seemed to admit that she is just a piece of unwanted and useless piece of junk. Her life never showed her any reason why she should be worth what she was actually worth. Celie had never experienced true love even from her mother or her father but only from her dearest sister. As she goes through her usual sufferings of life, she comes across some people who begin to understand her feelings. Shug Avery and other women of love, try to show her the real world and how much the society had blinded her. Celie’s realization that “women do need a little fun, once in a while,” leads to her denial and refutation of the roles that the society places on gender, race and class.
She begins to model her life to her dreams, and no longer to the way the society expects it. She follows her passion and helps others to come out the same way. Alice Walker convinces the readers that life is not about pleasing the society and those in authority, but about pleasing oneself. This principle followed in her book, eventually leads Celie to a sense of self-accomplishment and happiness. Through her understanding that “if yellow is a name, black is the same,” Celie finally feels just like every other person- free to satisfy herself, being restrained no more by anybody else. She stood firm, with her God for help, in the paths she believed was right.
In “the Color Purple,” Alice Walker describes the life of a typical black woman as she struggles in the society that clearly expresses their hatred for such race and gender. Societies seem to favor the “better” race and gender, having no concern, whatsoever for the odd ones out, leaving them to a rotten life and destroying their destiny. How would people in such conditions ever achieve true happiness or self satisfaction? It is indeed very hard for the odd gender or race to even figure out the meaning of life or try to live it in full.
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple: A Novel. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982. Print.