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Many would argue that men hold the power in “The Colour Purple”. Explore the opinions of critics Andrea Stuart and Mary O’ Connor and explain your own view of what Alice Walker has to say about the power in “The Colour Purple”. In the novel ‘The Colour Purple’ power is represented differently throughout. One way in which this power is shown is through men in the novel. At the beginning men dominate and are depicted as a higher authority figure to women, it seems the men rule the women’s lives.
However we can also argue that women are equally strong whilst others evolve into more powerful figures. Power through sisterhood is demonstrated through the fact that Shug gives Celie companionship, something Celie may not have felt since she was separated from her sister Nettie. Through Celie and Shug’s relationship Celie has gained strength in herself and has been shown to stick up for herself. We see this when Shug announces she is taking Celie and Mary Agnes with her as Celie stands up to Albert. This shows us Celie is learning to become independent.
This represents one aspect of female power in the novel and it also shows that by having friends to support them these women are able to leave their “lowdown dogs” behind and with the belief in themselves they can build their own future. Female solidarity is shown where we see Celie’s protection for her mother and sister Nettie. Although she has no real proof on whether Nettie is alive and well, she never stops believing she will one day be reunited with her sister. From this we can see that if men had the will power and strength the women do in the novel, they would be able to make their hard and miserable life easier and more bearable.
Celie after everything she has been through and all the misery she has been put through by various characters mainly male’s, she still has hope and can see a brighter future for herself and to be reunited with her sister and become a family. The love shared between Shug and Celie was getting closer and more passionate. Shug’s feelings for Celie to us seemed true even though she had male sexual partners Celie still seemed more important to Shug than any other of her male partners.
Andrea Stuart expresses that Celie doesn’t mind that her lover Shug comes home with a husband. She only cares that Shug is back with her, “the existence of a husband is irrelevant to what is important, the relationship between the two women”. Albert did not have a clue to what was going on between the two of them. He could understand they had become good friends in the time they had spent together and therefore wanted to sleep in the same bed but not once did he suspect them to have a sexual relationship.
He put too much trust into Celie and Shug letting them be together alone for such a long time that Shug turned Celie into a more confident character, someone that has her own voice and can speak up for herself. Celie shows her strength again in the novel when she sacrifices herself to a traumatizing experience in order to protect and prevent her sister being raped. Alphonso abused Celie and she didn’t want the same to happen to Nettie, “I ast him to take me instead of Nettie”. Thinking Alphonso may not want her instead of Nettie she trys to seduce him, “I tell him I can fix myself up for him.
I duck into my room and come out wearing horsehair, feathers, and a pair of our new mammy high heel shoes. He beat me for dressing trampy but he do it to me anyway”. Celie here shows her willingness to protect her little sister from the pain and suffering she had previously encountered, in order to save Nettie being sexually abused she puts herself through it again. Walker highlights the lack of power experienced by many poor black females living in the southern states through the character of Celie.
She comes from a black background which therefore disadvantages her because in the time the novel was set being a black female was quite low down, they were still being treated like slaves due to her being black but also female as in those times the male role dominated. Celie was therefore used to accepting some racism from the whites. This is shown when she goes into town and bumps into her baby and her step mother in a store where the clerk was rude and showed no good manners to them. He speaks in an imperative tone, “girl you want that cloth or not?
We got other customers sides you”. Celie also wrote about black on black racial insults. One example is when Albert’s sisters came round to visit and they described Albert’s first wife as “too black”. Lighter skin was seen as more beautiful then darker skin. Squeak after being raped by her uncle Bubber Hodges, asked Harpo “do you really love me, or just my colour” Squeak thought it was because of her light coloured skin due to the fact she is mixed race that Harpo was attracted to her and not because he truly loved her.
Here power was shown through skin colour and Walker highlights how deeply racism is embedded for example when the critics say she is writing against black people showing their racism. Andrea Stuart and Mary O’Conner both think Celie is only a victim of men in the physical world. Stuart states that “men are relegated to the periphery of female consciousness” Celie being a black women she was not only a slave to slavery but she was also a slave to the male authority, when slavery was abolished Celie saw the opportunity to free herself from the traditions that men come first.