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The purpose of Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is to demonstrate the hardships that are met when ignorance and tradition bring about the influence of sexism, racism and genuine prejudice to the general public. Ignorance is the root cause of prejudice as it prevents one to see beauty, so when it comes to dealing with the discriminating behavior held in this social order, the vast majority of people are judged by the label and stereotype society has given them, not by the kind of person they are inside.
Nevertheless, through these corrupt societies, the protagonists are able to experience incredible journeys of courage, growth and love. Bravery and love is crucial in both novels in order for the protagonists to break through their limiting boundaries and stand up for what they believe. Bravery in both is also essential for fighting against discrimination and when both protagonists transcend from innocence to experience, they becomes more aware of the harsh realities of prejudice and ignorance projected in the world.
Through proper guidance, they come to understand what genuine evil is and what is simply given the label of being evil.
Love is demonstrated to be capable of conquering the ignorance and courage opposes the notion of being disregarded. For instance, Scout comes to love Boo, conquering the ignorance that Maycomb has projected into her mind and Celie comes to fall in love as well as idolize Shug for her dominant ways, freeing herself from becoming indulged furthermore with the ignorance her surrounding present to her.
The characters in both novels begin to use their certain dominance and authority in order to take matters under their own wings; in means of attempting to speak up for what their moral claims to be right.
By elaborating on the epic journeys that the characters from both novels venture on, I intend to prove how the two corrupt societies are fueled by ignorance and tradition, as well as how characters from both novels fight against this through love, courage and growth. Ignorance prevents people to see the very beauty and innocence of things that are given a superficial label, however this ignorance is challenged by characters in order to prove stereotypes wrong. Love is capable of conquering the ignorance that some see and courage helps shed light to what is in need of being seen.
In a sense, ignorance sways the “killing of Mockingbirds” (To Kill a Mockingbird pg 93) and the disregard for “the color purple in a field somewhere”. (The Color Purple, pg 196). In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, the literal color itself symbolizes beauty, since Celie uses this word to describe the beauty of the things in this world. When Celie begins to name some of God’s creations that she never appreciated before, she acknowledges her own ignorance when she realizes she never admired the allure of anything around her.
When she chooses to use purple as an example of extraordinary establishment, it shows that purple is patriarchal and dominant when compared to other colors. “I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that) not the color purple (where it come from? ). Not the wildflowers. Nothing. ” (The Color Purple pg 197) If compared to its brothers and sisters, purple is considered to be the most beautiful, astounding and unique of all colors. Shug believes Celie is very much similar to this color.
When she states “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it” (Walker 203), she is implying that the purple she is talking about is a euphemism for Celie. The purple represents Celie’s beauty and even though she is this gracious color, people around her don’t seem to notice, they simply treat her dreadfully. Due to this immense negligence, she lives an agonizing life where she is constantly abused both verbally and physically by the very men that a woman normally looks up to; her stepfather and her own husband.
The men assume since Celie is a woman and they are males that there is nothing wrong with what they are doing to her. They believe that since she is a woman, she is not intelligent or worthy of respect. An example demonstrating her stepfathers inequality towards women is when he believes that Celie is incapable of learning; therefore deciding to pull her out of school. However, Shug Avery gives Celie the love and attention she deserves, unlike these men. Although unconventional, Shug acknowledges Celie’s presence and see’s in Celie what no one does; a beautiful, intellectual and independent woman.
The color purple was chosen by Alice Walker in order to demonstrate Celie’s struggle with men and also represents Celie’s appreciation towards herself. Since purple is a very omnipotent and dominant color, it is considered to be a color that is to be an emblem of rank or authority. Normally, royalty or someone with a high social class would wear purple in order to represent their dominance and power. When one of Mr. _’s sister’s offers to buy Celie clothes, Celie replies “I think about what color Shug Avery would wear, she like a queen to me. So I say to Kate, Something purple. (The Color Purple, pg 20) Being very vulnerable and weak at the beginning of the novel, Celie idolizes Shug Avery, “The Queen Bee”, and craves for a similar assertiveness. She considers Shug at equilibrium with royalty, assuming Shug would wear something purple to represent her aristocratic ways and to show off her superior attitude towards the world. When Shug Avery enters Celie’s life, Celie instantly falls in love. This may be due to her upbringing, and traumatizing experiences with her father or Mr. ______, scarring the very ideology Celie possesses for men.
Also, this could connect to the fact that Shug defies the tradition woman being abused, and beaten. Shug is everything Celie wants to be, but she cannot become. Nevertheless, in time she gives Celie the confidence to stand up for herself. Her love eventually conquers Celie’s idea of what a traditional women’s life should be like. Their love is symbolized when Celie states “It Hard not to love Shug. She know how to love somebody back. ” (The Color Purple 289) The love that the two share destroys all of the ignorance Celie was forced to endure for the majority of her young years as well as brings her to become self-governing and strong.
Celie’s transformation could be proven when Mr. _____ begins to insult her on how she incapable of doing anything with her life. By learning to stand up for herself against Mr. _____ and discover her own beauty, she boldly replies “I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook. . . . But I’m here” (The Color Purple pg 207) Celie’s assertion of herself comes forcefully when she decides to make Mr. ______ acknowledge and her presence in this world. It is a defining moment for her as it differentiates sharply with her former silence, symbolizing the development of bravery and attainment of self-respect.
Celie in a sense conquered tradition with her speech, as she inspired Mr. ______ to rebuild and start a fresh slate in his life. This is proven when Alice Walker chooses to give him the first name Albert, in means of signaling the humanization in his character. The influence of ignorance is also present in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, having Harper Lee take a similar approach in her novel to Alice Walker’s in The Color Purple. Lee interprets the novel’s title into her text in order to prove that ignorance prevents people to see clearly as to what is going on in reality.
Due to prejudice and racism, the very beauty and innocence of a human being can be turned into a superficial label simply because of something like the color of skin. In the novel however, this ignorance is challenged by no other than Atticus Finch; a man fighting in order to have society form equilibrium between having fair trial for all mankind, disregarding any color, shapes or sizes. In the case of Tom Robinson, ignorance blinds the rationality of people who live in Maycomb. They are not open to knowing what kind of man Tom is, only of what acts of violence he is capable of committing.
Since he is very able-bodied and of color, Mr. Gilmer, the lawyer opposing Atticus in the trial, takes advantage of the simple minded Macombians by letting prejudice lead them to assumptions. All he had to do was introduce the possibility of a colored man raping a white female to easily spring upon victory. Even though Tom is clearly innocent, no one is interested since they would never take a black mans word over a white mans. This shows how the justice system of small Maycomb is corrupt. This entire situation involving Tom Robinson is something Scout would call “to be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird. (To Kill A Mockingbird, pg 276). Mockingbirds are simply beautiful and guiltless creatures that solemnly “sing their hearts out for us. ” (To Kill a Mockingbird pg 93) In the novel, “killing a mockingbird” is the idea of good, innocent people becoming destroyed by evil. Tom Robinson, for instance, gives off the appearance of a strong and tall colored man, who has the potential of committing atrocities such as rape, murder or even theft. However in reality he would never even consider doing such things as he is candid and hard working.
Maycomb is not interested in this, since the entire town is groping in racism and false judgment. Atticus’s love for Tom, as well as his grandiloquent speech about prejudice and fair trial, helps some people in the room to open their eyes from their long slumber in ignorance and understand that Tom is innocent. In that sense, love conquered ignorance. However all in all, Maycomb is a town of tradition and would not give in to any black man winning a trial, no matter how pretentious, eloquent or convincing a speech may be, but it did spark hope.
People in the courtroom clearly become open the fact that Bob Ewell is the culprit instead of Tom Robinson after Atticus presented his argument; the idea is however simply overruled by the corrupt and long up bringing of tradition. Another example met in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird to demonstrate that love сan open ones eyes from being blinded by ignorance and predilection, is Boo’s father-like love for Scout. At the beginning of the novel, Boo is considered to be very dangerous and looked down upon in Maycomb.
The town influenced a superficial label and formed a prejudice against him since he was once said to be reckless and wild. He has not been seen in day light ever since he was imprisoned in his own house as punishment for his said to be “revolting ways”. This gives Boo an ominous and eerie feeling to his character and has fear-provoking stories spread about him (essentially to children). Scout being one of those influenced by the gossip Maycomb has brought into existence, has cold feet every time she passes Boo’s house due to the rumors spread about Boo having a malicious and beastly persona.
However, as Scout grows and gains experience, she comes to understand that Boo Radley is nothing more than a magnanimous young man who chose to willingly to lock himself in his own domain in order to simply not get infected by the very ignorance that Scout was once infected with. When Boo chooses to save Scouts life from Bob Ewells malevolent assault, he has Scout understand that all the rumors that subsist about him are faulty. Scout finally grew to understand through Boo’s love that she cannot preconceive judgment, or form an opinion with adverse to anything or anyone without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.
She understands that prejudice is simply an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, race or their supposed characteristics. Jumping to simple biased conclusions with no adequate evidence is foolish. Scout acknowledges this when Boo’s love conquers her ignorance to see what is truly beautiful. It is evident that both novels have themes of love and courage having the ability of conquering ignorance and tradition. Prejudice creates a feeling that implies an unfavorable prepossession and connotes a feeling rooted in suspicion, fear, and intolerance.
It creates unreasoned and unfair distortion of judgment in favor of or against a person. Both Harper Lee and Alice Walker would like to make this very clear in their novels, through countless symbolic and literal examples. However love and courage have the capability of overcoming ignorance and prejudice through it’s unselfish concern that freely accepts another in loyalty and seeks his good. Ignorance may imply a general condition or it may apply to a lack of knowledge of awareness of a particular subject, creating a flawed prejudgment. An example of ignorance in both novels is the racism conjured in both novels.
Both novels demonstrate the belief that a race is the primarily determinant of human traits and capacities through racial differences. In The Color Purple, Alice Walker skillfully gives or refuses to give last names to some of her characters, in order to develop an alternative perspective of dominance. She would like to change the traditional role as to who is principal in her narrative. By proving that if a women begins to hold authority and stand for herself, Walker shows that she has the potential of conquering the supremacy and ignorance that a man is capable of possessing over a woman.
Withholding names is Walker’s way of taking away the conventional ascendancy of a powerful male character as well as diminishing their patriarchal authority. In contrast, by supplying women’s last names, she creates an alternative to male domination. Supplying certain characters an unconventional authority, suggests that Alice Walker wants to change up tradition and express an alternate point of view that says; defeating ignorance through authority is achievable. Walker believes that the central driving force of suffering is relatively a powerful male figure.
For example, Celie’s husband’s unarticulated name suggests fearful erasure of an identity too dangerous to reveal. Walker signals his transformation by a renaming him as Albert in order to show how he diminishes and humanizes. In the few cases when she does supply a surname for a character, she indicates an unconventional authority, mainly for a woman to possess. An example of this would be Shug Avery. She is a woman who does whatever she wants whenever she wants; a free spirit. However she does possess the values in order to become key contributor in the transformation of Celie.
Shug enjoys her life and is aware of her own physical beauty, which she uses it in means of controlling men. Shug stands up for herself, and eventually gives Celie the confidence to follow suit. Shug’s ideology states that “Man corrupt everything,“ (The Color Purple, pg 193). Being very vulnerable and powerless at the beginning of the novel, Celie idolizes Shug and yearns for a similar boldness. Shug is not afraid to show off her refined ways and to display her despotic attitude in public.
Her major trait of these alternatives to male domination is her ability to break through imposed stereotypes and boundaries in order to provide as model for Celie to pursue. When explaining her fight against the traditional woman’s life that man has set, Shug says it is “hard work. ” (The Color Purple, pg 193) She never backs down from her rebellion against tradition, and shows this when she says “Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it. ” (The Color Purple, pg 193) The rock which she is talking about in this quote, symbolizes a chance to stand up to man.
When Harpo and Celie argue as to whether Shug is better characterized as “manly” or “womanly” (The Color Purple pg 269), in terms of her unconventional sense of dominance, they end up agreeing that the best way to describe Shug, is as androgynous. This is proven when Celie listens to Harpo state “Sofia and Shug not like men, he say, but they not like women either” (The Color Purple pg 269). Walker, when she does choose to present it, only presents this androgynous persona in the form of female characters with surnames.
Similar to Alice Walker’s idea of presenting the androgynous persona in the form of solemnly female characters, Harper Lee chooses to present Scout and Miss Maudie Atkinson as two women who possess an unconventional sense of authority in her novel. Since Maycomb is isolated, it has never grown out of old traditions, traditions that have the potential to lead to ignorance, and eventually prejudice. The Finch family is one of the only families in the town to break past these traditions, which are viewed as usual in Maycomb, through Atticus’s, Maudie’s and Scout’s example.
Scout’s Aunt Alexandra tries to raise her to become and follow the embedded ways of a customary woman. She judges people not by character, but by the predilection of how traditional they act to their role in society. When Scout and Jem go to an African American church with Calpurnia, Aunt Alexandra becomes distressed with them since her two, white family members are interacting with colored people. She judges the influence of colored folk to be a negative take on her niece and nephew, and she also worries of what people will think of her family if they intermingle with colored people.
Aunt Alexandra, with her distortion of judgement, also worries about Scout being a Tomboy and possessing a certain dominion over things, that is considered unconventional for a female to possess. Alexandra and the rest town are ignorant of Scout’s desire to possess characteristics similar in dominance to that of Atticus’s and Jem’s. Scout is a hoyden mainly because of her exaggerated interaction with male figures, such her brother Jem, and her father Atticus, two men to who she greatly looks up to. The influence of Maudie Atkinson also played key to Scout’s androgynous attitude.
Maudie is a character that also defies the expectations of a conventional woman, wearing what a woman normally would not wear, and not doing the things a conventional woman would not either. In a sense, Scout seems like the mirror image of something Maudie Atkinson would be like in her youth. The people of Maycomb however are not used to this, and see it as inappropriate for Scout not to own up to the expectations that a customary girl is supposed to meet since it is tradition for girls to be dress up in skirts, have female friends and play with dolls.
Scouts androgynous persona is symbolized by her habitual dress code; overalls. Boys normally wear overalls in order for them to be used as a tool for the protection of dirt. Scout wearing them symbolizes that she possesses a boyish attitude and would meet the expectations of a boy through her reckless behavior. Scout shows domination when she eventually shows to her Aunt that there is no way to change what Alexandra would understand as the attitude of an “unconventional woman”.
Aunt Alexandra’s defeat in ignorance by Scout’s tenacious attitude is symbolized when Alexandra brings Scout overalls to wear. “I would have never let her forget it: in her distraction, Aunty brought me my overalls. ‘Put these on, darling,” she said, handing me the garments she once despised. ’” (To Kill A Mockingbird pg 268) Scout’s authority and ascendancy defeated the ignorance of Maycomb portrayed in Aunt Alexandra. It is evident that both novels have themes of love and courage having the ability of conquering ignorance and tradition.
Prejudice creates a feeling that implies an unfavorable prepossession and connotes a feeling rooted in suspicion, fear, and intolerance. It creates unreasoned and unfair distortion of judgment in favor of or against a person. Both Harper Lee and Alice Walker would like to make this very clear in their novels, through countless symbolic and literal examples. However it is demonstrated that love and courage have the capability of overcoming ignorance and prejudice through their unselfish concern that freely accepts another in loyalty and seeks his good.
Read about power in To Kill A Mockingbird
Ignorance may imply a general condition or it may apply to a lack of knowledge of awareness of a particular thing however courage gives firmness to the mind that will oppose prejudice or difficulty with fortitude and resilience. An example of ignorance present in the novels is the belief that race is the primarily determinant of human traits and capacities through racial differences. Courage is the mental or moral strength to venture and withstand fear, danger or difficulty.
It suggests a quality of temperament, enabling on to keep one’s moral when threatened, giving determination to achieve ones goals with a tenacious attitude and unwillingness to admit defeat. I have proven in this essay how the two corrupt societies are fueled by ignorance and tradition, as well as how characters from both novels conquer the very foundation of the two through love and courage. However, after having the societies in the two novels analyzed rather thoroughly, it becomes clear that the reason for the majestic amount of ignorance present is due to lack of love the people within the social orders possess.
Lines of Matthew Good’s song entitled “21st Century Living”, “If hate’s in your heart, you’ll take what you’re given”, demonstrates the entire notion suggesting that if one possesses hatred, they are more susceptible for ignorant things. The lines imply that if one is lacking compassion to be ignorant, they will not know what it’s like to be put into the skin of someone suffering. Since they have never experienced the emotion themselves, they will not be easily moved or do anything about the cause, as opposed to if they did possess love in their heart.
It is true that Ignorance prevents people to see the very beauty and innocence of things, but when challenged with the love and courage one possesses in their heart, it is capable of becoming dominated. Ignorance sways the “killing of Mockingbirds” (To Kill a Mockingbird pg 93) and the disregard for “the color purple in a field somewhere” (The Color Purple, pg 196), but love in contrast to ignorance, listens to the song that Mockingbirds provide for us and gives the attention to the color purple in order to see the beauty hidden behind it.
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