Walker’s presentation of Sofia and Harpo Essay
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Alice walker uses a variety of techniques to present the characters of Sofia and Harpo during page 60 of ‘The Color Purple’. I will be exploring a number of lexical, grammatical and phonological choices, as well as other techniques, in the order they appear in the letter and will be discussing how these can lead to the development of attitudes and values. The introduction to the Sofia and Harpo relationship shows the reversal of the fixed stereotype perpetuated by other couples in the novel that a man should lead and a woman should follow.
Previous letters depict Harpo as the feminine, subservient man, “… crying like his heart gon break. ” While Sofia is much the dominant figure in the way she is “marching” like “going to war”. In not conforming to the basic male-female stereotypes we see Sofia “working on the roof” while Harpo is happy to “hold the baby” and “give it a kiss”. However, once Harpo sees that he is losing face he begins to eat gluttonously as he believes that physical strength leads to power.
Although this gluttony could in fact be comfort eating and so is associated with his feminine image. Harpo’s need for control then extends to the bedroom, where Sofia says “once he git on top of me I think bout how that’s where he always want to be. ” The situation here – as well as the previously accumulating tensions – has led Sofia to believe that she “need a vacation”. Walker states that Sofia’s sisters are all “big strong healthy girls”, the words big and strong both have very powerful connotations.
The two words are used very commonly and are short and simple; this reflects the simplicity of the sisters in terms of erudition but the physical power in terms of strength and dominance. Both words are mono-syllabic and consonance on the ‘g’ sound differs between the two words. The word ‘big’ is a very short sounding word and also has connotations for pregnancy and reflects how Sofia’s sisters can face what life has thrown at them in terms of relationships. The word ‘strong’, however, has a continuous sound created by the nasal sound on the ‘n’. This sound portrays an image of continuing struggle to be a woman.
Walker compares the attributes of the sisters to that of “amazons”, a tribe of women warriors; reflecting how Sofia’s sisters are striving to turn around the appearance of women as being the inferior race. An image is created of the sisters appearing to rescue Sofia from the grasps of an evil husband named Harpo. Even though Sofia is in fact similar to her sisters in terms of physical appearance, she lacks emotional strength to tackle the problem of Harpo, as deep down she still loves him. Sofia needs to be given strength from the rest of her family to eventually gather enough courage to leave.