Saturday, February 5, 2011

37. "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker

The Color Purple is a classic and for good reason! Written in epistolary form, the book documents the life of Celie, a young black woman who experiences abuse, neglect, and a painful separation from her sister.

Blues music is an important theme throughout the novel as can be seen in characters like Shug, a blues singer that comes to live with Celie. The following is an excerpt from a paper I wrote as an undergrad about the role of blues music in The Color Purple.

The Purpose of Blues Music in Alice Walker's The Color Purple
J. d'Artagnan Love
March 8, 2007
In Alice Walker's The Color Purple, women often found strength through their music. Finding strength and an outlet for expression is essential to the process of personal transformation. Through the novel one can trace a personal transformation in Celie, the protagonist. With the introduction of blues music into her life, Celie is able to become whole.

Before Celie is introduced to blues music, she does not have a voice of her own. She does not use her voice to defend herself or to speak out against the oppression she is faced with daily. Celie is raped by her step-father repeatedly. Instead of fighting back she remains silent and does not reveal to her mother the identity of her children’s father. Along with her silence, she asks her step-father to take her and not Nettie as his sexual partner and dresses in clothing she thinks he will find attractive. After Nettie leaves, Celie becomes even more lost. She has not developed any sense of identity or autonomy and has now lost her main source of social support. Thus, her inner voice is muffled almost entirely by the oppression she faces as a wife to Albert who, like her father, beats her and treats her as property. . . .

Celie is introduced to blues elements with Sofia’s character. Such blues elements include those of womanhood, overcoming obstacles and fighting oppression. With the presentation of these blues elements, Celie begins a slow process of learning self-awareness. . . . Being exposed to Sofia’s strength allows Celie to form a connection with Sofia.
Blues is gradually integrated into Celie’s life with the arrival of Shug Avery upon which, Celie’s process of self-discovery and transformation beings to gain ground. Evidence of this process is seen in small acts of defiance performed by Celie against the patriarchal structures in her social network. An example of this can be seen when Celie learns the first name of her husband. After learning that his name is Albert, she has the option of choosing to refer to him as Albert rather than Mr. __. Instead, Celie continues to refer to her husband as Mr. __, thus defying his identity and the power that his identity holds over her. . . . Celie finds her own voice and expresses her own thoughts and opposition towards domestic violence. Celie has begun to build a foundation of self-acceptance and love.
While Celie builds an emotional foundation for herself, Harpo begins to build a juke joint and the construction of the juke joint parallels Celie’s emotional progress as well as Shug’s physical healing. The construction of the juke joint symbolizes blues music as a form of healing and rebirth for a collective group of oppressed people. By the time the juke joint is finished Shug is ready and well enough to start performing again and Celie, with Shug’s support and guidance, is beginning to experiment with the power of her own voice.. . .

If you would like to read the entire paper email me at:
5 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: Donated to a library

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