Alice Walker’s novel revolves around major issues that were associated predominantly by medieval black community at a time when aspects regarding slavery were taking front stage in almost any argument. The novel therefore provides significant reflection of the developing aspects regarding the position of the woman in the society and consequently this sees the emancipation of a women’s movement, who fundamentally aims at stressing their importance in a male dominated society. This paper therefore discusses the events the partake an uneducated, fourteen year-old black girl named Celie living in rural Georgia between 1910 through 1940, in which she potentially strives to overcome years of abuse, and betrayal and become an independent, confident woman in addition to the background issues like racism and sexism.
There are several instances throughout the book in which betrayal is fundamentally manifested going by Celie’s life experiences and variant positions regarding the position in life and society. Celie goes through incidents that are potential discouraging especially when focusing on the element of sacrifice in which she incidentally gets relatively poor feedback due to the accompanying events.
Celie mastered ways of overcoming betrayal in her family in many incidents in which we seen her trying the much she could not to be let down by some of the resultant events, which accompanied her marriage. For instance, when her husband decides to bring home Shrug she decides to play down the events despite the numerous instances in which Shrug refers to her as ugly. “The pain of hearing Shug confirm Celie’s ugliness, however, isn’t as painful to Celie as is the fact that Celie can’t tell Shug to come in;” (Rose 32). Even after Shrug refers to her as being ugly, he concern is more bent on the manner in which she is going to accommodate Shrug into her life with her husband to whom she is legally married.
Later on Celie comes to single out the real problem leading to her experiences in her marriage by eliminating Shrug from the equation of her marriage problems. This can be seen in, “Sofia and Shrug no like men, he say, but they not like women either. You mean they not like you or me. They hold they own, he say. And it’s different. What I love bet bout Shrug is what she been through, I say. When you look in Shrug’s eyes you know where she been seem what she seen, did what she did. And now she know” (Walker 87). Here we see the way she successfully shifts the blame by analyzing their characteristics and events leading to their present circumstances. This in essence helps in building her confidence, pride and appreciation of the fundamental role played by women and their status in society. Consequently, she overcomes the betrayal that the entrance of Shrug brought to her previously stable marriage.
Celie makes several attempts in a bid to enhance her level of independence and autonomy as seen in various instances in the novel. The way in which she put emphasis on her level of independence serves to elevate her status above the recurring circumstances. In one instance Celie makes a discovery that the letters she was sending never reached their deserved destinations neither did the ones sent to her reach her on time. “Celie doesn’t tell Nettie about Albert’s interception of her letters, and Nettie doesn’t ask Celie if she learned ‘to fight.’ There is no need to. Their letters and feelings, along with their prayers have also provided this information” (Rose 64). Here Celie elementally makes a critical decision to pursue a different path from the existing one with regard to the manner in which she reacts to the overall situation. Her decision not to fight back fundamentally serves to elevate her level of independent thinking, which emancipates itself in the level of maturity demonstrated by her. Furthermore, we see an element of independence when we see decides to let go off previous wrongs she had been exposed. Instead of choosing sympathy, she decides to choose her own path in dealing with her misfortunes. This can be seen in, “Celie’s idea of God is wholly different from Shug’s. Celie has suffered misery from men, and she has believed that she had to accept it” (Rose 56). Here instead of Celie looking for consolation from Shrug by sharing her thoughts, problems, and concerns she decides to typically categorise their different circumstance in an understanding nature. Here she amazes her readers in that one would have naturally expected Celie to hit back at Shrug’s involvement with her husband but she chooses not even raise a word of it. This is a distinct way of dealing with resulting differences, which further serves to portray her independence in terms of rating to virtually high levels. Her reactions go against the ordinary mannerisms demonstrated by most of her fellow women in similar circumstances. This is essentially a virtue of her independent mind and actions, which are devoid of third party involvement.
The death of her rapist stepfather further marks the elevation of her independence to admirable levels. In this context, “When the rapist/stepfather dies, Celie inherits the estate of her real father, a property owner who had been lynched by white people, and that enables her to found ‘Folkspants Unlimited’, which becomes a successful business” (Lauret 93). This marks her economic progression in what can be fundamentally summarised as a ‘rags to riches story.’ Looking back at her life trail we notice that Celie now moves from dependency to independency which is showed by the manner in which she chooses now establishes an admirable level of independence compared to his previous circumstances. Her rapist stepfather’s death therefore marks her transformation from a dependent woman to an independent as she manages to severe away her previous deplorable conditions in which she lived.
Another level of independence can also be seen where she finally manages to reclaim her family as the story progresses to an end. We see this in, “As luck would have it, the state Department has made a mistake and at the end of the novel Celie and her sister, her children, Shug and Sofia, as well as Mr_celebrates a family reunion on the Four of July, America’s day of liberation from colonial rule and obviously also Celie’s day of liberation from all the forces that have oppressed her” (Lauret 93). By virtue of Celie’s reclamation of her family status in the form of a family reunion she manages to finally achieve her highest level of independence although in a different fashion of events. Here we notice ‘America’s day of liberation’ as being synonymous with ‘Celie’s reclamation of her family status.’ This therefore represents her achievement of a potentially different form of independence as seen in the present circumstances.
The theme of racism has greatly been emphasised in due consideration of Celie’s life events as exemplified in the novel. This was elementally a period during which the issue of racism was of major concern to the black community due to the fact that it was during a time when slavery as a practice was at its highest point as seen in various episodes of the story. Celie was not exempted from the experiences through her interaction with white people especially from a religious perspective.
Through Celie’s interaction with Nettie in several instances during which black people are portrayed as being inferior while whites are taken as the ruling class and treated with an aspect of seniority. Consider the following conversation between Celie and Nettie: “They are the blackest people I have ever seen, Celie. They are black like the people we are talking about, he’s blueblack. They are so black, Celie, they shine. Which is something else folks down home like to say about real black folks” (Walker 58). Here we see the manner in which the society was elementally stratified along distinct lines. The description being given to Celie was merely serving as an object of ridicule and it enhanced the idea that the black race was fundamentally low than the whites who seemed to enjoy status.
This can further be seen as Nettie goes on giving a ridicule description of the blacks to Celie, “But Celie try to imagine a city full of these shining, blueblack people wearing brilliant blue robes with designs like fancy quilt patterns. Tall, thin, with long necks and straight backs. Can you picture it at all, Celie? Because I felt like I was seeing black for the first time. And Celie, there is something magical about it. Because the black is so black the eye is simply dazzled, and then there is the shining that seems to come, really, from moonlight, it is soluminous, but their skin glows even in the sun” (Walker 58). This shows the manner in which the view of blacks was being held in the Whiteman’s eyes. In this particular scenario, Celie is forced by circumstances to play the role of the listener since there is nothing she can do about it. Her own folks are being described in the worst terms ever yet she cannot even object on the statements. Somehow the statements seem to elevate black pride to a significant level going by the accompanying descriptions as they serve to show black heritage.
Through her life Celie experiences significant pressures from the resultant racial bias effect, which fundamentally leads to the emancipation of events on her life. Celie and Nettie further reflect upon the actions committed upon the black people as can be seen in, “Oh, Celie, there are colored people in the world who want us to know! Want us to grow and see light! They are not all mean like Pa and Albert, or beaten down like Ma was. Corrine and Samuel have a wonderful marriage. Their only sorrow in the beginning was that they could not have children. And then, they say, ‘God sent them Olivia and Adam” (Walker 55). In this case, Nettie makes a discovery to Celie of some of the factors leading to their potential experiences in the present circumstances, and it leads to the discovery that some of the elements leading to their experiences right from childhood are not merely associated with slavery. By beginning to identify some of the positive sides of slavery Celie and Nettie are better able to appreciate the significant effects brought about by white people. Hence, in a way they are able to overcome the notion that racism is the real cause behind their problems as exemplified in respective circumstances.
Sexism from her stepdad and husband
Celie has been used in the novel to create and progressively develop the theme of the sexism in the African American context. Through Celie society has been exposed especially with regard to the manner in which men in this predominantly African American society are portrayed as exploiting their sexually in their relationships. Celie has been used as an epitome to delve deeper into the issue of sexual harassment through her experiences with her own step father and husband. These are people who are elementally supposed to be the motivating factor behind Celie but they only prove the contrary as being true irrespective of the accompanying concerns.
The various scenes in which Celie is potentially abused have consequently led to the development and emancipation of the different emerging gender roles as demonstrated by the contemporary society. In this particular setting, Celie is predominantly exposed to different aspects of sexual exposures leading to her ultimate existence in the book as the symbol of feminism and other emerging female related thematic concerns. Celie’s experiences have practically been used to strengthen the position of the woman in the present African American society in which the issue has been of critical concern. According to Denby, “The heroine, Celie, is impregnated twice as a young teenager by ferocious old pa; the father sells the two infants to a barren couple and marries Celie off to an ill-tempered young widower who has a brood of children to raise” (Denby 56). Here we see the manner in which the status was fundamentally reduced in that after being sexually exploited, she is discarded off to offload the baggage. This situation puts Celie to a potentially exploitative setting in that her role as a ‘sexual partner’ and ‘child bearer’ is merely transferred to another party instead of looking for better ways to address the arising concerns. Nevertheless Celie does not give up in this state and pushes forth with her struggle to achieve better outcomes.
Celie recounts the manner in which her marriage had lost its fundamental meaning by adopting a sexual fantasy achievement criterion. This can be seen when she reflects, “You know the worst part? She say. The worst part is I don’t think he notice. He git up there and enjoy himself just the same. No matter what I’m thinking. No matter what I feel. It just him. Heartfeeling don’t even seem to enter into it. She snort. The fact he can doit like the make want to kill him” (Walker 30). Here we see the manner in which the subject of sex has fundamentally been turned to mean something else through its adoption into sex slavery format. Celie merely plays a sexual obligation role in this marriage and she blatantly expresses her disappointment in the current way of doing things as seen in various instances in the story.
Celie’s sexual exploitation follows a different form of events going by the exhibited mannerisms in which she is encounters from her father. This can be seen in, “Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves ‘em you enjoys ‘em a lot more. You can just relax. Go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like” (Walker 73). Here the deity has been strategically used to convince Celie’s involvement into a sexual situation. The aim is to make her give in to the demands of her father through the actualising sex as one of the duties, which a woman is expected to perform.
In addition, we see several instances of forceful involvement into sexual situations as seen through her father’s unimaginable acts. Celie object, “He [Pa] never had a kind word to say to me. Just to say you gonna do what your mammy wouldn’t. First he put his thing up against my hip and sort of wiggles it around. Then he grab hold my titties. Then he push his thing inside...When that hurt, I cry. He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it” (Walker 1). This further exposes the manner in which her step father used to mistreat her in a very unacceptable manner. These events also show Celie at such a young age became victim to rape from her step father, who in essence was meant to be a guardian and teach her good morals.
In her struggle to promote the status and rights of women in a predominantly male dominated society, Celie is not alone. In the story she is not the only woman exposed to similar conditions, which shows the manner in which women were treated by men in this society. This form of sexual exploitation from the husbands can further be seen when Sofia recounts, “I don’t like to go to bed with him no more, she [Sofia] say. Used to be when he touch me I’d go all out my head. Now when he touch me I just don’t want to be bothered. Once he git on top of me I think bout how that’s where he always want to be. She sip her lemonade. I use to love that part of it, she say. I use to chase him home from the field. Git all hot just watching him put the children to bed. But no more. Now I feel tired all the time. No interest” (Walker 15). Sofia therefore further serves to establish the situation on the ground regarding the fundamentals of sexism and its association in this predominantly male society.