Alice Walker's The Color Purple

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Alice Walker’s acclaimed novel The Color Purple narrates the story of two sisters in the form of letters. Separated early on, Celie and Nettie live their lives continents apart, maintaining hope that one day they will be reunited. While Celie remains in the rural American South, Nettie becomes a missionary in Western Africa and spends most of her life with the Onilak tribe. Africa plays an integral role in The Color Purple because it shows that patriarchal oppression is a diasporic problem that affects black communities worldwide. By situating part of her novel in Africa, Walker creates an all black space where she can decouple racial and patriarchal oppression. In doing so, she brings to light how a history of oppression toward women within black communities has limited the freedom and agency that black women are able to attain. More than this, Walker’s novel serves to recast black women’s role not only within black communities in America, but also within black communities in the diaspora. Through The Color Purple, Walker is responding to movements aimed at improving the lives of black people that ignore the patriarchal systems of oppression that put down black women. By developing a complementary story line set in African, Walker is able to show that solving racial oppression alone in American will not ameliorate conditions for black woman. Rather, she illustrates that black women are still oppressed within black communities who are partially detached from American and European racism (i.e., the Olinka tribe in Western Africa).
The power of Walker’s novel lies in its ability to recast black women identity as diasporic by illustrating how black women both in the American South and Western Africa struggle through patriarchal opp...

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...same time, Walkers shows how these women retain their talents and are able to free themselves through the relationships that they form with other women. Walker’s novel is significant because its addressing movements that ignore and at times reinforce and patriarchal system of oppression that puts down black woman. Through this novel, she suggests that oppression of women is a diasporic problem just as severe as racial oppression. After she subtly write that even a child can see this, “When I told her [Tashi] the Olinka don’t believe in educating girls she said, quick as flash, They’re like white people at home who don’t want colored people to learn” (Walker 156).

Works Cited

Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Orlando: Harvest Book, 1982. Print.
Walker, Alice. "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens." Womanist Prose. San Diego:
Harcourt Brace and, 1983. 231-43. Print.
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