Alice Walker - Possessing the Secret of Joy

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Alice Walker’s Novel: Possessing the Secret of Joy

This research paper is about Alice Walker’s fifth novel titled Possessing the Secret of Joy. While completing this paper, films titled Warrior Marks and Alice Walker: Possessing the Secret of Joy were used along with book sources, Internet source documents and a personal email interview. In the novel, Alice Walker strives to make people aware of the horrific effects that female circumcision (genital mutilation) has on the African community and others throughout the world. If there is a single novel that could convince anyone of Alice Walker’s place as one of the most important writers and thinkers, it has to be Possessing the Secret of Joy. The book is certainly a descriptive example of the old saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” One may sway away from this book because of the subject matter – ritual female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision. It is important to look into the “whys” of the custom. This novel speaks for all women who have wrongly submitted either “freely” or through force to physical, psychological, and /or emotional violence (Schaller). Alice Walker makes a strong statement against female circumcision with the hope of bringing a worldwide end to the procedure. Her voice sets an example of trying to help so many young girls protect themselves from a harmful tradition. Female circumcision is not about a bond between women or an empowering ceremony- it is based on fear and social pressure (Alice Walker: Video). This procedure has raised a world outcry against females as a form of torture and violence. Perhaps more than anything else in Possessing the Secret of Joy novel, this breaks my heart. At one time or another, everyone has experienced some degree of frustration at failing to connect sexually to a loved one, but imagine the horror of having that intimate connection cut off by an intentional, brutal procedure. A portion of the proceeds from this novel was dedicated to the education about genital mutilation (female circumcision) and its consequences. Great inspiration is found in Alice Walker’s theme as it relates to the title, and presented at the conclusion of the book. In this paper, a parallel will also be drawn between Alice Walker writings and the psychological effect of a similar situation in her own personal life.

While reading, Possessing the Secret of Joy, Alice Walker style of writing catches the reader. Every couple of pages, Mrs. Walker changes the speaker and headlines each section with the name of the person talking. Telling the story in this manner gives insight of the impact on female circumcision. The novel benefited by straying from chronological order of events, and telling things out of context. Had the novel been written in a more direct fashion, then the focus would have been more on the before or after reality of this ritual, but as it is, the whole picture is presented upfront, recognizing the psychological effects on the protagonist, Tashi (whom we should recognize from Alice Walker’s earlier novel, The Color Purple) immediately. Walker handles the subject well describing the procedure and the effect both physical and mental on Tashi, all while presenting every character side of the story. Alice Walker allows us to see and hear the story from the eyes and voices of each character to give us views of situations from different perspectives. The novel speaks of Tashi struggling to overcome the trauma of her circumcision.

The character’s roles are significant and revolve around Tashi’s life. These characters serve supporting roles. All of the characters are invested in what has happened and of course, has different views-not just about Tashi’s choice but about ritual tradition (O’Malley). As the story evolves, realization settles in and views that everyone’s life is like Tashi. What happens to the least of us happens to all of us. First, the focus will be on the two characters...
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