Color Purple and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

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Danielle Mullard
Compare how Winterson and Walter present their main characters. How are these characters used to shape the narrative and structure of the novels Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Color Purple?

Jeanette Winterson and Alice Walker show realism and the development and shape of their character throughout the novels. Through their main characters, they achieve this with their use of narrative and structure. Jeanette from Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and Celie from The Color Purple are two very different, young women who have struggled through their lives. Jeanette is a young, white girl from England who is heavily influenced by her strong-willed mother, whereas Celie is a young, black woman from America who has been abused for most of her life by men. Winterson uses a 1st person narrative while Walker uses letters as her structure in her novel. Both of these narrative structures show a different interpretation of the physical and mental abuse their characters suffer throughout their novels. Walker shows through the emotional language used that Celie has been subject to abuse from a very young age. Firstly, her father, Alphonso, sexually abused her and called her “ugly”. This is why her character is seen as very silent “he don’t never look at me straight” and almost invisible to other characters. Through Celie’s letters to God, the reader can see how horrific her life has been “he grab hold of me and cram me up tween his legs” and he or she can see what she has been forced to endure. The reader would feel uncomfortable and very sympathetic towards Celie because of all she has had to suffer and tolerate throughout her life. By using letters, Walker can write the events of Celie’s life in whatever order she chooses. Walker seems to have chosen to use a chronological order with memories of Celie’s life in between which makes Celie seem more ‘real’ in my opinion because in real life, you do not write in order of events in a diary or; in this case, letters to God and also the fragmented narrative creates a compassion for Celie. On the other hand, Winterson shows Jeanette’s father is very absent throughout the novel, often being referred to as “her husband” making it obvious, I believe, that Jeanette’s life is taken over by her mother, in my opinion. Winterson has shown this by repeatedly mentioning her mother in the first few pages of the novel, “my mother got up early on Sundays and allowed no one into the parlour until ten o’clock” whereas, she only mentions her father once “My father liked to watch the wrestling”. This automatically shows the reader that Jeanette’s mother is going to be a significant character in the novel. I believe that Winterson is trying to show to the reader that the character, Jeanette is almost being brainwashed by her mother. Walker makes this obvious to the reader because the beginning of the narrative of Jeanette in the novel is all about her mother “My mother got up early … It was her place of prayer … She always prayed standing up”. Jeanette is very observant of her mother in her early life by repeatedly mentioning and talking about different things her mother is up to and they always include the Christian religion. Walker continuously shows the reader that Jeanette’s mother is taking over her daughter’s life by constantly talking about God and Christianity “Who was the oldest man in the Bible?” so she would become the perfect missionary to go and spread Christianity around the world. In Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Jeanette finds her way out of a very restricted life of obedience and faith “One thing is certain; she can’t go back”. However, then, in The Color Purple, Walker shows that Celie has also escapes her life of mental and physical abuse and ends up the happiest she has ever been “us so happy ... this the youngest us ever felt” because she is finally free of anything that was holding her back and her language, in my opinion, seems to become more clear the nearer...
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