English Literature: Comparing Texts on the Colour Purple by Alice Walker and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

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Rites of passage or baptisms of fire are part of the process of growing up. Compare and contrast the ways in Jeannette Winterson and Alice Walker present growing up in the light of this comment.
‘The Colour Purple’ and ‘Oranges are not the Only Fruit’, both novels share strong themes of bildungsroman, which is a novel of emotional and personal development of the character. ‘The Colour Purple’ follows the story of a young girl living in the early 20th century in a rural area in Deep South America, growing up and living a life of oppression and abuse. Celie faces many hurdles along the way, experiencing traumatic events which tests the strength of her endurance, and even though she is able to overcome these events eventually out on the other side, Celie as a young girl said ‘I don’t know how to fight, all I know how to do is stay alive’. Celie uses this philosophy to get through her abusive marriage, where with the help of the people around her, she is able to come out on top. Jeannette’s story of growing up is quite different to Celie’s, she does not suffer from physical abuse, but you can argue that she does encounter an extent of mental abuse from her mother, and from the religious group she is brought up in due to their narrow minded beliefs of her lifestyle. Jeanette grows up in Lancashire, England in the 1960s, where during this period lesbianism was not very public as it was negatively stigmatised, and in fact illegal which would contribute to the negative way in which she was received by her community. Jeanette experienced a lonely childhood, where she had to deal with and live by the values of her mother. Once she tore away from these values, her life went from bad to worse, where she was put in a position where she had to choose between acceptance within her community, and happiness within her personal beliefs and lifestyle.

Both novels trace a girl’s struggle to find independence whilst bearing the negative surroundings they have to endure throughout this process. Jeanette and Celie are both searching for their pursuit of happiness, though this quest for happiness does not come easily to them. For Jeanette, she is trying to break free from the control of her mother, as her overpowering and dominant nature prevents Jeanette from living the life she intended to have. Celie on the other hand is under the control and oppression of Albert, her husband. Jeanette and Celie are contrasting in the type of control they are under, as Jeanette experiences female dominance whilst Celie faces male dominance which is consistent with other males in the novel in the early stages of her life. In Celie’s childhood, to early adolescence, she suffered from abuse of her stepfather, where the only support system she had available was her sister. Because Celie was physically and mentally abused from a young age when she got married and made the transition from being under her stepfather’s jurisdiction, to Albert’s house, she accepted the treatment she was given because she knew no different.

The reason why Celie shows a negative attitude towards men, is because they showed a negative attitude towards women. ‘The Colour Purple’ reflects the turn of the century attitudes towardsgender discrimination, and the behaviour men had towards women, was according to Alice Walker, their way of asserting their power on those weaker and more powerless than them, as they themselves were powerless against the white people who had authority over them and their land. So in essence, the men in this novel were in actual fact weak because they victimised and dominated over women to assert their authority. The fact that men were weak in this novel can show some correlation with ‘Oranges are not the Only Fruit’, because Jeanette’s father is not at all an assertive character, as he takes a back seat, and he avoids himself in any type of problems going on within his household. Like Celie, Jeanette develops a negative attitude towards men, which is formed...
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