Sexism, Womanism, sexuality and male dominance in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple and By the Light of My Father’s Smile
Alice walker-a renowned novelist, short story writer, essayist, poet, critic, and author of children’s books-sees the corruption in the world and writes to portray the struggles that African American women encounter. The snags that they have in everyday society are largely copious, however, Alice Walker does wonders writing specifically about racism and sexism. In two of her famous novels, The Color Purple and By the Light of my Father’s Smile, she addresses these two matters along with other topics stemming from them. The most prevalent themes in Alice Walker’s novels, The Color Purple and By the Light in my Father’s Smile are sexism and male dominance; celebrating a person’s sexuality, Womanism, and how the male persona shapes a female’s life.
What most people would consider feminism, the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men, Alice Walker elaborates and turns into Womanism. More specifically, Walker uses the term Womanist to describe women of color especially women in African culture (Alice Walker 37). Alice Walker goes in further in depth to say that a womanist is A woman who loves another woman, sexually and/ or non sexually. She appreciates and prefers women's culture, women's emotional flexibility... [she] is committed to the survival and wholeness of an entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically for health... loves the spirit.... loves struggle. Loves herself. Regardless. (LaGrone 10) This plays a large role in Walker’s novels. She explores the notion of a womanist and rising against male oppression (Alice Walker 66). Walker uses her novels to get rid of the barriers that are set by men and uses the male dominance as power (Alice Walker’s…133).
In the beginning of The Color Purple, Celie is treated like an object as are other women in Walker’s writing (Alice Walker’s…130). Celie is early-on sexually abused by her step-father. After Celie’s mother leaves, her step-fathers rapes her. “He start to choke me, saying You better git used to it.” (The Color Purple 1). Celie should be able to trust her stepfather, Pa, but his abuse disables her from growing independent, gaining self-esteem, and becoming whole because she is not raised on family and moral dynamics (LaGrone 7). Instead, Celie is treated as a marginal (Alice Walker’s… 130). Celie is given away by her stepfather. He bargains with the Albert to take her because she’s ugly and not smart (The Color Purple 8). By being put down because of her physical appearance at an early age, Celie becomes self-conscious and hateful against her inner self (LaGrone 7) Celie succumbs to the abuse and male authority by referring to what she was taught a child-to honor her parents through everything (Modern Critical Views…71). Just as Celie is taught what to believe as a child, beliefs are also passed through generations (Modern Critical… 69). Harpo, who Celie meets as her step-son later in The Color Purple, is told by his father to beat his wife to “make her mind” (Alice Walker 44). The women of the Olinka Tribe, just as Celie lives what she is taught, also teach their daughters to obey the male and fear him (Modern Critical…69) Walker describes the men of the Olinka tribe as sexist and male dominant. Nettie is told that she is not worth much by the Olinka tribe who don’t believe in educating the girls (The Color Purple 156). They believe that females are only good for work and are nothing without a husband (The Color Purple 155). It is here that Nettie is reminded of the way she was treated and how she addressed her father (Alice Walker’s…135). One character Celie meets Sophia. Sophia is strong-willed and independent woman. Celie’s relationship with Sophia starts her journey to becoming her own person (LaGrone 9). Sophia sparks Celie’s curiosity about speaking out against...
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