A Parody of Black Culture through the Theme of Slavery and Racial Oppression
The theme of oppression and its numerous representations in The Color Purple, can also be interpreted as an allegory of slavery. All early situations of Celie’s life are manifestations of this: her rape by her stepfather is reminiscent of the slavery experience of the “ownership of one’s body by someone else” (Purple, 235). The “theft” of Celie’s children is closely related with the habit of selling children off from their mother during slavery: Celie’s marriage resembles the scene of the slave auction, and her hard work and constant abuse arouse the memories of slavery: Celie’s marriage resembles the scene of the slave auction, and her hard work with constant abuse arouse the memories of slavery: Celie and Nettie’s attempts at literacy parallel connection between literacy and freedom common during slavery:
My heart is sad and I alone, my man treats me mean, I request the day that I was born and that I ever seen my happiness has no space left today my heart is broke, that’s why I say. Lord, a good man is hard to find, you always get another kind yes, and when you think that he’s your Pal you look and find him fooling round some old gal. Then you rave, you are crackled, you want to see him down his grave (Purple, 250).
Fanon speaks within the racist discursive context already reproducing the white parody of black culture: this is surely the spirit in which Walker represents Harpo, the black parody of a white man, who compensates for his noiselessness with music, whose character is expressed in his “feminine” pathos as well as his pathetic aping of masculine pretensions. Uncle Tomming by Shug, Squeak, and Sofia reveal the even more complex negotiation required of women who aspire to legitimacy in the face of both sexism and racism. In the racially and sexually fractured situation, back talk resulted in punishment, among women in a man’s world, the back talk produces pleasure. Samuel articulates in his book, The Encounter of Christian Faith and African Religion Christian Century Religion: “Samuel…reminded us that there is one big advantages, we have. We are not white, we are not Europeans. We are black like Africans themselves. And that we and the Africans will be working for a common goal; the uplift of black people everywhere”. (Richardson, 115)
Nettie records with awe different the world looks to her from the point of view of African/ racial dominance, “something struck in me, in my soul, Celie, like a large bell, and I just vibrated” (Purple, 56). Significantly, these small steps toward progress in race relations come not from some realization of the Olinka ideal or any recognition of identity between the races but from an evolving separatism and parallel growth in racial identity within the African and African communities. The possibility of treating everyone like “one mother’s children” is achieved within but not between racial groups by the end of The Color Purple. The Color purple’s strategy of inversion, represented in its elevation of female experience over great patriarchal events, had indeed aimed to critique the unjust practices of racism and sexism that violate the subject’s complexity, reducing her to a generic biological sign.
In America, a parallel growth in a black identity is suggested by Celie’s final letter in The Color Purple. Not only the colour purple make use of epistolary form to communication with the reader but Celie approaches the addresses as well as the reader through her use of language and speech patterns. She present in a rather informal manner. The conversations and conversational patterns of the other characters in the novel. According to Sara Mills on the pattern of letters in his book, Language and Sexism, “the novel is less like a series of letters, but rather a series of conversations.” (Mills, 45).While Walker emphasizes the intersection of racism and sexism throughout her writings, her focus, like Hurston’s is on relationship within the African American community. In an interview with Claudia Tate, Walker status, “20th century black women writers all seem to be much more interested in the black community, in intimate relationships, with the white world as a backdrop, which is certainly the appropriate perspective, in my view.” (Tate, 264).Framing the Epigraph in Epistolary Frame
Through epistolary form The Color Purple, also present an alternative models of instruction, a model based not an direct address, but indirect, not the didactic lecture, but the didactic example. This model on its own and it is intersection and juxtaposition with direct address, makes clear the patterns in which Celie and the reader learn. According to the logic of epistolary, Celie address God in letters but God too is absent…not necessarily and definitively “deaf”, as Celie complains, but distant and uncertain response. Janet Altman has theorised the play of absence and presence that characterizes “epistolary meditation”, The Color Purple similarly draws attention to a similarity between epistolary desires and prayer; both represent attempts through language to conjure presence from absence. First when Nettie didn’t give any reply to her sister, Celie must conclude that Nettie is not merely absent but dead. Parting from her sister, Celie demands correspondence, “I say write. She say, nothing but death can keep me from it. She never write” (Purple, 678). The last letter, closes with “Amen”, Celie’s characteristic signature ever since the second letter to Nettie, the one in which she describes her transformation of God. Nettie has begged Celie to “Pray for us “, and the letters’s last word is the close of that prayer. It is also the “Amen” of enthusiastic response to everything…as in a church service or revival meeting one answer the arrival of the spirit with the tribune of a load. “Amen”.
This epistolary novel is framed at its outer edges by epigraphs that break the fiction of presence and refer us to its author. We find, on the last page of text, “I thank everybody in this book for coming/ Alice Walker, author and medium” (Purple, ). Alice Walker closes the book as if it had been one long letter to the reader and this were her signature. The usual effects of epistolary are set in motion again at the edges of the text in order to assert authorial presence and at the same time to deny it. As author she claims the novel artifice, an aesthetic form created by her own letter-writing hand; but as medium she refers authority to a power external to herself, who speaks through her in form of letter.
To conclude, the black culture through letters in The Color Purple, Walker brings to light, not just this epistemological dilemma underlying didactic fiction, but the specific dilemma of the marginal writer. She uses her letter writing art to remodelling and rethinking of the issues of race and gender presented in black culture, and psychic torment that inflicts the women. Epistolary form in the novel introduces a complicated structure of verbal discourse. It is marked by oral tradition. The rhythm, the sentences and spelling focus on the dialogic character of narration. It is an example of black folk speech, manifesting novel’s particular racial and cultural position.
Walker’s use of epistolary form has a significant purpose to expose the oppositional forces of a racist, sexist and imperialist society known as the great aspects of black culture, to enlighten the mind of readers. In research it is observed, when Africans were taken from their homelands to America, they usually were denied education by their slave owners and were not allowed to speak their own language instead being forced to speak English. This meant that the slave had to create their own forms of communication and expression. They communicated through dance song and gesture, passing their stories of woe and freedom from generation to another, as we see in the novel who writes in her letter, they call me yellow, like yellow bye my home. But if yellow is a home well, if I say the black girl, Lord, she try to ruin my game”( Purple, 92). By this it has been noticed that the letters construct the narrative strategies, through which the novelist not only illuminates the larger issue of afro-American history focusing on a racial conflict and struggle but also emphasizes the subjugated position of black women. She uses her letter writing art to remodelling and rethinking of the issues of race and gender presented in black culture, and psychic torment that inflicts the women.
A. Shukla, Bhaskar. Toni Morrison, The Feminist Icon. Pub.Book enclave, Jaipur, India; 2007.Bloom, Harold. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Modern Critical Interpretations. Chelsea House pub,2000.
Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched Of The Earth. Grove Press: 1961.
Mbiti Samuel, John. The Encounter of Christian Faith and African Religion Christian Century Religion. Christian Century Religion, 2007.
Mills, Sara. Language and Sexism. Kindle edition: 2008.
Richardson, Samuel. Pamela . Indian State Unv. Indian Spring: 1992.
Tate, Claudia. Review of African American Women, Play wrights: A Study in Race, Gender and Class. Prestige Books: New Delhi, 2010.
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. A Moral Tale. New York: pocket Books,1985.