By Jennifer Crowe Alice Walker does not like to be called a feminist. Instead she prefers to use the term: womanist. Walker defines a womanist as being a Black Feminist. The word derives from the phrase 'You " re acting womanish... .' will full or outrageous. As she defines it, it's a woman who loves other women, sexually or non-sexually and men sexually and non sexually.
It's also a woman who loves music, loves to dance, and who loves her spirit. Walker states that a... .' woman is to feminist as lavender is to purple'. So why would I choose the book, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, to illustrate my views on the "feminist approach" to literary theory I believe The Color Purple to be the most complex, real and truthful novel I have ever read. Walker does not hide the harsh realities that Black woman had to, or still have to suffer. However, not only did Walker apply the feminist approach to literary theory, she also managed to use the common sense approach.
The book was written in what Alice termed as "Black Folks English." It was the kind of speech that wouldn't intimidate men and women whom she knew all her life. Walker just presumes that her "alien" readers will understand the language. When I first began the book, I had trouble understanding words such as 'cussing' (p. 4) and 'git' (p. 68). After awhile, however, one begins to slowly unravel the language, and smile at the mistakes the characters make, and how different other cultures can be.
Walker also believes that her opinion is right. She says that she is not a feminist as such, however she manages to drive the maltreatment of Black woman home. Quotes such as '... he [Mr. ] beat me like he beat the children. Cept he don't never hardly beat them.
He say, Celie git th belt. The children be outside the room, peeking through the cracks... .' (p. 22) really manage to shock the readers, and help us picture the wrong that has been placed on woman in general. 'She [Sofia] say, All my life I had to fight my daddy.
I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain't safe in a family of men. But I never thought I'd have to fight in my own house... I loves Harpo, she say. God knows I do.
But I'll kill him dead before I let him beat me' (p. 38). Those few lines manages to sum up the point that Alice Walker appears to be trying to convey: women seem to be getting tired of being taken advantage of, and are starting to stand! up for their own rights. Walker paints colourful characters in The Color Purple, each of them undergoing a series of changes. In the beginning of the novel, Celie proves herself to be a pathetic character, almost begging the readers to say she should stand up to Mr. and fight back.
Sofia is a tough character, but her experiences show that fighting back does not work. Shug Avery begins are a mistrusting role model for Celie, but actually proves herself to be a force of strength for her in the end. The men start off as being the strong ones in the novel, however as their flaws being to show, and the women (especially Celie) start to rebuild their lives, the men become weaker, and weaker. Shug begins to show Celie the truth about the relationships between the men and women, in the patriarchal society they live in, in the following statements: 'Man corrupt everything, say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio.
He try to make you think he everywhere. Soon as you think he everywhere, you think he God. But he ain't. Whenever you trying to pray, and man plop himself on the other end of it, tell him to git lost, say Shug. Conjure up flowers, wind, water, a big rock.
But this hard work, let me tell you. He been there so long, he don't want to budge. He threaten lightning, floods and earthquakes. Us fight. I hardly pray at all. Everytime I conjure up a big rock, I throw it.' (p.
168). 'Although she received a lot of praise for her novel, Walker received criticism from some in the African-American community who thought her novel portrayed black men in negative stereotypical fashion as abusers and rapists.' I believe that Walker did not aim to portray the men in her novels as such violent abusers, however there must have been some truth in her story, as it seemed straight from the heart. In the view of feminist criticism, Walker proved herself a true "womanist", allowing the issue of patriarchy to shine through with her portrayal of Mr. , and Celies "father." Gender equality was also evident, as the woman worked in the field, and yet still came home to prepare a meal, serve their husbands, and well as their friends drinks. 'Mr. not going to let his wife wear pants' (p.
124) is a classic example of gender equality, as well as it being perfectly acceptable for Celies "father" to choose who she may marry. Walker managed to captivate me from the very first line in the book, and as I read on I found myself thinking The Color Purple to be a perfect way to illustrate feminism in literary criticism. Walker laid the cold facts down, and allowed us to become aware of them. She believes she is right, as one can tell from her strong language and shocking contents. I am interested to read more works by Walker, as I am sure she shall tackle the issues as she has done so effectively in The Color Purple.