Telling and Writing as Means of Liberation in The Color Purple


Seminar Paper, 1998

16 Pages, Grade: 2 (B)


Excerpt

Contents

Introduction

Motivation for writing

Effect of writing

The letter as a literary vehicle
The function and effects of Nettie’s letters

The use of language – Celie’s dialect

The influence of Shug on Celie’s development

Bibliography

Introduction

This essay is going to deal with telling and writing as a means of liberation in the novel The Color Purple. Liberation in this context means, of course, women’s liberation. The paper comprises the analysis of the protagonist’s motivation for writing, its effects on her and the significance of different dialects. Furthermore the effects of the literary form of the letter as means of articulation will be explained and also the influence of Shug and her feminist language on Celie.

Motivation for writing

Already at the opening of the novel a reason for Celie’s writing is given.:

You better not tell anybody but God. It’d kill your mammy.[1]

Celie takes this warning literally. She is frightened of her father and therefore obeys. Another motivation for Celie’s writing we get to know from one of Nettie’s letters to Celie:

...I remember one time you said your life made you feel so ashamed you couldn’t even talk about it to God, you had to write it, bad as you thought your writing was. Well, now I know what you meant.[2]

Celie feels guilty and ashamed, because of the alleged incest with her father. She is not allowed to tell anybody (certainly not her mother) but needs to articulate herself somehow to enable herself to cope with her situation. So Celie starts to write her letters to God, when at the age of 14 years her record of sorrow and pain begins. Celie loses her mother and later on also Nettie, her sister. From then on writing becomes even more significant, for it is also a substitute for the mother’s and sister’s missing love.[3]

Effect of writing

The effect of writing on Celie is enormous. Celie’s whole development is possible only due to her act of writing.

When Celie starts writing, she merely reports what happened to her and others. She takes exterior experiences and transforms them into language. Writing things down makes it easier for her to accept and analyze them, even if they are unpleasant:[4]

Harpo, I say, giving him a shake, Sofia love you.
You love Sofia.

He look at me best he can out of his fat little eyes.
Yes, ma’am? he say.

Mr._____ marry me to take care of his children. I marry him because my daddy made me. I don’t love Mr._____ and he don’t love me.[5]

In the course of the novel Celie moves from mere reporting towards psychological analysis and, eventually, even to humour.[6] This change in her use of language reflects the development in Celie’s character, as well. By learning to use language skilfully, she learns to use it as a powerful weapon that eventually serves to liberate her: Celie speaks herself free:[7]

Celie is coming with us, say Shug.

Mr._____’s head swivel back straight. Say what? he ast.

Celie is coming to Memphis with me.

Over my dead body, Mr._____ say

What wrong now?

You a lowdown dog is what’s wrong, I say. It’s time to leave you and enter into the Creation. And your dead body is just the welcome mat I need.

Say what? he ast. Shock.
All around the table folkses mouths be dropping open..

...Mr._____ start to sputter. ButButButButBut. Sound like some kind of motor.[8]

[...]


[1] Walker, Alice; The Color Purple, London, 1992. (p. 3)

[2] ebenda, p. 110

[3] Fifer, Elizabeth; “The Dialect And Letters of The Color Purple
in: Rainwater C., Scheick, W:J. (eds.); Contemporary American Woman Writers, Lexington, 1985. (p. 156)

[4] Fifer, Elizabeth; “The Dialect And Letters of The Color Purple
in: Rainwater C., Scheick, W:J. (eds.); Contemporary American Woman Writers, Lexington, 1985. (p. 157)

[5] Walker, Alice; The Color Purple, London, 1992. (p. 57)

[6] Fifer, Elizabeth; “The Dialect And Letters of The Color Purple
in: Rainwater C., Scheick, W:J. (eds.); Contemporary American Woman Writers, Lexington, 1985. (p. 161)

[7] Gates, Henry-Louis; The Signifying Monkey, Oxford, 1988. (p. 253)

[8] Walker, Alice; The Color Purple, London, 1992. (p. 170)

Excerpt out of 16 pages

Details

Title
Telling and Writing as Means of Liberation in The Color Purple
College
Ruhr-University of Bochum  (English Seminar)
Course
Literatur III
Grade
2 (B)
Author
Year
1998
Pages
16
Catalog Number
V5108
ISBN (eBook)
9783638131032
ISBN (Book)
9783640552788
File size
387 KB
Language
English
Tags
Telling, Writing, Means, Liberation, Color, Purple, Literatur
Quote paper
Maritta Schwartz (Author), 1998, Telling and Writing as Means of Liberation in The Color Purple, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/5108

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