Edexcel AS English Language and Literature Color Purple Essay

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Read the extract from 'Mr___ come finally one day looking all drug out' (page 12) to 'he say,
Her cow (page 13).
Using this extract as your starting point, you should:
Explore how Walker's manipulation of Celie's voice conveys the attitudes of the men
involved in this transaction
Examine the methods used by Walker throughout the novel to show how these male
attitudes are shaped by the society in which the characters live.
Alice Walker's feminist novel is written in the epistolary format to make the novel as a whole
personal. The epistolary format allows Walker to advance the plot, show the changes in character
and highlight key themes. The early letters of Celie convey the voice of a naïve vulnerable girl in her
bewilderment, "first he put his thing up gainst my hip and sort of wiggle it around" and isolation,
"left me to see after the others". Celie's use of colloquial terms to describe what is happening to
her indicates to what extent male dominance in her life has affected her as she cannot spell, "gainst"
properly this is because, she has been segregated from education as women were not allowed to go
to school, especially African Americans. The lack of proper education was due to the deprivation of
equal education for all people due to the Jim Crow Laws which summarized argued for "separate but
equal" access to public institutions that were in effect from 1867-1965 due to racist government
Even though the Jim Crow Laws hindered the education of African Americans, men saw that women
should not be educated, as they were inferior "he looked at me up and down", they were only
seen as objects, thus Pa removing Celie from school. He enslaved Celie home and denied her from
being educated, consequently the aftermath of colonialism, where black people were slaves to
whites, and now the women act as theirs. This is the underlying premise of Alice Walker's book and is
just one of the methods used by Walker throughout the novel to show how male attitudes are
shaped by the society in which the characters live.
Later on in the letters of Celie we are able to see her increase in dependence and her development
of an autonomous voice, overall the letters reflect on the growth of Celie as a woman in a patriarchal
During the period of the novel, segregation between blacks and whites was enforced legally to the
point where blacks had to sit in separate parts of the building. Men were expected to control the
family and had status over women, "Wives is like children. You have to let `em know who got the
upper hand." This attitude filtered into the black culture, where the black male, unlike his white
counterpart, were humiliated on a daily basis for the color of their skin. In frustration, many black
males turned their anger towards women. Black women then experienced the double oppression
and throughout the novel Walker constantly uses manipulation through Celie's voice to convey the
attitudes of men, as it does in this extract.
The use of the epistolary format contributes to the way men are viewed. Since the novel is portrayed
from two points of views, both in the first narrative it allows the reader to compare between two
different lives and how men affect each of them. Each of the sisters write as an act of faith, keeping
up their own spirits as well as the others in difficult times and reaching out to one another. Mr___

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Nettie's letters from Celie as though forbidding sisterhood. Therefore, men are seen as
their worst in this feminist novel.
The novel is made up of as series of letters from both Celie and Nettie. The letters written by Celie
are reported speech "Pa say" but, when read it is as though the reader becomes Celie and
experiences the same traumatic life as an uneducated black woman, this is done through Walker's
use of African American Vernacular English.…read more

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Celie's voice as she responds to Harpo with "do it. Beat her" as she knows life no other way for a
woman. Harpo on the other hand grows up to believe that a wife should do what a husband says and
if she does not then she should be beaten, this is an example of the attitude derived from and
shaped by the society in which he has grown up in.…read more


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