Alice Walkers Life and Her Novels
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The creation of God, man and woman, were both made to stand equal to each other, in every rule, responsibility and functionality of life; however, since the birth of Eve, woman have been taken as the weaker and the suppressed gender of the two, dominated by the phenomenon of ‘manliness’ more rather than his character. No matter women have gained an equal footing in today’s world but still they continue to fight for the fulfillment of every wish, for their independence.
Of such amazing women, who stood strong in this male dominated society, shines the name of Alice Walker who is the hope of every black woman. Alice Walker, born in 1944 in the Georgia State of USA, saw many challenges throughout her life. Her family lived in poor conditions on a farm, unable to afford a suitable living; however her mother struggled hard to provide her four daughter’s apt education, standing against the racial discrimination which lured her way. As a young girl her eye was injured, leaving a permanent scar, to shield her beauty, and conscious of this inability she retreated to books and poetry, through which she learnt the true meaning of life and its relationships.
Later in her life Alice Walker established herself as a strong human rights supporter, greatly influenced by her teacher, Martin Luther King, standing against the Iraqi war, fighting for the rights of women and children. She proudly proclaims herself as a “womanizer,” (Walker, 2008) after her teacher and thus sought herself in writing what she believes in a male dominated society, should be the strongest element of fighting against the wrong.
She commenced her writing career in 1970’s through poems and short novels. Her first acclaimed novel was titled as “The Third Life of Grange Copeland,” and has many others which have brought her great success and appraisal such as “The Color Purple,” “The temple of My Familiar,” “Meridian,” and “Possessing the Secret of Joy.” A common trend carried throughout in her works is the idea of supporting feminism, the points of clash between the two genders, the role of society towards character development, racism and the inequality between cultures and status cores of the blacks and whites.
Her novel, “The Color Purple,” which gained her great appreciation as a writer, winning her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983, has its allocation set up for a black woman striving through the society of 1930’s. The novel describes the tales of various woman of the society during that period, of how they were undermined my different male characters who befell their lives, even if they stood strong and imprudent, the male dominant society were pledged to shudder their power and their freedom. They were treated worse like puppets that could be abused sexually and physically, did not hold any emotions, were working animals of their houses and thus did not hold any rights of their own. They could only be bared by others and given the right to live if they quietly followed their demands; right or wrong was to be defined by the male and the rightful gender alone.
The Color Purple
The protagonist of the novel The Color Purple, Celie, is shown to be a timid traditional woman who accepts life as it is brought to her without objecting its cruelties, accepting it as her fate. As a young girl, she is constantly sexually abused by her step father, who bears her with two children, whom she somehow looses in the chaotic world. To find some serenity from her life she marries a widower, who more than her likes her sister Nettie, and tries to sexually abuse her as well. However, she escapes and leaves the house promising to right back, but her husband jealous of her wife’s bond with anybody other than himself hides away all the letters, forcing Celie to believe that her only loved and pure relation had also left her. Devastated as she is with her husband, Albert’s abuses; to further avenge from her, he brings in his mistress Shug, who augments her situation by adding into the daily abuses. However, they soon are attracted to each other not only emotionally but also physically, this bondage becoming stronger with the fact that she is the only love that Celie has found since her sister’s loss. (Walker, 2001, Pp125)
However, at the other side Celie is impressed by the strength of her step son’s wife, Sofia, who refuses to get beaten by her husband or get herself belittled, thus leaves his house along with her children. Alice Walker shows, that no matter how strong a woman gets in this society, her power is must to be demeaned by men, as Sofia is imprisoned for slapping the white mayor and as a punishment is forced to work as his maid. (Walker, 2001, pp145)
When Celie learns about her lost children and is reconciled with them, she leaves Albert and strong stand in front of him for the first time, as the news is overpowering for her abilities. She gains the ability to start her own business, but later joined by her husband who is now forced to respect her. (Walker, 2001, Pp201)
The novel tries to bring out the ability and strength of woman, of how the thought that men are made to rule over them is nothing but stereotypical. They all possess immense ability but should just have the courage to voice it. It also inspires the thought of sexuality of how men of our society want to be superior to woman in every respect, for example when Harpo, Celie’s step son is unable to adjust to the fact that he is physically weaker than his wife, and thus starts eating more so that he can abuse her stronger than she could if needed. The entire concept which Walker tries to build through the story is that we have build stereotypical notions concerning men and women, trying to position them in the best place possible, however in reality they always never obey them, and when these typecasts are broken only then a revolution can occur, as everybody possesses its power inside themselves. (Walker, 2001)
Possessing the Secret of Joy
Her fifth novel, Possessing the Secret of Joy, is considered by the critics as a continuation of the Color Purple, compiled by her in 1992. The story gives a rebirth to the character of Tashi, for the Color Purple, who is an African, stuck between the norms of her tribe and the Western dissimilarities. She underwent female genital mutilation, when she was young, has seen her sister bleed to death in such a process, and the entire trauma of agony and pain that she has suffered haunts her life like a ghost from the past, not letting her to live again.
Her husband no matter loves her, is going through grave insecurity as he is helpless to her situation, and starts with an extra marital affair, with an old friend who even bears him a son. This further worsens Tashi’s mental status as her own son is born deformed, due to the difficulty her delivery offered, with her ending up blaming her own self further for her child’s disability.
The novel depicts as to how cruel traditions and cultures of illiterate societies can be that they hamper the lives of not an innocent girl but for the generations to follow, along with all the people associated to her. An act created by the male dominated culture, which would reduce the appeal for sexual desires for a woman, making it very painful and futile, and leave her only as a tool to be used by men is intolerant and ridiculous practice which needs to be stopped by force.
It only proves of how manly men are to their wives, only they being able to unleash her from her agony after marriage. As the author describes the agony of this women stating that; “And I was like a crow, flapping my wings unceasingly in my own head, cawing mutely across an empty sky. And I wore black, and black and black," which shows the terrible state of confusion that she lived in. (Walker, 1992, Pp. 219)
The book also awakens the fact that no matter initially Tashi had agreed in this operation as she thought that it would help to bind her to her culture, make her stronger as a woman, but what she didn’t realize was that her future would be full of the screams of the women horrid with its agony. It wasn’t that she had any real freedom of choice; she did this in order to be included in the group of African woman around her, to escape from their torments. It is written to subjugate the society of men who promote this cruelty in the name of tradition and religion, and the women who are bewitched with this idealism believing and bowing in front of these customs in force able and brainwashed recognition.
The question which Alice Walker raises to her protagonist by the end of the novel is that “Black people are natural; they possess the secret of joy.”But what is it? This secret of joy of which she writes," demands Tashi.” (Walker, 1992, pp.255)The secret she in the end reveals is in understanding and accepting the secrets of their own pain. The more quickly had Tashi understood her pain and accepted it, stared straight at its face, the cure could she have attained relief from this misery, to get to the joys of her life which remained locked away from her reach. It is about breaking free from the taboos and speaking up of the unspeakable and the forbidden.
A theme that Alice walker follows throughout her novels is the promotion and alleviation of black culture and its people. She portrays a negative image of men of the Black Community, which no matter raised a lot of questions and criticism for her from the society, but she proved to live up to being a feminist and a womanizer as she calls herself.
Works like “The Color Purple” and “The Possessing of the Secret of Joy,” no matter are a tremendous contribution to literature, but also are pieces of scripts which are revolutionary in today’s world of politics and economy, whereby everything is still man made and women are still treated as inferiors who would remain timid and live with any abuse. Such books not only undermine the stereotypical rule of men created in the minds of both the genders but also help to uplift the status of women who live their lives like Celie and Tashi, accepting life’s cruelties unable to question them. Works of Alice Walker help to blow the spirit of determination and freedom into the lives of every woman, helping to fight the norms of humiliation created in the name of culture, tradition and religion, making her fight for her independence.