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Gender roles in The Color Purple.

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Introduction

Alice Walker in her novel The Color Purple illustrates a parallel between the gender roles of women in the early 20th century and Black slavery through the life of Celie and her interactions with Albert, as well as with Nettie's experiences in Africa with the Olinka tribe. Similarities reign with this book and slavery in two instances: one, Celie and some of the other women's slave-like labor that Albert and other men force them to do and two, the treatment of the women in the Olinka tribe. Celie constantly has to obey Albert, who she refers to as Mr. ______ for most of the novel, performing many of the jobs assigned to women during the time period as well as labor in the field. Her role in society directly correlates with the gender roles of the women of America and the Olinka tribe causing a conclusion to be made that many women were most always subordinate to men until the Women's Rights Movement. In the early 20th century, female subordination and gender roles existed all across America. These ideals presented themselves both in the South and the North although they slightly differed between the two. Women in the South served as companions and hostesses for their husbands and mothers for their children. Their lives were generally centered around the home. Southern women on wealthy plantations became ornaments for their husbands often called "plantation mistresses" (Brinkley 379). ...read more.

Middle

Most looked like they'd been drug across the yard by pigs." (157). From this information, it is possible to infer that women in this African tribe were not cared for as well as possibly others relating to the way women were treated in America. Olinka women also had separate jobs than men. "The men might hunt up to ten miles around the village, but the women stayed close to their huts and fields." (157). Women in the Olinka tribe, were required to stay close to the standards of women in their society and not venture out in to the open. They were limited to the work defined to women by their customs, much like the women in America also. Many of the young girls in the tribe were required to receive the standard tribal markings, particularly scarring and cutting tribal marks on one's face. Women also went through a female initiation ceremony to induct them into the women's separate society (245). The standards for women in the Olinka tribe were rather different than the standards of the men. Nettie also writes in one of her letters later on in the novel: The Olinka do not believe girls should be educated. When I asked a mother why she thought this she said: "A girl is nothing to herself; only to her husband can she become something." "What can she become?" ...read more.

Conclusion

Her husband, Albert, also rapes Celie because she never wants a sexual relationship with him but is forced into it. Women did not have the power to stop a man from sexual assault physically nor with help from the society. The gender roles played by Celie, the women in the Olinka tribe, and women all throughout America act as a parallel with Slavery. These roles coincide with the treatment of slaves and even seem to have developed as a result of slavery. In some cases, women's oppression seems to be a milder view of slavery; in others, it seems just as bad. Many women, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton supported both the Women's Rights Movement and the Abolitionists' Movement because they reasoned that by pointing out the similarities between the two hardships, they could enhance their position by helping the black's position. In The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Celie's dominating husband, compared to the dominating white master in a slave's case, treats Celie like a slave. Celie does what Albert, her husband, tells her to do, she is often beaten, and is also raped. This treatment very closely resembles that of slaves. Women in Africa perform the same tasks and are set apart as hostesses for their husbands, to work and raise their children. This also resembles slavery. These two great instances of subordination in our world show many similarities within each other; however, it was many more years later that women gained their deserved rights as equals from the time slavery was abolished. ...read more.

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