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The impact of 'The Color Purple' is emotional rather than intellectual and this exemplifies the fact that for the society presented in the novel intellectual pursuit is futile

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Introduction

The impact of 'The Color Purple' is emotional rather than intellectual and this exemplifies the fact that for the society presented in the novel intellectual pursuit is futile Alice Walker's 'The Color Purple' is a controversial novel criticised positively and negatively by all walks of life. At first glance, the book affects the reader emotionally, but after a second reading it is clear that there are intellectual layers to the novel, such as women's rights and race relations. This text can change the reader emotionally and their views of the world in just 261 pages. I believe that although the novel does have some intellectual impact, there is more of an emotional experience to be had - however does this mean that intellectual pursuit for the society presented is futile? When reading this novel, we are presented with the shocking opening line 'You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy'. The language Walker has used here is intended to shock the reader and entice them to read on as the words creating a foreboding atmosphere. In this first letter we meet Celie - a fourteen-year-old black American girl who is raped by who she thinks is her father. From this age Celie is already used to being repressed by men, but soon after she is forcibly pushed into a marriage with Mr -, who really wants her sister Nettie. When Celie sees that Mr - wants Nettie she tells her to 'keep at her books' (page 6) as Celie sees having an education as a way out from poverty and repression. Alphonso (Pa) wants Nettie for himself, but lets Mr - have Celie. He says 'she ain't smart...but she can work like a man' (page 97). ...read more.

Middle

and on this pretence he would not let her marry Mr -. It is clear when reading Nettie's letters the difference in style - the perfect spelling and grammar, the use of a standard English vernacular and the general structure of the letter. Celie uses a stream of consciousness when writing her letters and the only indication of a different person speaking is starting a new line, whereas in Nettie's letters, thoughts are well ordered and the reader is reminded who is speaking by getting the occasional 'said Samuel' e.t.c. These two very different approaches to writing show both sides to the novel - Celie writing in an emotional way and Nettie in an intellectual manner, consequently providing the reader with both aspects of the novel. Celie also develops her emotions and realises that the way she sees God has changed. In her last letter (page 259), Celie writes 'Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, peoples. Dear everything. Dear God'. This pantheist view of God - where God is not just 'big and old and tall and graybearded and white' (page 175) - he is everything around us, whether it is the stars, the trees or the sky. In the beginning she seems tentative in sharing the details of her life - the letters are short and there is even a crossing out - showing that she is uncertain even about telling God. This enlightenment gives Celie newfound confidence and drive in her life, showing once again that for the novel's society, intellectual pursuit is not futile. The 'Color Purple' tackles historical issues such as slavery and women's rights as well as issues from the 1980's (when it was written) ...read more.

Conclusion

I am inclined to agree with hook as I feel she certainly has a better measure of Walker's intentions than Stuart, yet she also finds the ending as demeaning to the novel as a whole as I do. In conclusion, the concept that the reader has a more emotional experience of the novel than an intellectual one can be partially justified as on the first reading we are deeply affected by Walker use of pathos when telling Celie's story. However, on subsequent readings, we begin to see the intellectual and political issues that Walker has woven into her work and the reader can gradually start to amalgamate her views with their own to form an informed analysis of Celie's society. My conclusion for the second part of the question (i.e. whether intellectual pursuit is futile for the society presented), is somewhat more inflexible than the first part. Celie and Nettie certainly show that pursuing education as well as intellectual ideas and concepts reaps its rewards. Because Nettie learnt to write well, she could send letters to Celie and therefore Celie knew she was still alive; Celie found enlightenment through a new way of looking at God and running her own business. The two sisters have escaped from poverty and repression and the ending is happy -but, does Sofia find happiness from her revolutionary behaviour? Bibliography 1. 'The Color Purple' by Alice Walker (Phoenix Fiction, 2004) 2. 'The Color Purple, York Notes Advanced' (2005) by Neil McEwan 3. 'The Color Purple in Literature and Gender' (1996) by Lizbeth Goodman 4. 'Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass' (1845) by Frederick Douglass 5. 'In Search of our Mothers' Garden: Womanist Prose' (1983) by Alice Walker 6. 'The Color Purple: In Defence of Happy Endings' from 'The Female Gaze' (1988) by Andrea Stuart 7. ...read more.

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