Reading the three assigned essay for class this week, I found myself experiencing a number of different emotions. At moments I was angry, sad, and curious, but the emotion that resonated with me through most of these essays was the lack of understanding. It seemed to me that all three of these articles bashed and downgraded The Color Purple into a pulp. Being an English major, I am accustomed to commenting on and analyzing books, but I found much of the criticism in these three essays to be completely dependent on the essay writer’s experiences, ideas, and opinions. These experiences, ideas and opinions are completely subjective and one hundred percent dependent on one’s experience in life. It is my feeling that Alice Walker wrote a book constructed from her own personal experiences in life, and she should not be criticized in the way that she is for The Color Purple in these essays.
Many of the essayists we read for today’s class argue that The Color Purple failed in numerous ways. Saying that it bashed African American males, depicting them as uncontrollable sexual beasts, insulted African American women in Celie’s submissiveness, and more generally did not accurately portray African American lifestyles. I would counter this argument in saying that Celie is one person, in one town, in one part of the country, in a specific time period. I think it would be ludicrous to assume that because Walker creates Celie (along with others) as a very submissive woman with low self esteem that all African American woman are like that. I would present the same argument for all of the male roles in The Color Purple. Pa was one twisted, perverted, mentally ill individual that took horrific action against his daughter. Mr. ______ is essentially on the same level as Pa, with the exception of the end of the book where Celie and Mr. ______ seem to form a real connection with one another. I just find it unfair and unreasonable to place the responsibility of portraying the African American race on Walker’s shoulders.
I would also add that I do completely understand the argument many of the essayists asserted in their works. Many of them pose a strong and compelling argument, but I think that many of their ideas are much too harsh and presumptuous. Similar to how I described Walker as writing about one person’s experience; Celie, in a specific time and place, not standing in for the entire African American experience, Trudier Harris’ argument revolves around one group of freshmen students, in one class, at one university etc., etc. I would like to think that we as people are too intelligent to allow one book (or even a collection of books demonstrating similar experiences and ideas) to shape our opinions and feelings toward an entire race. Perhaps my way of thinking is a new type of thinking that allows me to unpack The Color Purple for its’ literary and moral value, rather than thinking of it as a way to place the African American experience.
I think that the service I do at Tunbridge, once again, has some true and fascinating connections to the readings. I found myself thinking about how people form ideas about other races and people that are different from themselves. The answer I came up with is this: people shape their ideas about other races and peoples through the experiences we have as young people especially, but through our whole lives as well.
Many of the students and staff at tunbridge are African American, and I would estimate that about 90% of the student body is black with the other 10% white or hispanic. Each week I find myself forming stronger and closer relationships with the students, some more then others. I can only hope that my experiences with these children are always positive, and that in turn they will perhaps form a positive image of whatever race these children see me as. (Although I do look caucasian, I am half Colombian which allows me to identify as hispanic as well as caucasian)
Although I had never really thought about this until sitting down to write this blog post, I truly believe that my experiences with these children is slowly but surely allowing them to see parts of themselves in me, and parts of me in them. What better way is there to form a positive image of a specific race than realizing that you are much more the same than you are different?! In addition, through working with these children I am seeing myself when I was younger! I think that we are learning about and from one another, as well as appreciating and enjoying our experiences together.