Along similar lines in respect to creating meaning for oneself or how to deal with the injustices in the world that befell Billy in Slaughterhouse Five, dealing with the problems that one faces when encountering injustice because of race and gender become central issues when examining The Color Purple. From the onset, Celie, the female narrator, lacks the ability that the narrator of Slaughterhouse Five retained as he journeyed through time and created meaning for himself by encountering with events that demonstrated the limits of his sight. Celie never receives any illumination into the issues surrounding her as she only relies on others for her strength and knowledge instead of relying on herself to find meaning.
Early on Celie relies explicitly on God as the source of her audience, indicating that the story that Celie tells is more private and remains so for the sake of telling the story of those who have no ability to voice the injustices around them. The idea of Celie bringing others into the conversation of change becomes illustrated by the progression of oppressed characters like Mary Agnes and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Sophia. Despite being attacked sexually by her uncle, Mary, known as Squeak comes to change from within only as a result of help of others. This is captured best when Walker writes, “She turn her face up to Harpo. Harpo, she say, do you really love me, or just my color? Harpo says, I love you, Squeak. He kneel down and try to put his arms round her waist. She stand up. My name Mary Agnes, she say.” (Walker 97).
In this sense then, Celie does not write to express change or meaning like seen via Dr. King or Slaughterhouse Five, and in fact Celie remains much more like the “white moderate” of Dr. King due to her continual inaction, however the correspondence with God allows for Celie to include others into the conversation and grant them the ability to change themselves. Looking to Sophia, a woman of action who may be the opposite of both Mary and Celie, the change that occurs for Sophia actually becomes negative due to her violent outburst against the mayor. Walker expresses this further when she writes, “Sophia mutters to herself, half to me. I’m here to watch, not to throw, she says. She don’t make a move towards the ball.” (Walker 100). Compared to Mary who found change in others, Sophia’s removal from society via prison caused her to break and become unable to act. And maybe most importantly, Celie’s silence on some issues, such as leaving the name of her husband blank, demonstrates that although she may not be able to change the world around her, Celie can at least tell a story in a way that allows her to control the meanings of those around her.
When I think of the experiences I have with the students at Acts for Youth, the idea of war being demonstrated in the classroom certainty carries over from the ideas in “The Peaceable Classroom.” One of the main issues that the teacher and I deal with is the disciple of our kids because they constantly act up due to interactions with each other, and the unwillingness to listen to what the teacher and I attempt to talk to them about. If we go over homework or talk about the core values of the program, the kids generally end up collectively revolting and causing problems for everyone involved due to lack of respect for all involved.
Whether the kids are close to arguing with each other, or threatening to do so, the actions of everyone involved becomes perturbed because of the ripples of single actions. Therefore, in this sense, the warzone of the classroom occurs due to the lack of the ability to communicate with each other despite the attempts made by some, like the teacher and myself, or the lack of responsibility taken by those who act. Looking at these events through the lens of Celie and The Color Purple, the silence taken by anyone would not allow for the change necessary to move past the issues that separate us as individuals. Although silence can at times act almost as powerfully as any action, the silence of characters like Celie do nothing for her, yet allow others to take control of the world around them. In this sense, if the kids only remained silent throughout our time, nothing would be learned, as they would never have the chance to see things in new lights.