There Is No Absolute Experience
I found all three articles to be extremely engrossing. They each provoked strong reactions within me. The article that I responded the most positively was “Phallus(ies) of interpretation: toward engendering the black critical ‘I’” by duCille. The author challenges the idea that there is one universal truth and history. She states that “Truth, however, like beauty, is in the eye and perhaps the experience of the beholder”(2). I agree with this idea of a subjective truth in relation to experience. When reading The Color Purple, I never once thought that this was the exact experience of all black people of this time period. Foremost, I realized that this was a work of fiction. Secondly, I understood that if this did represent an experience, it did not represent all experiences. Yet just because this experience is not universal does not mean that cannot represent truth.
In regards to the article “On The Color Purple, Stereotypes, and Silence” by Harris, there were some points I agreed and some that I did not at all. On the first page I was immediately disturbed by the quote, “What sane black woman, I asked, would sit around and take that crock of shit from all those folks?” (155). For some reason this stuck me as insensitive to Celie’s experience. The way I read this was that because Celie did not react she is less of a black woman. What she dealt with was extremely traumatic. She had to learn how to be a strong woman, which she eventually did. Yes, I agree that sometimes I was frustrated with her passivity, but I never thought of her as less of a woman because of it. I do not think that any woman, whether white, black, etc., needs to fit into a particular mold. I felt that Celie’s character represents the struggles (maybe not exactly, but in figurative sense) that some women deal with. Celie’s experience is no less the truth than the experience of a “strong” woman like Sofia.
An underlying theme that all articles dealt with was the idea that the novels can negatively affect the image of the black race, whether it be the men, the women, or the whole. As discussed in the article “The Black Person in Art: How Should S/He Be Portrayed?” there is a delicate balance between the artistic voice of the writer and the freedom of the black race from stereotypes and oppression. I agree that stories can feed the stereotypes that are present. Yet I also think that each story represents its own interpretation of the truth. Just because a novel does not represent a group in the most positive of light does not make it a universal truth. I think that this becomes the responsibility of the reader to recognize the lens from which they are reading as well as the fact that the experiences of the characters do not represent the experiences of everyone. Every author has the right to express the truth as they see it or even just a particular part of the truth they have seen. I think that books are often meant to cause frustration in the readers. I do not think that it is bad that women are frustrated with Celie’s passivity or that men are upset with portrayal of black men. Books are not always meant to make every person happy. They are sometimes ways to open up discussion or to express one’s own thoughts.