There has been many cases where young girls go through rape and are alway been put down for being women. Justice isn’t always made but women gain self respect for themselves. In the novel The Color Purple, Alice Walker shows the reader that people should express their own identity so that they can find their own voice to gain empowerment. Perhaps having voice doesn’t mean a person has the power of self identity. Walker shows how others influence someone to find their own voice and gain the power they would not have before. Alice Walker uses characters like Sofia and Mary Agnes that have voice and uses the power of telling a personal story to find their own identity.
Since the beginning of the novel, Sofia had her own self identity and gave herself the respect she deserves. In the beginning of The Color Purple, Celie describes Sofia as, “Not quite as tall as Harpo but much bigger, and strong and ruddy looking, like her mama brought her up on pork” (Walker 30). This is showing the reader that since the beginning that this character was going to a tough women. Not just by the way she looked but letting the reader know how she might be later on. Walker shows how Sofia has her own voice when Mister tries to talk her down about Harpo not being the dad of the baby. Sofia didn’t let herself after Harpo wasn’t defending her or the child she was carrying of him. For example, Sofia says, “. . .Naw, Harpo, you stay here. When you free, me and the baby be waiting” (Walker 31). This coming from Sofia, shows that she is the one telling her husband what to do and not letting him do what he wants. Walker shows that Sofia can say what she wants whenever and isn’t afraid of speaking up, giving herself the permission to talk back whenever she wants to and not only when someone asks for her opinion. Sofia has her own voice and has the power to not let her husband Harpo beat her just to make her mind. For example Harpo explains, “That’s right, say Harpo. But not Sofia. She do what she want, don’t pay me no mind at all. I try to beat her, she black me eyes” (Walker 63). This shows how tough Sofia can be and how she doesn’t let anyone control her. Sofia not only has the power to not let her husband hit her but has the power and voice to say “no” whenever she wants to. She uses the power of being able to say no to not let anyone manipulate her and to not get controlled by. For example, Ms. Millie says, “[W]ould you like to work for me, be my maid? Sofia say, Hell no” (Walker 85). Her having voice shows that when someone has voice, they gain the power of respect of others. Sofia had so much power with her voice but because of her voice she got her freedom taken away from her. Walker not only shows her audience how much empowerment a person has having a voice but also showing the reader how much trouble voice brings.
Sofia has power which took her from being so strong to saying no to the mayor’s wife in the novel that it caused her to end up in jail. In the book the only way Sofia would get out is if she accepts to be the maid of the mayor. She knew that this was a way of manipulating her to get her to do something she didn’t want. She was a colored person and she was a free colored person not being a property of anyone. It was going to be humiliating for her to be working for someone that was a white person but she had to if she didn’t want to be in the horrible place. Sofia in this novel lost her voice she wasn’t able to say whatever she wanted to at anytime. Her losing her voice shows the readers that she loses the power she had when she entered that house, she lost mainly herself and her confidence. In the novel Sofia says, “ Nobody told them I was coming, so they don’t know who I is. Except the oldest two…. And then all the little once start to hug me too” (Walker 104). Sofia lost the privilege of being able to see her kids for eight years that weren’t able to recognize her later on.
Walker in the novel The Color Purple, shows the reader how much power a person can have when they have their own voice to speak up with for themselves without having someone else help them. Not only how much power someone can have but how much power someone loses when they lose their voice they once had to defend themselves. Squeak is a person who does not have her own voice. Squeak was nicknamed because of her appearance since she is small in body size with a squeaky voice. She never spoke up to what others said about her. She didn’t even try to defend herself when Sofia hit her because she saw Sofia really tough. She always kept back in Harpos shadow trying to hid behind him when anything was aid to her. What made her look weak more than just her appearance was her getting together with a married man who had kids too with that woman which was Sofia. Out of all the men there was, she chose a married man who was almost like her in the since or always doing what they were told. But Squeak will have her turning point as the book continues, maybe she wasn’t going to be that once shy quiet person after all. Squeak who was quiet and obedient has her turning point in the novel as well. While Sofia was in jail, she had the bravery to go talk to her uncle to see if maybe that would help to get her out of jail. Celie explains, “Us dress Squeak like she a white woman….” (Walker 93) Since she had “yellowish skin” (Walker 80) color and perhaps passed as a whited colored person were she got dressed really sophisticated for the occasion she was going to. While she was there she got raped and when she got back Harpo was devastated. Squeak was trying to say what was going on and what had happened with her and her uncle and also if Sofia was going to be able to come out of jail. When Harpo saw her torn clothes on her, he wanted to tell everyone what had happened to her but once he began to talk to Squeak, his bravery had left him.. Squeak says, “Shut up, Harpo, say Squeak. Im telling it” (Walker 95). Not only did she have the bravery to stop him but to shut him up because it was her story and it was her that was going to tell it. The article, “ The Power of Speaking Out” states, “Speaking up about harassment and other forms of abuse is an important step in the process, but it’s only the first step in a mission to make life better” (Sorvino). This is the moment Squeak was able to speak up for herself and put an end to what was going on in her life at that moment. Not only did she tell him that but she had the power to claim her voice with her saying that her name wasn’t Squeak but that it was Mary Agnes (Walker 97). This was the moment where she claims her voice and speaks up for the first time, not caring of what other will say or think of what could happen if she does say something others might not like. Walker with this character shows her audience how one women can go from having self respect to losing it all for just using her voice.
Alice Walker did not only show the power of voice but shares stories of some characters of what they have gone through. Also, how telling their own story helped them find their own voice like Celie did in the novel The Color Purple. Celie the main character of the novel in the beginning was one of the characters to have no voice and was determined to stay alive even though she had no voice to speak up for herself. She had to tell her own story to someone in order for her to find who she was and put a stop to everyone who was messing with her and made her life impossible. At the beginning of the story when Celie was so young, she went through things a teenage girl should not go through nor anyone at any point in their life. She got threatened by her pa to not tell anyone but god so she never did. She thought no one would believe her because she didn’t have much education and the little knowledge she had was because of her sister Nettie. As she got older she always kept things inside and never bothered to tell anyone until one day her husband, Mister, brought his mistress, Shug Avery, to their house so Celie could take care of her knowing that her own husband was sleeping with her at nights. Throughout the whole first half Celie was so obedient and always minded her husband and did what was told and never spoke up. If she ever try to talk back she would get beaten by Mister, but she thought she would get beaten for not being like Shug. According to, “How and Why do Women Stay” states, “ [T]he man who abuse her may be likely to blame her for the victimization” (Herbert 311). This shows that men like Mister don’t let women speak for themselves.
Later on, as the story continues Celie changes a lot with her actions and her learning to speak up. Shug Avery being the mistress of her husband gains Celie’s trust. Little by little she had to make Celie feel like she was someone she could trust in to get Celie out of her comfort zone. Shug was able to teach Celie how to love herself but more than anything how to love her body first. She showed her new things she didn’t expect seeing from herself. Walker with this shows her audience that a person starts by steps to own their own voice. Their first step Celie took was to love her own body. The next step she took was to learn how to love someone else. After knowing she was sleeping with her one of the times she was with her, Celie felt like she was able to trust Shug now and was brave enough to tell her own story to her all the way since she was younger. Walker gives her audience a more detailed story letting her readers know that Celie with telling her own story is finding her own voice. In the article, “Telling their own story”, by Nina Sonenberg says, “We designed Reading America to help immigrant leens and their families talk to each other about their different cultural experiences” (72). This claims that everyone has a very different way of living and will have to tell their own story to let others know how they lived and how everyone has a different life in many ways. It allows to let others know that telling their story can help other tell their own too to find their own voice within them.
Walker in her story had many characters telling their own story many get to tell them all and others not all. Mister is one of them who he is not able tell all his story. He was one of those characters that influenced others stories for bad but helps them be brave enough to speak up. He spoke to Celie about his story but when he was younger and was not able to marry the love of his life and was never able to experience real love. He confesses to Celie that because of her, he learns to love and maybe not in the way he might have expected but he learns. In the book review on a magazine, Messner states, “…since masculinity is seen as naturally attached to men, to sign up for a class on men might be to admit that you are not a real man” (487). They both end up sitting at a table him telling Celie that he would watch his mom sew and he didn’t know to to so well but that he would try it out for Celie because he realizes that doing things like that doesnt mean he is not a man. They both ended up being good friends after he confesses his story to Celie. Mister was a man who got a redeem from all the bad things he did to all those people who surrounded him he starts off as an all type of macho guy to someone why ended up being the one who is running his land alone, takes care of his children, cooks for them, and cleans the whole house.
In this novel the most powerful person in the tribe was not able to get to speak out and have other hear his voice. In the tribe the Olinka Chief was trying to save his village and went to the main city to try to save it and tell his story and tell how much his tribe needed to stay there. But he wasn’t able to tell him story by the fact that he didn’t know the right language. The white man, as he called him, only knew of the Olinka tribe just based on a map but not if they actually exist. Him not knowing the language of civilized people limited him to not being able to speak up for those who depended. This comes in again to Walker showing her audience that with the education not given and not being able to speak up will give people less power than what they can have. The chief was the one person that had so much power among his people and ended up having no power so save his tribe.
Not everyone has the opportunity to express what they want whenever they want especially if they do not have same opportunity to do so as a child. Sofia had to fight at her own house for her to have the right for her to speak and not be afraid to defend herself. She grew up to be a strong and tough women. In the article “Breaking the Silence” Paulette Senior explains, “Speaking out and speaking up has been integral to change for women and girls….” (13). This is something Sofia has been able to do for herself and that made changes for her in a good and bad way. Whereas, when Squeak come into the story, she was completely opposite from Sofia starting of from minding Harpo like he wanted Sofia to mind him. But Squeak just needed someone to try to tell her own story for her to speak up and find her own voice and tell Harpo to shut up. Not only did she tell him to shut up but she left them clear that her name was not Squeak, but Mary Agnes. Celie is one of the persons who had to tell her own story to someone in order for her to find her own voice. And needed of someone else’s help to be whom she is formed to be at the end of the book and learns to love her body and herself. She grew so much as a person in order for her to be able to speak up for herself when her husband Mister tried to tell her otherwise. In the interview “The Beauty in Truth,” Alice Walker says, “It’s better to have your blackness taken away than to stand there and lie about who you actually are.” Celie got everything taken away but her dignity, showing that this character was more like the own Alice Walker. In the other hand, Mister he was an abusive man at any given time and tried to get better but fails the first time he is trying to.
Celie doesn’t think he can be so bad after all and doubts it still, but falls so low when he hides the letters of Nettie from Celie. This when Celie gains all the courage to curse him off when she is about to leave with Shug. He redeems himself from all the harm he has done and changes to be a better person.
In conclusion, Walker shows her audience various characters with their own story in order for their voice to be heard. Some people like Squeak and Celie gain the courage to learn how to speak up and not let others manipulate them the way they don’t want to be treated. Some need the help others to get an extra help in their confidence but others lose their voice when they lose their freedom. Using voice is a way of giving empowerment but not being able to use it properly gives people things to lose.