Day 11


1. Names. Proposals back. Talk about Juhnke plenary address and workshop to follow. I need numbers for both, but esp. the second. Pass sheet around.


2. In the news: war is the focus, of course. But other things are going on as well . . . On the King of Pop. On the Bush economic plan. Katha Pollitt on poets against the war. The Sam Hamill site. Noam Chomsky News from Times on NATO and Security Council opposition to war. Kristol on Iraq Adlai Stevenson III on Powell’s speech, war, and containment.,1,3302072.column?coll=la%2Dheadlines%2Dcalifornia Steve Lopez on Iraq. Interesting site. Gulf War 2 game.


3. On Color Purple. I want to be sure that we look closely at some crucial moments of the text, along with considering what it means, what patterns and themes emerge and how they connect with those we’ve been talking about all semester.

Starting point: what do you think are the “big issues” that the book raises and that we ought to talk about?  Make a list on board.  Sex, religion, gender roles, economics, race, family, work, history, language, violence, abuse, incest, activism, solidarity, love . . . some become more evident as things continue.

It’s about African-American experience in America, of course, but it’s also about black women, about men and women, about violence and several kinds of oppression, and about freedom and empowerment and various kinds of resistance too.

Among those: nonviolent resistance, as strategy and way of living. How do the disempowered go about claiming power, freedom, self-determination, independence? In one sense, that’s the “problem” that the book poses. Surely Celie is radically disempowered as the book begins.

Having listed all these things, I’d like next to shift to the specific and particular—to examine characters and events and even the style and point of view. Doing that will help us consider the “big issues” more carefully when we circle back to them, I think.

3.  Some issues and ideas on Color Purple:

-Opening.  Why does the book start the way it does?  When the narrator gets raped by her father on the first page, what is left?  What’s the purpose?  To create a deliberate and radical shock, to set up the conditions under which she has to exist?

-Notice the dialect, as I’m sure you did.  “Be” for “is,” or verb left out, also verb endings omitted.  Highly economical, and surprisingly expressive, I think.  Watch also for changes in the language and form as the book continues: who the letters are addressed to, for example.  And different characters speak different dialects.

-Why do you suppose this letter form?  Notice the first line in italics.  That’s (I think) the only break from the epistolary form.  It’s the form of the very first novels, of course, but why use it here?  She’s forbidden, of course, to “tell anybody but God.”  Who else can she talk to?  Esp. after Nettie leaves.  The theme of silence and speech, of secrets and threats and the struggle to overcome them.

-In many ways this is a very traditional novel: emphasis on family relationships, generations, change and testing.  Even the suspense about Nettie being dead and the grand reunion at the end is straight out of Dickens. 

-On another level, though, it’s also a book about hierarchies: color, money, sex, beauty, education: a poor and ugly and uneducated black woman is at the very bottom, hmm?  How do you act in that position?  How do you survive?  What kinds of force can you marshall?  Ignorance: her daddy won’t send her to school, Shug has to teach about her own body.

-Time and place: when does this take place? Begins in early 20th century, perhaps the 20s, somewhere in the South.

-Marriage, sex, love.  17-18 talking marriage.  21 on her wedding day.  24 Nettie: It’s like seeing you buried.  30: Why he beat me?  She my wife.  Plus she stubborn.  52 She notices his weak chin.  22-3 Her little girl--the children her father took from her at birth.  All throughout a confusion of children, weddings, cohabitations and the like, hmm?

-Harpo and Sofia: a parallel but distinct saga: Sofia who won’t be pushed around by anyone.  42-3 How to make her mind?  Celie says “Beat her.”  Their fights, following; 46 Celie and Sofia, their confrontation and forgiveness.  62 ff.  Harpo’s eating: “Some womens can’t be beat.”  She gets disgusted and leaves.  Women connecting with other women.

-Ways of coping: 25: Nettie says “You’ve got to fight,” Celie says all she knows is to stay alive.  29 Kate, Mr. ------’s sister, says the same thing.  30: “I made myself wood. . . . That’s how come I know trees fear man.”  37: she cares for the children, but feels nothing.  Cooking, with Harpo: these people are not destitute, just poor.  47 on Heaven, now or later.  And making things: quilt pieces from messed up curtains.

-Shug Avery: 16, 28, 33: Even before Celie meets her she knows there’s something about her, she’s interested more than threatened even when Mr. ----  brings her home.  48-51 she comes, sick.  Albert’s his name.  53-55: Why is Celie attracted to Shug?  Her looks, her spirit?  58 Mr. -------’s daddy: Celie spits in his water when he talks bad about Shug.  That chapter: she starts to feel part of something, even though it’s not something the world would understand: she, Shug, and Mr. -----.


Student Responses:

 Well, I started Color Purple, and so far I can tell its going to be a tough read. I can understand what's going on easy enough, but the speach is irritating to piece together, I understand that was the dialogue of them time and the author wanted this to be authentic, which is admirable, but this won't be on my "to read" list. The odd this is someone unaware of the book's history may not realize the "the author" is a black woman right away. In fact some of the more dense readers probably never will. Heh. Just kidding. It's also going to be a tough read because the character is being so constantly abused, and not in the fairy tale wicked step sister way either.

Michael Michael Michael... gad. When is he going to catch on? When the entire world starts calling you a freak, maybe its time to accept that MAYBE its not the entire world whose wrong, and MAYBE you are a very messed up, very strange fellow. Plastic surgery and skin condition aside, you SLEPT WITH CHILDREN. Not YOUR children, other people's kids. THAT'S WRONG. It's not okay if you didn't do anything or if you tucked them in and thought it was cute, you an adult male slept with CHILDREN. We have laws against this for a reason. And no, you can't bend the law because you think its cute.  Instead of trying to convince the world of what they know is just damn WRONG, you should let sleeping dogs lie, STOP sleeping with children, and move on with your life. All he's doing now by trying to convince people's he's a good dad is pour more gasoline on the media's fire. The media loves a successful celebrity, but what they love more is to see a successful celebrity be humiliated. Jackson needs to give himself a damn break and just behave himsel and keep himself and the kids out of the public eye. Because if you can't stand the heat from the fire, you should stop sticking your butt in it.

-Brian Daniel   

Kelly Dietrick

When I first stared to read The Color Purple I was not sure I was going to like the book because the slang was so hard to interpret, but now i am almost finished.  I am really enjoying learning about the life of Celie and the people she encounters throughout her humble and horrible life.  Again the only difficulty I have is stumbling over her misspellings and slag speech, but that also makes me enjoy the story more because I can get the full effect of the time and place she is living in.  I can't even imagine how Celie survives and stays strong and happy through all the events that happen to her:  her babies being sold to another family, her suppose-e+ive "father" raping her, and then making her marry a man that doesn't even want her, and falling in love with her husband's mistress.  It is wild!  By reading the story of Celie and her family I can get a better glimpse of what life was like at the turn of the century when blacks were beginning to own their own land, but still treating their wives like objects and basically slaves.  How can a race that was belittled and beaten for decades do the same to their own kind, especially those who they are suppose to love and share a home with?  But I guess we find that in today's society as well.  Men beating their wives in submission.  Not much has changed.

Moreover, out of all the characters in the book, I enjoy reading about Sofia the most.  She reminds me of me because she is so stubborn, strong willed, and will not let a man tell her what to do.  I bet it was so hard for her to stand up to a man that is trying to beat her, and then leave her children. But to me that is amazing!  More women need to have a little of Sofia in them. So maybe our society won't treat women the way they do: as sexual objects to take care of "womanly" duties and men and women can be equal.  I can't wait to finish the book and see what becomes of Celie.  Does she leave her husband and become her own women (because that is what I see happening, since she has grown so much mostly with the help of Shug Avery).  And what does she do after she has the encounter with her "father"?(that's the part I'm at now)

Honestly I am a little tired of hearing about the "upcoming" war with Iraq, so I found an article where it displayed Bush and his administration doing some good with all the power that they have.  In the article, "Bush Tightens Plan for Poor," located in The Detroit News Politics and Government, it discussed Bush's plans in aiding America's poor.  He announced the other week the nation's $2.2 trillion budget that he is going to lower federal standards and offer states help in housing developments, unemployment benefits, health care, and more.  However, with this plan Bush is going to but other funds that the government help supports and is cutting $1.5 trillion in taxes which only benefits the rich.  In addition that are going to be stricter laws on increasing the amount of hours  families on welfare can work, which I think is a good idea because the welfare gives them a place to start, but working will also allow them to finally get off the welfare and support their families' themselves.  Also, I think that Bush's intention to help more needed people is good because instead of worrying about other countries we can help ours first.

I read an interesting article Sunday on the Iraqi debate in Fortune magazine.  The article seemed to consider Bush weak for not going to war.  Its sentiment was that Bush was Just being a pushover, and that he should go to war even though the American people Are not completely convinced, or that the UN was not up for it yet.  It made some comparisons To George Sr.  The articles was disappointing to me because of its anti-democratic stance That we should go ahead and do whatever we want.

 The war on Iraq is getting tiring to me.  If they want a country to not have weapons of mass destruction I say the whole world better be ready to disarm. It certainly seems hypocritical to have masses of weapons of this type and ask Another country to get rid of theres.

 I read this article, and it still seems very odd that the United States would consider A pre-strike to be ethical.  It still seems like we want to fight a war that is based on Presumptions, with is really ignorant.   

Other articles I found have not had many new perspectives.  Most rightist and middle of The road papers still say war is inevitable and that NATO needs to get out of the way, Leftist papers still argue adamantly against the war, but the middle ground still seems to sway toward The right wing, which I hope will soon change in light of our controversy.

 The Color Purple has been an easy read.  I think this might be a book That really sends its message home after you have the whole thing completed. Cellie’s situation is depressing to read.  Her life is controlled by her husband, and she Live’s her life unhappily as a pseudo-heterosexual with her abusive husband and ‘dysfunctional’ family.  Yet she seems to be perfectly content.  She struggles mostly with other peoples problems, but she seems to be developing and growing as she struggles through her sons problems, and introduction to Shug.  Still, it is hard to evaluate this novel with a non-ethnocentric ideal.  These people had no better knowledge of what is going on.

 Jacob Boehr


I wonder if Christian Americans ever realized so much about Muslims, or have ever been as curious to know about their religion as in these times. Certainly as the terrorists are identified as being Muslim, suddenly the entire Muslim religion becomes the focal point of how frightened our country is. Our reaction is understandable, yet ignorant. As two million Muslims headed to Mecca today at the peak of their annual haj ritual, our country sits at a HIGH terrorist level, speculations of still a holy war? loom in the air.. ( . With the uncertainty of the world we have become, it is difficult to trust, and not be speculative of their entire religion or ethnicity. It is a religion of peace, and yet, the overall perception now is one of growing mistrust, really, on both sides. TO add to this problem for Muslim Americans especially, the charity president charged with using financial donations to support fighters in Chechnya and Bosnia is not good news

( I remember sitting in the Cincinnatti airport with Camerata, ready to head out for Europe, when four Arab men sat down in suits across from us, all with briefcases. Some were reading, some were sitting and observing, just like all of us. Yet, I felt uneasy stepping on that plane; they looked organized for goodness sake. When we arrived safely, many of us discussed these men (none of us had wanted to voice what was really on our minds sitting in those leather chairs, mainly due to fear, and to our possible racism and prejudices, which obviously were unnecessary.) But the reality is, if we have our eyes open and are aware, we all probably will look twice, and one has to wonder where it will stop? Then here we have the possibility of every kind of warfare, whether we are going with the UN or against. Could we really go to war without the support of the UN? If three of the major countries involved with the UN are opposed, what does that mean for the stability of the UN? As stated in the NY Times, "Secretary of Defense Ronald H. Rumsfeld called the decision by France, Germany and Belgium a mistake but said it would not interfere with any planning for possible military action." ( basically, we’ll go ahead without their agreement? I keep thinking, there must be something they know that we don’t. There must be some line of thinking that I can’t possibly understand. In an article by Noam Chomsky to the Znet website, this lack of faith in leaders is becoming common in the US, whether it is deserved or not, as polls indicate our govt. is "Trusted by little over a quarter of the population." But if that’s the case, wouldn’t the accountability of the UN be together in anti-evil whatever efforts? And, further, what are conditions REALLY like in Iraq for the people? I am so confused at this point, how do we know what the realities are like and how bad they really are as a part of their own culture? And as Noam points out, we think about what the war can do for us.. I actually heard a Radio DJ say, "Well come on people, we’re in an economic crisis in the United States. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a little more padding in our pockets? That’s what war does for us people. It’s that easy." AAHH! But what about the real people who are in the REALITY of the situation, in Iraq, as Chomsky asks: "What's it going to do to the people of Iraq" and "What's it going to do to the region?" ( we really have a concern for Iraqi people? I would sure hope we’d think about that carefully before trying to "pad our pockets."

Now, as for Walker's novel. The novel begins with a very earthy and disturbing voice, but it is a real one. The text is brutally honest, telling it like it is, showing us as the reader how it is. That is the best way for us to empathize and even begin to imagine her situation. The language is also an important part of this "showing" of situation; we learn a lot about our narrator, just by how things are said. Her whole fascination of Shug Avery highlights her reality is somewhere else in her mind; she appears at times numb to what is going on because that's the "way it bees sometimes." So the first part we discover her dad rapes her, gets her pregnant (how can you be the grandfather and father at the same time?), fixes her into a marriage, and basically does everything a typical messed up father figure would be capable of. The most powerful points thus far seem to me to be when she fears for her sister what she goes through; when her step son has a most vivid nightmare; when she is able to almost transform herself, it seems, from that reality. In its simplicity of style and language, it comes away with a message already that's hard to walk away form, bringing up several social issues in the first few sections, how blacks are treated by whites, familial dysfunction, realities of poverty and being "stuck," male/female struggles, and the power of the spirit. Walker has already convinced me this book is powerful in its letters to G-O-D.

Kathy Dixon

The first article I read was "Poetry Makes Nothing Happen? Ask Laura Bush", by Katha Pollitt.  This article was in The Nation.  It talked about how Laura Bush invited poets to the White House for a conference. One man declined by going, Sam Hamill.  He sent emails to other poets for them to write Sam back and tell how they oppose the invasion on Iraq.  When Mrs. Bush heard about it, she postponed the conference.  Sam said that he wasn't going to be attending the conference anyways, but he was hoping that other people that were going would show her the poems.  This article feels that the White house only hears what they want to hear.  They aren't interested in other people's point of view and where they stand.  I agree with this article when they say that.  I think that this conference still should have went on and Mrs. Bush should have listened to other people's concerns about how they felt about what was going on with the war.

The second article that I read up on is "NASA Finds of Left Wing, Avionics Box"  This article on Fox News talks about how there was a piece of foam that broke off when the spaceshuttle took off.  They said that minutes before lift off, the spaceshuttle's fuel tank broke off and hit the left side of the ship.  They feel that this is the cause of the accident that occured on Feburary 1st.  After the crash, NASA said that they found what looked like a computer,but it happened to be an avioncis box.  This box controls most of the systems of the stuttle.  They are still on investigation about this tragedy.  I feel that if there was something that could have been fixed before they would have.  I feel this was an uncontrolled accident.

The third article come from The Washington Post on "Terrow Attack Steps Urged"  This talks about how people need to be safe if something happend that citizens would be in danger during the war.  They are saying that we should be stocked with 3 days worth of water and food if anything happened.  They are saying how we the citizens should be kept informed.  They say that there is a high risk of attack and that we should know what to do.  I just feel if there was some kind of way that we can make peace then we wouldn't have to deal with all of this.


The Color Purple has a very interesting beginning. I had to read the first couple pages over to make sure I was reading it right. I feel it has a different story that I have read before. Celie is the one writing these journal entries. Her mother died when she was very young child,so she had no mother during her teen years. Her father was not kind to her and treated her very badly. It sounded that her father had some to do with her mother's death. Celie got pregnant and she had two children and decided to give them away. Nettie, Celie's sister found a boyfriend just like her father, which is not a good guy in the first place. Celie would tell Nettie to marry this man, so she could get out of the house and away from her father. The father would not let Nettie marry him because she was too young, so Celie, telling the story had to marry him. This is because her father told her too. This man/husband was in love with this singer named Shug Avery. He went to see her and he was gone the whole weekend. He did not care what Celie thought about this whole situation, he just did it anyways. He would beat Celie and treat her like she was nothing. His son, Harpo would ask why he beat Celie and he would say because he was allowed to. He never listened to Celie. She did all the work around the house and it sounded like this man always went out and just had his fun. She would comfort his child when her husband would say mean things to him. She writes that she had a bad childhood and a very bad marriage. The beginning and the middle of the book so far, has been interesting to me and wondering how it was back then. Women got treated so unfairly and they got no respect. I think that is some places women still get treated unfairly and there needs to be a change.

Cari Bowman

There was is an article on The New Republic webpage, 'Deaf Ears', by Lawrence F. Kaplan. This article talks about the current situation with Iraq and the UN inspectors. Kaplan states his opinion that the U.S. has been far more then compliant with what the UN wants and if the U.S. wants to back out of the agreement then they have more then just cause to do so. Kaplan says that Colin Powell's information that was presented was more then enough and that there is no need to send in other inspectors at the recomondation of other countries such as France. Kaplan goes as far as saying, 'The United Nations is simply a collection of sovereign states. And different states have their own reasons for being less than resolute in the face of evil'. It is quite a stand to take to say that the U.S. should walk away from the United Nations if the United Nations doesn't start acting according to what the U.S. wants.


One of the things that struck me in 'The Color Purple' was when Shug Avery calls Celie's husband Albert and Celie has to take a minute to realize who she is talking about. Another thing that I found interesting is that she is writing to God. Sometimes we take our prayers for granted because we have things to be thankful for and we only pray when we want something. At one point she says that as long as she has God then she is fine. It makes you think about what you would be directing toward God if you were in the same situation.

Faith Blough

I believe there was some kind of discussion or mention in class about how the US wants to help all of these foriegn countries, but can barely help itself. I think this discussion ties in quite nicely with The Color Purple and the CNN website I checked out.  The CNN website said that Bush was upset because FranceGermany, and Belgium didn't go along with helping out Turkey with the war with Iraq. The Color Purple tells a sad story that took place right here in the US.  To me, neither the war or the story seem like a reality.  Both are such terrible conditions, I couldn't even imagine unless I was there.  Violence isn't just outside the US borders.  There is so much more we could probably do about the violent or poverty-stricken situations in our own country rather than using all of the money elsewhere.  Sure, it's great that we want to help out our neighbors, but we should try to take care of the problems that are similar within our own boundaries first. I do realize that the story is not exactly in my time, but the reality is that there are situations like Celie's and even worse that still go on today.

Angie Darr