Day 13 2/18/03


1. Names. Finish Color Purple Thursday. Juhnke Friday. Next Tues. is open, Thursday is midterm exam. I’ll be out of town that day; I’m leaning toward a take-home exam, and would give you the questions on Thursday and make Tuesday an optional review period.


2. In the news:

On information and public opinion:


Caroline on pay inequality:


Perry, views on delay:


Becky on death penalty in Mexico:,2933,78768,00.html


Adam on women at Augusta golf club:


Laura on big snow:


Andrea on 21 killed in Chicago club:


Jenny on mom learning to swear:


3. On Color Purple:

A. Walker as “Womanist”:

Thirty-five years younger than Welty and nineteen years younger than O’Connor, Walker is more radical in her politics, which one might expect from a writer who fought on the front lines in the Civil Rights wars. In "In Search of My Mother's Garden," an intriguing book of essays by Walker, she calls herself a "womanist." A womanist is a black woman who experiences the "twin afflictions" of racism and sexism.”

Note that  Walker’s been criticized for her male characters, who aren’t exactly idealized . . . Comments?

“In the title essay, Walker says that there are three types of black women. You will find her categories useful in understanding the female characters in Color Purple :

1. the physically and psychologically abused black woman

2. the exceptional black woman torn by "contrary instincts"

3. the new black woman who can create herself out the legacy of her maternal ancestors”


Which of these is which in CP? Celie is the first, Shug the second, right? And then the question is whether Celie can become the third. . . .

B. Where does Nettie fit into this scheme? Is she another potential #3? What about her story, and all that Africa stuff?

B. Lesbianism, and to what extent Celie is a “real” lesbian and to what extent she’s just desperate for love and human connection. What do you think? What is it, really, that she gains from her affair with Shug?

C. The law and the justice system. Sofia’s experience, especially, in which race is a crucial factor. She gets in trouble mainly because she refuses to be a “good,” subservient black woman, doesn’t she? This issue of justice is ongoing. What about their maneuvers to get her out of jail? 92 ff. Sofia, 103: “White folks is a miracle of affliction.”

D. Women and education and how to respond to oppression. At first Celie’s response is not just passivity, but acceptance of her ignorance and powerlessness. Being a tree: trees are not just hard, they’re immobile and, well, dumb, right? 122-123 Nettie to Celie on God and keeping quiet and ignorance and learning. 124: “There are colored people in the world who want us to know!” Seeing New York City, and Harlem, where black people have money and property.

What’s Celie’s first response to the letters? 134: “I think I feel better if I kill him.” Shug gets her to sewing: “A needle instead of a razor in my hand.”

160 the real story of Pa and the family. “You must be sleep,” she writes to God.

Next one she writes to Nettie. And that leads into the next issue:

E. Religion. 142 Olinka and roofleaf and their religion. That crucial passage 175-179, discussion with Shug. About God as old white guy vs. God as everywhere. The color purple. Duane Friesen’s reading of that passage, 171-172, maybe a way of softening Walker’s own view a bit?

What about religion as an issue in modern America? Even among those who claim to be Christians there’s a very wide range of beliefs and practices and priorities and politics. George Bush claimed during his campaign that Jesus Christ was his favorite political philosopher, though he has not invoked Jesus much in the last year or so . . .

What role does religion play in this book? What about “Pa’s” first statement/command to Celie? For him God is just another means of control, a means of maintaining his dominance and covering up his crimes and sins. 

So what is God worried about? Women getting jobs and putting their children in day care? Gays and lesbians and the right to pray to Jesus out loud in school? Killing the enemies of America anywhere in the world?

Religion in Color Purple.

“The Color Purple was published in 1982.  It received much attention and praise and was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award that year.  Walker described The Color Purple in the following ways:

The Color Purple is "a theological work examining the journey from the religious back to the spiritual."

[The Color Purple] "is the pagan transformation of God from patriarchal male supremacist into trees, stars, wind and everything else. . .."

[The Color Purple's] intent [is] to explore the difficult path of someone who starts out in life already a spiritual captive, but who, through her own courage and the help of others, breaks free into the realization that she, like Nature itself, is a radiant expression of the heretofore perceived as quite distant Divine."

Duane Friesen, Artists, Citizens, Philosophers: He notes the “linkage between personal transformation and aesthetic delight” in Color Purple (171). 172: Walker’s position as “panentheism. God is present in the cosmos, though not identical with it. Whatever Walker’s theology, the novel presents a profound insight. The renewal of life by God’s Spirit experienced by Celie and Shug is nothing less than the return to holiness of the Sabbath, when we step back to enjoy and delight in the cosmos that has been created.”

Look for next time: The crucial scene where Celie finally speaks up to Mr. _________, his response, all that follows. Also, as I promised, we’ll come back to the civil rights movement and talk about the connections between this book and Walker’s experience as an activist. Think about what those might be.


Student Responses

  Caroline Moons

Response on “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
            I found “The Color Purple” a very interesting book First of all; it was a very different style of writing then what I’m used to read. It was not written as a story told by one author. The story was told through letters, written by the main character Celie to God, and later her sister Nettie, who in turn wrote letters addressing Celie. Also, the language spoken most of the time was a dialect of English. I don’t know for sure if it was true Ebonics or not, but it sure reminded me of it. In the very beginning I had a hard time reading the book in normal speed, but before long I was used to Celie’s language and I could read the book in fast pace. I had a hard time putting it down. Got sucked into it!
            Second, the book tells a story of an oppressed woman who went through a lot. As a female, it was easy for me to connect with most of Celie’s thoughts and feelings. The story was emotionally engaging. Because of my compassion for Celie, I was very happy the book ended the way it did. I believe that if it would have ended differently I would have probably been pretty upset!
            “The Color Purple” brought me in touch with a world that I never knew, with problems that I never had to worry about. Alice Walker does a marvelous job of showing the reader some of the issues that are present in this world, and the feelings that go with it. Walker really kept me into the book. That is why I like “The Color Purple”.

            After reading the book “The Color Purple” were the main character Celie was oppressed primarily by her father and later her husband, the following article grabbed my attention: “Wage Gap Between Men and Women Shrinks” by David Leonhardt. When I began to read the article I had a pretty positive feeling about it, but after reading the first couple paragraphs I became frustrated more than anything else. Why is it that there still is a wage gap between men and women? They say it is shrinking now, and that is good, but there shouldn’t be a difference in pay based on sex to begin with! Last year, females made 77.5 percent of what their male counterparts did, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For every $1,000 a man earns, a woman only earns $775. That difference becomes pretty large when bigger numbers are involved. Furthermore, even though the headline of the article states that the gap is shrinking, in the previous eight years the inequality in pay worsened slightly to 76 percent in 2001 from 77.1 percent in 1993. I guess I just don’t understand why there is this inequality. We all know it is wrong. Why don’t we just pay males and females equally? “Economists say the two biggest reasons that the pay gap is unlikely to wither completely are discrimination, which is difficult to measure, and the dominant share of housework and child care done by women, which reduces their outside job experience and causes them often to take more flexible, lower-paid positions” (Leonhardt). Peleeeaassee, in today’s world ‘housework and child care’ SHOULD NOT be done dominantly by women and considering that females in the last couple decades were part of the workforce more than ever, makes ‘the less outside job experience’ a very weak argument! I say this is pure discrimination and nothing else.

Link used:


The Color Purple has been both interesting and repulsive to me as I have

read through it.  I was looking forward to reading it, because I had heard

so much about it.  But as I got further into the story, I found myself

wanting it to end as quickly as possible.  One thing that really kept me

reading, however, is the form in which it is written.  The letters were

short enough that I was able to keep plodding through it.  When the letters

were coming from Nettie, however, I almost gave up.  I found her letters

extremely difficult to read, not because of style but because of content. 

For some reason I really didn't care what she was doing or what happened to

her, and I can't figure out why.  Maybe it was because she had not been

mentioned for about half the book.  Another thing that was difficult for me

was the concept of time.  It was difficult to determine how much time had

passed between each entry, and that made some things difficult to piece

together.  The last thing that bothered me was the way everyone was sleeping

around and stealing everyone else's man/woman.  All of the main female

characters had been with at least two men (or women) except for Nettie.  One

of the interesting things in this book, however, was the control the women

had.  When they decided something, there was nothing the men could do to

stop them.  They left and married other people, and then came back and were,

for the most part, accepted back into the family.  By the end of the book,

everyone was reunited at Celie's house, and everyone seemed to be happy that

everyone was there.



I found these two websites that agreed that the longer we wait to take

action or make a decision the worse things are going to be.


Perry Leatherman


Becky Leatherman

Response #3


I really enjoy reading the book The Color Purple.  The book’s letterform makes it very easy and quick to read.  There are so many surprises in this book.  From the shocking beginning, to the secrets that Celie reveals throughout the book.  Celie goes through so much in her life.  From being raped by her step father, to being beaten by her husband, finding out that her children are alive and living with her sister, Nettie in Africa.  I wonder why Alice Walker chose to put Celie through all of that.  It defiantly shocks and surprises the reader. 


I think the letters that Celie receives from Nettie are very interesting.  It showed that African Americans didn’t really have a place in the world.  They were not accepted in the United States, and when they went to Africa, they were not accepted there either.  They were in the middle of two cultures and were not be apart of either one.  The only place where Nettie felt semi-accepted was in England.  She was very excited that she could use the same teacups as her hosts.  But when Nettie was at the Society, she looked on the walls and only saw white men.  Nettie was disappointed no woman was on the wall, while Samuel was disappointed that there were no African people.  Samuel clung to the hope that because they were African Americans they would be accepted by the Africans easier than the Europeans.  Unfortunately, that was not the case when they arrived.,2933,78768,00.html


This article is about the restoration of the death penalty in Mexico.  Mexico held an election to see if the people are in favor of the death penalty of kidnappers, armed robbers, and murderers.  The referendum was approved, much to the dismay of the president of Mexico.  Also, an overwhelming majority supported life sentences for corrupt political officials and rapists. 




While reading the novel Color Purple I found myself upset because the way

Celie didn't give Mr. ____ a name.  I thought about this for a long time and

came to the conclusion that she didn't give him a name because she had no

feelings for him and if she gave him a name and recognized him as human then

she would have feelings for him.  Now that we are almost finished with the

book I really have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it because of

all of the things that go on in the book.  I really like the book now

because Celie is really starting to come out of her shell and finding out

who she really is this makes me really happy for her, because out of any one

in this book she deserves happiness.  When Celie started to stand p for

herself I really started becoming happy because Mr. ____her terribly and

didn't deserve her I think that the things that her put her through were

just horrible and that he should be punished for.  Thats why i really liked

the part when Celie was writing to her sister and she was talking to Mr.

_____ and was telling him that it was all going to come back to him some


While searching around the web I was trying to find an issue related to the

book we were reading, so I went to the first place I new i would find one. 

Surprisingly it was at I found an article on the controversy on

whether or not women should be allowed to join the all male club at Augusta

National Golf Course.  This article is about planned protests at this years

masters tournament.  I am a huge golf fan and feel that women should be

allowed to join the club.  I think this way because if they join it does not

take away any of the prestige that the course has built up over the years. 

If anything it will make the course a more popular and make more money. 

There are many people involved with this matter that are not just golfers. 

Some senators are taking away memberships because they want to stay popular

with their constituints and the most feminist of all Martha Burke.  She is

leading this campaign, I feel that the change needs to be made, but some of

Ms. Burkes antics are wrong.


Adam Meekhof



When I first go to the section with all the letters from Nettie to Celie, I couldn't really get into them.  I couldn't, still don't, understand why those letters were in there.  Once I got into the letters I found them rather intresting, and enjoyable.  It is hard for me to imagine growing up, and not ever having some type of education outside of house work, like how the little girls in the village lived.  I also cannot imagine being a young child, and already be "given" to someone who was middle-aged for marriage.  It blows my mind.   I found it hard to imagine not choosing if I marry, let alone who I marry (when Celie is given to Mr. Blank.)  Reading those types of things in the story really made me think of how lucky I am, to live where and when I do.  I realize that being the dominate race has some bearing on how I'm viewed as a woman, but even while in Africa Nettie saw the dominate culture 'giving' their children away for marriage.




The article is about all the snow that New York is getting.  It is expected that New York has got up to 20 inches of snow so far.  They expect clean up to take up to 42 hours after the snow stops.  This snow storm is said to be the worst snow storm in 7 years. This article made me think about how 'lucky' we are here in Bluffton, OH.  I say 'lucky' because we have had alot of snow so far, but we haven't been held up in our houses for days.  While we (or maybe just myself) complain about all the snow we are getting here at BC it is not alot in comparsion to New York, or Columbus, OH even.


Laura Prickett


After reading the majority of this book the main thing that amazes me is how much stronger Celie how become. I think physically she has grown into a totally different person. One example is how she starts to wear pants, which at the time was a very big deal. The other obvious step is that Celie is moving to Memphis with Squeak and Shug against Mr._____’s will. This is something that she would have never considered before Shug came into her life. I another thing that I noticed was her beliefs in God. Earlier in the book she was constantly keeping quit because she thought that was what God wanted her to do, but eventually she realizes that was the wrong assumption. She keeps telling Mr._______ that for everything he has done to her he is going to get back again. When she is saying all this you just want to cheer for her. I think it is amazing that she never lost her faith in God after everything that happened to her. I think that some of her newfound strength was found from Shug but the majority was from knowing that Nettie was actually alive and eventually going to be coming home. Those letters gave her strength.

I am so amazed through out the book when Nettie is describing how beautiful and amazing Africa is because now we seem to frequently view Africa as a place of poverty. I have never been to Africa so I have no idea how it is but I have heard it is gorgeous, but most people do not find it better to live in than America. It just shows you how horrible life was for Nettie. Though some of the rules in Africa seemed to be similar to some in America, especially those pertaining to women. In both places women are treated unfairly, like by not being able to attend school. And in both places this rule predominantly pertains to black women.

Overall I think this is a piece of literature well worth reading. In class we discussed if it was outdated and I have to say I do not think so. At one point in class we said that the same things happen just not to the extreme and I disagree with that. Everyday women and children are maliciously beaten and raped and often by family members for no reason. So what is the difference? I think this is a timeless story because it basically talks about women learning to overcome the suppression that they face.


Article Review

             I read an article in the Washington Post title “21 Killed in Panic to Exit Chicago Club” This was an article about the 21 people who were killed in a Chicago nightclub on Sunday night. I thought this was a good break from only writing about the soon to prevail war, but a terribly tragic event. Apparently someone sprayed pepper spray to stop a fight the crowd of 1,500 people flipped out and tried to exit the club. My guess is that people got scared because they could taste and smell the pepper spray and might have thought it had something to do with a terrorist act. Nonetheless everyone tried to leave and people ended up getting smashed onto the floor or against the door. Several people died from cardiac arrest, but most people were smashed in one way or another. I think this is sad and scary. I am a very claustrophobic person so the thought of this to me is just horrifying. Also the article said that the nightclub, E2, violate many fire regulations including blocked doorways, so it is even more tragic because this might have been able to be prevented.

 Andrea Lehman



            After reading almost half of this book I am still amazed by the content in this book. Not that I am so nieve that I think bad things never happen but I think this book really brings to life, very explicitly, the trials of life, however difficult they are. I will say that I would never read a book like this on my own, I much prefer the poetry of Robert Frost, which I must say is slightly more light hearted than the material in this book. However, I must say that I do find that this book has some unique insights into the psychological aspects of Celie’s traumatic life. The most terrible thing is that she is raped by her Father and gets pregnant which forever alters her feelings toward men and their behavior. She seems to become completely numb to the fact that there are just some things that should not occur in a marriage but since that is what she has always known she honestly believes that nothing is wrong. I think that this single act forever changes they way she thinks not only about marriage but also about herself as well. That is until Shug Avery arrives. Their first encounter is not as glamorous as Celie would have liked because Shug tells her that she is ugly. However, after this somewhat interesting beginning, they strike up a very odd friendship. Celie then claims to have fallen in love with her which shows that she is turning to any place available to find someone to love her because she has never experienced it before.

            I find this book difficult to read mainly because thankfully I have never experienced anything close to what Celie has. I was raised in a home with two loving parents and everything I needed whereas Celie has absolutely nothing, even her own Father betrayed her.


            This particular page of the onion amused me somewhat because I am just baffled that they wrote about something like this. I do realize that this website is known for being controversial but I think that a story like this somewhat takes away from their credibility as a news source.


Jenny Lehman