Self and Identity in The Color Purple and The Bluest Eye.

Topics: Black people, White people, Race and Ethnicity Pages: 8 (2724 words) Published: April 6, 2005
In African-American texts, blacks are seen as struggling with the patriarchal worlds they live in order to achieve a sense of Self and Identity. The texts I have chosen illustrate the hazards of Western religion, Rape, Patriarchal Dominance and Colonial notions of white supremacy; an intend to show how the protagonists of Alice Walker's The Color Purple as well as Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, cope with or crumble due to these issues in their struggle to find their identities. The search for self-identity and self-knowledge is not an easy task, even more so when you are a black woman and considered a mule and a piece of property. Providing an in depth analysis of these texts, this essay attempts to illustrate how both of these Afro-American writers depict and resolve their respective protagonists' struggles.

Religion is believed by many to serve as a means to achieving or finding self or identity. However, in the Euro-influenced Christian religion especially, directly after 'finding one's self', one is called to deny one's self in the name of a white 'God'. 'Humble yourself and cast your burdens to God' they say, for 'He will make all wrongs right'. Logically however, one must ask...what interest does the white God (who is especially portrayed in Afro-American writings such as The Color Purple and The Bluest Eye as a further extension of Patriarchal values) have in black people? Moreso, if the Christian bible is so heavily influenced by white man, what interest does the God it portrays have in black women?

In The Color Purple, Celie's original intended audience is a white, male God who does not listen to her prayers, and her letters remain anonymous. Celie explains that she stopped writing to God because he gave her 'a lynched daddy, a crazy mama, a lowdown dog of a step pa and a sister [she] probably won't ever see again.' Celie distrusts a white male God because he does not listen to 'poor colored women.' Shug encourages Celie to reject 'religious beliefs which reinforce sexist and racist domination' and insists on 'the primacy of a spiritual life'. If Celie looks for God in a white church or a white written Bible it is inevitable that she will encounter a white God, therefore she must look at her immediate environment for guidance. Celie then accepts and employs Shug's ideology that 'God is inside you and inside everyone else.' In her rejection of the Euro-central God who doesn't listen to her prayers, Celie liberates her 'Self' and finds identity - evident in her signing of her letters which she now addresses to Nettie. For the first time in Celie's life, the colour people (purple) are recognized by God and she is liberated with the belief that the colour purple/people is/are noticed as a part in God's majestic composition, and that this God is everything and everywhere. It is thus possible to identify Celie with the color purple by realizing that she has gone unnoticed and is finally being noticed as she asserts her existence. This existentialist epiphany becomes manifest when Celie writes, "I'm pore, I'm black, I may be ugly and can't cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I'm here."

In The Bluest Eye however, the Eurocentric images and influences of the Western God have a lasting negative effect on many of the black characters. There is colour people playing a part in this God's composition, instead, focus is on the colour blue - that his eyes are portrayed to be. This colour suggests coldness and blindness towards people not sharing in His whiteness. Pecola Breedlove is the prime character that is influenced by these negative images of God, and the influence of the Western religion's 'values' shown in the novel pushes her into an unfortunate type of lack of 'Self'. This comes about in this novel due to the interactions with white and pseudo-white characters who have subscribed to the idealized notions of white superiority. The first instance of this is Pecola's encounter with Mr. Yacobowski - the...
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