Topic: ArtFrida Kahlo
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Last updated: April 27, 2019

Racism is about control.  In southern literature this control is very prevalent.  In this essay the focus of identity in The Color Purple, Sula, and The Sun Also Rises will be scrutinized, dissected, and analyzed.  Since racism, misogyny, and identity are about control, the unfettering of such belligerence becomes didactic in the making of these novels.

In The Color Purple it is not about how racism affects only the black population but how it affects the entire community, how demonic a person can become because they seek power and control over another person, and how that persuasion can emphasis the evil in humanity.Celie is raped throughout her life; she is disgraced and restrained from feeling love from her father, her husband and the men she’s known.  Celia’s deep-bedded resentment towards men becomes clear only when she discovers Nettie’s letters from Africa. With this realization, the fact that Nettie had kept in touch with her and that her husband had hidden the letters, Celia is freed from her seeming obligatory submission.Celie is raped by her father, and her husband; in turn she believes this is how relationships function between the two sexes.  In this belief, Celie is guided to advise her stepson Harpo to in turn beat his wife Sofia, as Celie writes of a conversation with Sofia, “She say, All my life I had to fight.  I had to fight my daddy.

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  I had to fight my brother.  I had to fight my cousins and my uncles.  A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men.  But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house.  She let out her breath.  I loves Harpo, she say.

  God knows I do.  But I’ll kill him dead before I let him beat me.  Now if you want a dead son-in-law you just keep on advising him like you doing.  She put her hand on her hip.

  I used to hunt game with a bow and arrow, she say.  I stop the little trembling that started when I saw her coming.  I’m so shame of myself, I say.  And the Lord he done whip me little bit too.

” (38).   In the strain of relations between women, there is a decisive support system despite the overall encompassing of racism, hate, and misogyny.   The women in The Color Purple find strength together despite Shug being Celie’s husband’s mistress, and despite Celia advising Harpo to beat Sofia.  Celie, however, is the uniting power between the women.

  Through her abrasive beatings, her deprivation from love from a man, and her all consuming mistreatment from her husband, Celie rises above physical and emotional torture by depending on Nettie and news about Celie’s children; she pulls the love she needs from her sister and each relationship she has with a woman.After the degradation that Celie endures and the newfound strength with which Nettie has supplied her sister, Celie confronts her ‘father’.  In so doing, she finds out he is her stepfather[1].  After this harrowing and brutally honest confrontation, Celie then has the gumption to confront her husband Albert, and subsequently moves to Memphis with Shug and wear pants; the ultimate symbol of freedom.  Celie no longer faces the racist terminology that bewildered her past and in her life in Memphis, Celie gains the courage to also re-unite with Albert, in a more respectful and loving manner.With Celie’s character and the devastation with which her life began, to the more joyful scenes at the end of the novel, there is a definite leap in her view on gender.  She was brought up to believe that women were less than equal, less than human, and through the love with which she shared with her female friends, she came to know herself as a woman, and to gain a sense of positive identity.  It is not through race, or class alone, that Celie’s strength is that much more meaningful because of the odds she was pitted against but it is mainly with gender that her triumph becomes clearly recognizable.

  Though her class status, her poverty, her race all add up to her degradation from society and from family it is with her being a woman that most of her humiliation is rooted.Celie finds love; her love for her sister, Shug, and Sofia and thus feminism becomes a tenable character itself in the novel.  I believe that feminism is portrayed through love despite the errors on the path that lead Celie to that love; she found Shug because she was Albert’s mistress, she developed love with Sofia despite Celia telling Harpo to beat her.  These women rely on each other despite the means by which they found each other.  It is with this type of support that feminism is solidly portrayed in The Color Purple, their closeness can be best described in Walker’s passage, “When I see Sofia I don’t know why she still alive.They crack her skull, they crack her ribs.

  They tear her nose loose on one side.  They blind her in one eye.  She swolen from head to foot.  Her tongue the size of my arm, it stick out tween her teef like a piece of rubber.  She can’t talk.  And she just about the color of a eggplant.

  Scare me so bad I near bout drop me grip.  But I don’t.  I put it on the floor of the cell, take out comb and brush, nightgown, witch hazel and alcohol and I start to work on her.

  The colored tendant bring me water to wash her with, and I start at her two little slits for eyes” (84).    I believe that these women could not have traversed the humiliation of life without one another; it is through their independence that one and each of them is able to find ‘their own pants to wear’[2].These concepts of strength found with other women, and women paving the path by which other women find their own redemption, and liberation is fully expounded upon with Womanhouse 1972 project.  The project displays the domestic role typically relied upon for women to accomplish.  The stereotype being that women scrub floors, make babies, and have no outlet for true emotion and expression except in baking.  It plays upon women as domesticated creatures, just as Celie was breed to be a mother, and a submissive wife:  that was her expected gender role in the family.The installations in the project represent women as sex objects, as merely fitting into a role predestined to them by certain standards in society[3].  Another tying element that links the project with Walker’s The Color Purple is the symbolism of the crocheting.

  The novel presented Celie and Sofia making a ‘Sisters-Choice’ quilt together and the project installation of the womb that was also done by crocheting.  The symbolism is that women work together to create a thing of unity, not because it is in their chemical make-up to knit, and be a homemaker, but because it allows women to unify their talents in a physical display.  This transgresses the fear involved with women liberating themselves from oppression just because of their gender.  Celie finds great joy in making the quilt with Sofia, and the enrichment the process provides is empowering because their hard work together emotionally releases them (Celie and Sofia, and women viewing the project installations) and allows them to share in something fruitful.As a testament to the overriding power that two women posses together against the travesty of life, Walker writes, in Albert’s voice through a letter written by Celie, “I wanted to kill you, said Mr.— and I did slap you around a couple of times.  I never understood how you and Shug got along so well together and it bothered the hell out of me.

  When she was mean and nasty to you, I understood.  But when I looked around and the two of you was always doing each other’s hair, I start to worry” (270).  So, even though there can be trifles, there can also be jubilation in the relationship between women. The Womanhouse 1972 project keeps this perfectly succinct.The way in which Celie begins her journey and the way in which Womanhouse 1972 present women and counteract the prejudice and stereotypes they’ve endured is very similar.  In Celie’s voice, Walker writes, “I lay there thinking about Nettie while he on tope of me, wonder if she safe.  And then I think bout Shug Avery and maybe she like it.

  I put my arm around him” (12).  In this act of deprivation and Celie trying to find love with other women while being raped, there is a supreme sacrifice being made, and in return, at the end of the novel that sacrifice is given back; that is, the self.In Celie’s strength is found a beacon that women united stand a chance of self-expression outside of humiliation from fathers, sons and other men that without the bound of women in friendship, there would exist no outlet, no way to get away from laundry, from expected roles, from rape.  Celie is strong only because of her friendship.In Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises the narrator Jake travels through a myriad of landscapes from Paris, to Madrid and even San Sebastian.  It is through these landscapes that the reader may witness the rising hope that Jake has, or the desperation, and even at times, of the peace he has or longs for in such scenery.  The cast of characters suggests a spectrum of different avenues of hope: with Jake, his hope is to be with Brett, despite the consequences and the treatment he receives from her, uttering in the novel’s last line, “Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so” after Brett states that she and Jake would have had a wonderful time together.

In this statement Jake reveals to Brett, and to the audience that although he and Brett do not manage to come together as a couple, that in Jake’s view of events they are joined together through consequences and circumstances.  This is not a fulfillment by the measure of typical novels involving relationships but for Hemingway, the stunted acceptance of fate in the character Jake allows for imagination and realism to coexist.  This means that hope cannot come to fruition but that to still think, and in Jake’s mind to know, that to have been with Brett would have been his greatest adventure expresses not his lament that it never happened but that it could have happened and it would have been wonderful.  This un-fulfillment is Jake’s hope realized.

With the character Cohn however, hope is a desperate emotion.  His hope is overpowering; it lies with being madly in love, or infatuation with Brett and the unrequited love of Brett drives Cohn into a furious temper for any man who is with her, or desires her.  Cohn repeated follows Brett around, which conjures up images of puppy love, and blind obedience, and when Brett’s fiancé Mike tells Cohn again and again to lay off, Cohn refuses and tensions rise during the fiesta in Madrid.  Cohn ignores rationality and knocks out Jake, Mike, and Brett’s new lover, the bullfighter Romero.  Recognizing his actions, Cohn insists on having Jake forgive him, which Jake does with reluctance and even wants Romero to shake his hand, which Romero refuses.  Here, then is Cohn’s ultimate slight; that hope, at least the kind that is desperate is unforgiving.

Brett rebukes her fiancé Mike for her new lover Romero.  An interesting scene in the book is when Brett receives Romero’s gift of a bull’s ear he had slain, a bull which had earlier slaughtered another man.  This ear signifies that Brett had to cut off a piece of herself in order to live the life she does, traveling and falling in love over and over and changing her mind and following a different lover around until regret or a new love shows up.  This ear resembles Brett’s hope – her hope of love in constant fury.  She must not leave too much of herself with one man leastwise she become completely attached and dependent, thus, the vivisected ear is Brett’s heart, torn off from its owner, and kept in a distant spot.  Brett does not hope with commitment, but with transitory lust for new things, places, and men.

  Although Jake tells these words to Cohn about traveling to South America this following quote may be applicable to each character in the novel and the theme of hope, “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” (Hemingway 11).Hemingway’s characters in the novel suggest constant movement in order to escape something; to escape constancy in setting and environment, it is as though the characters feel that if they move enough their desires and regrets won’t be able to catch up.

This is true especially for Brett and is true for Jake as well.  For Cohn, it is his outdated lifestyle which is anachronistic in the lifestyle of the age in which he is living that he is trying to escape but for Brett and perhaps Jake as well, it is regret that they do want to overcome them, “I thought I had paid for everything. Not like the woman pays and pays and pays. No idea of retribution or punishment. Just exchange of values. You gave something up and got something else. Or you worked for something. You paid some way for everything that was any good.

” (Hemingway 148).  In final scene in the car when the two are alone together and Jake says it’s pretty to think so, this is the only acknowledgement of truth the reader receives from Jake concerning his desire for Brett.  Beyond to tomfoolery, bullfighting and fishing, when he is quite within himself, the mantra which pulses through him is regret.  He may hope beyond it, but it is all-consuming as it would have been for Brett if she had not hidden her heart away from such devices as feeling too much as Jake does, as it best exemplified with Jake stating, “Couldn’t we live together, Brett? Couldn’t we just live together?” [Brett:] “I don’t think so.

I’d just tromper you with everybody.”In Jake’s final line to Brett, hope is dashed and cynicism is revealed.  Jake has no illusions as to how his and Brett’s relationship would have been since Brett has no heart to give, or it is kept at such a distance, even Jake’s love could not call it into being.  This is the lack of hope of them, realism, cynicism, and love dashed.In Sula the idea of poverty and race comes hand in hand for the characters of Morrison’s novel.  The scene setting of the book takes place in The Bottoms in an Ohio community with the juxtaposition of a white well to do community rests just below the hills of this novel’s setting.  In order to fully understand the creation of the character’s identities throughout each story the history of the setting must also be examined.  The Bottoms were created by a master who gave the property to a former slave.

  Thus it would seem that the community is a place based on hope, of looking for a future, but the characters in Sula do not seem to have a future in any hopeful sense.  Although the property was given as a gift the fact is that the gift was a form or chicanery since the land given was a piece of poor land not fit for much things such as growing.  However, the community turned into a place of different aspects yet the tension of the novel rests with the community being taken over by the wealthy whites in order to build a golf course.  This action of changing the land is a symbol of how the whites want to change the blacks into something better for themselves, and thus, the issues of identity for the characters comes into fruition with this backdrop.The town, in fact of its eccentrics becomes a place of accepting one’s identity.  This thesis can be seen with the character Shadrack.

  With Shadrack the town is faced with an issue of a war veteran who seems to be misplaced in time, and place.  Shadrack fears death so much that he creates a day in January known as National Suicide Day in which people who commit suicide on that day are not subjected to the ridicule and shame from a community which usually follows such an act.  Although strange and out of place at first the community eventually begins to accept Shadrack and he becomes a staple in the community.Another point of contention which may be comparable to the characters in The Color Purple are the character contrasts of the children of Nel and Sula.  Nel’s family holds the idea of family value at a high standard in regards to socialization.

  The main word which may be appropriately used to describe Nel’s family is conventional.  Helene, Nel’s mother, wants such a standard life for her daughter, yet Nel seems at times to reject this notion (such rejection of predetermined futures seems to run concurrent through the other novels of this essay as well).  The doubts that Nel holds for this predetermined future come into clear view when she meets Rochelle.  Rochelle is Nel’s grandmother and is a former prostitute.  Sula’s family however is quite different than Nel’s  Sula resides with her grandmother Eva as well as her mother Hannah, thus the extended family for Sula is in constant close contact.

  Both of Sula’s female relatives are portrayed through the town’s conscious as loose, amoral, and artistic type women.  The house Sula lives in is a way station for other vagrant, down on their luck, trying to get somewhere travelers of the story.Sula and Nel however are very good friends, their differences and opinions are reminiscent towards the identity issues alive with Jake and Brett as both desire something they know does not exist.

  The change which occurs to Sula however is an innocent game played with a boy Chicken Little who by fault of Sula ends up drowning in a river.  The two girls become cohorts as they do not let anyone know the truth of the accident.  After this the two girls grow distant.  This seems to echo The Color Purple in that while one girl leaves the other girl stays to bear the abuse of a marriage she does not desire in a life she cannot comprehend.  Thus identity seems to be faced in a rather literary sense with the idea of place.The places in each of these novels take a hold in the forming of each characters identity.  Just as Jake feels more at home in the country fishing prior to going to the bull fight and dealing with his friends’ tantrums and Brett’s adultery and Celie is never at peace until she gains control of her environment through showing her ability with a knife so does Sula find an identity only by trying to leave the Bottom for ten years only to find that people in the various places she visits are dealing with the same problems she left behind with the other characters.

  Place follows Sula around by way of the characters she meets, thus, place does not seem to change where she travels.  Sula’s place then is a psychological backdrop to her problems with identity, and psychology only emphasizes the environment through people and actions and isn’t something one may easily escape.This is what each character finds out for themselves in the course of each novel; that their psychology is not something that can be escaped through environmental settings and change but must be dealt with head on with courage as Celie does in The Color Purple, Jake does in The Sun Also Rise at the end in the taxi cab with Brett and as Sula realizes with her ten year absence. 

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