What are Alice Walker's values, and how have they been impacted by living in the South?
Alice Walker is widely known for her novel "The Color Purple." She has written several works that describe the lives of blacks in the South. The Black Writer and the Southern Experience defines the values that she considers important or necessary to the black community.
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In her novels (The Color Purple), short fiction ("Everyday Use"), and poetry ("Women"), Alice Walker shows the values of black women who were victimized in the Jim Crow South. A Baby Boomer born in Georgia, Alice Walker focuses on her mother's generation (two generations born after the freed slaves) who were often ugly, illiterate, and abandoned by their husbands. She champions them as self-sufficient domestics who sacrifice their dreams in order to educate their children, who would later reap the benefits of integration, civil rights, and feminism.
More than a Southern writer, Alice Walker calls herself a "womanist," one who is concerned with the plight of females. As such, Walker's fiction is romantic and comedic in nature, focusing on how society victimizes women in the home. Her women are usually uneducated, unappreciated, and victimized not only by whites, but also by black men and even other black women. The Color Purple and "Everyday Use," for example, feature a parody of the Cinderella fairy tale in which one sister (Celie in The Color Purple and Maggie in "Everyday Use") are the ugly domestics who suffer without complaint until their fairy godmothers (Shug in The Color Purple and Mama in "Everyday Use") bestow them with womanism. They use this womanist strength to achieve a boon (treasure), a house for Celie and heirlooms for Maggie. Through female community, Walker's humble protagonists achieve matriarchal status and the American Dream.
The rural South in Walker's fiction is a place of promise and cruelty. The plantation rural charm of Georgia provides an idyllic backdrop for Walker's female domestics. But, Walker's males have inherited the slave owner mentalities from their sexist patriarchal culture. In The Color Purple, Mr.____ treats Celie the way a white plantation owner would treat his slaves: with physical cruelty and emotional neglect. Walker says that black men are little more than pimps who prostitute their women as a means of establishing their patriarchal superiority. All in all, the South is a place of domesticity, sexism, and isolation for Walker's women.
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