In Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple, what is the background of Doris, one of the church ladies?

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple, on approximately page 299, we learn that Doris Baines is an English woman who was born wealthy, her father being, as the narrator phrases it, "Lord Somebody or Other."

Doris grew up to be a bit more rebellious than the family expected. She disliked the family's social gatherings and knew her calling was to be a writer. She also rebelled against the idea of getting married, saying, as that narrator phrases it, "Me marry! she hooted." According to the narrator, Doris further explained that Doris's family did all they could think of to persuade her to marry and that Doris "never saw so many milkfed young men in all [her] life as when [she] was nineteen and twenty" (p. 299).

One evening, while preparing for a date, she recalled to herself something a sea captain had said while at dinner and began dreaming up the notion of how nice it would be to be a missionary. She felt that it would be better to live in a convent than her current home because "she could think, she could write" (p. 229). She felt it would be blissful to be off alone in untamed India that she began fooling her parents and the Missionary Society into believing she was truly a pious person, and quickly the society sent her off to Africa.

Once in Africa, she began writing novels under the pseudonym Jared Hunt. Even though not a missionary in the true sense, she did a great deal for the "heathen," as she called them, including writing loads "about their culture, their behavior, their needs" (p. 230). She even took money from her family, friends, and the society to build a hospital, an elementary school, a college, and a swimming pool.

amberteach | Student

Doris is a pivotal character that Nettie meets on the boat to Africa.  She is a white missionary who has adopted an African boy.  She is very forward thinking for the time period and adds to the idea that life is not all about the color of your skin in the novel.  This section of the book is really suggesting the bigger theme of change in the novel.  The world is changing and women can choose to do a lot of things rather than just having to marry and have children.  The character of Doris allows Nettie and the reader to see that there are progressive women out there and that people should be allowed to be and do what they want to be/do.

Read the study guide:
The Color Purple

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question