Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

cyclical nature of rage in TCP


In my reading of Bell Hook’s piece Imperialism of Patriarchy, there was a section that so clearly summed up a lot of major ideas.

“often in feminist writing, women express bitterness, rage and anger about male oppressors because it is one step that helps them to cease believing in romanticized versions of sex-role patterns that deny woman’s humanity. Unfortunately, our emphasis on the male as oppressor often obscures the fact that men too are victimized. To be an oppressor is dehumanizing and anti- human in nature, as it is to be a victim. Patriarchy forces fathers to act as monsters, encourages husbands and lovers to be rapists in disguise; it teaches our blood brothers to feel ashamed that they care for us, and denies all men the emotional life that would act as a humanizing, self-affirming force in their lives” (114).

I found this so relevant to many of the relationships depicted in The Color Purple. Harpo and Mr. _____ are in perpetual communication gridlock, and express this exact predicament. I find it very perceptive and emotionally brave of walker to have this type of relationship depicted in her novel. For example, Harpo first complains to Mr.____ about Sofia and Mr.____ asks if he had ever hit her. Harpo “look down at his hands. Naw suh, he say low, embarrass”(77).

Consequentially, Harpo and Sofia’s relationship is incredibly violent and abusive. Sophia, explains being the only girl growing up as the reason she is motivated and knows how to defend herself and fight back. Sofia is determined to protect any type of autonomy she has and refuses to submit to Harpo. Sofia’s rage reminds me of Bell Hook’s explanation for the use of anger in feminist writing.

Harpo is made to feel emasculated by Sofia’s refusal to submit, which only produces more resentment between Harpo and his father as well as between Harpo and Sofia.


3 thoughts on “cyclical nature of rage in TCP

  1. That’s a really good observation. Normally, discussion of the patriarchy makes one think of how unfair it is to women. But it’s absolutely true that it makes life harder on men as well. The raised expectations and ‘be a man’ mentality is as much a product of the patriarchy as the ‘be seen and not heard’ expectations that are pushed onto women. Walker absolutely was brave to bring this issue to light in her book, especially considering all the other issues the book raises.

  2. This quote from bell hooks does a wonderful job in bringing to light some of what Walker is doing. Especially in looking at Shug and Albert. Shug tells Celie she doesn’t know the Albert that hurts his wife, because he was so tenderly in love with her. Earlier, Albert cries because of how upset he is about no one taking care of Shug when she was sick.
    I think that although he is perpetuating the patriarchy, he is also a victim, because the oppressive patriarchy, which he feels the need to ascribe to, makes him not act like a human or be human-like — again portrayed with Harpo.

  3. I think this quote from bell hooks’ piece is incredibly powerful and applies perfectly to Harpo’s character. Emma makes a good point too, noting that Harpo’s personal victimization does not exclude him from reinforcing the patriarchal system. Even more, I think that this applies to Albert’s character as well. The struggle in his relationship with his own father led him to not marry Shug when he had the chance, and he regretted that all of his life. This victimization of the oppressor in no way lessens the damage they inflict, but it does show that an oppressive society does not benefit anyone.

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