Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

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

God and the White Missionary Community.

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One thing that really fired me up about The Color Purple was the way in which she so eloquently portrays the falsity of the White Christian Community, particularly as she brings into character the missionaries and Corrine and Samuel’s aunts.

The women are crafted to sit around and throw small tea gatherings in order to discuss their marvelous feats and adventures during their days with the savages, tales that Corrine and Nettie could only laugh about in stifled giggles. Personally, I roiled in the moment at which their lies and exaggerations were exposed by the young Harvard Scholar, who, u[on the beginning of Aunt Theodosia’s display, “had heard this tale before and was not prepared to endure it a second time” (237).

The reaction of Aunt Theodosia is priceless, and Walker’s commentary upon the situation provides key insight. As silence smacks the room flat, she comments that “There’s something in all of us that wants a medal for what we have done. That wants to be appreciated. And Africans certainly don’t deal in medals. They hardly seem to care whether missionaries exist” (237). Thus the great irony of the missionary women and their mission… Rather than actually travel to Africa to help the natives, they are there only to inflate their own egos and find comfort in a lie.

The white woman upon the ship as Samuel and Nettie return holds a similar space, who cultivated a pious interest in heathens, Fooled her parents. Fooled the Missionary Society” (230).

I wonder a lot why Walker included such characters in the book; what point she was trying to make about God and the Christian community in general. Perhaps she is displaying this way of raping God for self gain in order to parallel how the white community sees the world, exposing the beauty of a God that becomes “stars, trees, sky, peopled. everything” through the lips of Celie (285).

Curious for your thoughts —

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