Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

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

Pronouns, on Pronouns, on Pronouns

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While reading The Color Purple, I noticed that Walker was very particular on her use of pronouns and possessive pronouns. One example is when Shug and Celie have a conversation about God and whether or not God is gendered. Shug uses “it” as the pronoun for God: “God ain’t a he or a she, but a It” (Walker 195); While Celie uses “he” for God because she feels betrayed that he has ignored her: “the God I been praying and writing to is a man” (Walker 192). To Shug, men and women are inwardly the same that there is innately love and good in both genders. While Celie understands the masculine God as perpetuating her oppression; therefore, she is unable to love God in a way that is beneficial for her. Eventually, she readjusts her understanding and begins to see God as an “It,” like Shug, as well as transcendent.

Another important use of pronouns is when Celie talks about her children, Adam and Olivia. In letters sent to Nettie and also in the final letter Celie sends to God/the world, she refers to her children as “our” children, her and Nettie’s children. But also because the final letter is to God, the second person point of view of the letter, and the direct conversation with God that the letter is proposing, changes the meaning of “our” to also mean God and her children. This idea ties into the dual narratives of Nettie’s life in Africa and Celie’s life in the United States having similar themes and ultimately posits that Africans and African Americans are one community, because everyone is God’s children.

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One thought on “Pronouns, on Pronouns, on Pronouns

  1. That is an amazing observation. I didn’t even notice the duality of her using “our” to describe the kids, meaning she’s sharing them with God and her sister. This novel just approaches spirituality (and Christianity) in a totally new way. Like when Shug tells Celie that people come to church to share God, not find God. I’d never thought about it like that before.

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