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Alice Malsenior Walker


 Introduction

 Alice walker is an American author born in Eatonton, Georgia on February 9th 1944. She was the youngest of the eight children of Willy Lee and Minnie Walker. Her parents were large scale farmers of dairy farming and sharecropping. During this period the children of black sharecroppers were expected to work in the fields as soon as they were of age. This was under the Jim Crow Laws. This therefore meant that education for the blacks was not a priority. However the harshness of the Walkers chased away the landlords who wanted their children to work in the fields and instead they enrolled their children to school.


    Alice Walker started her schooling at the age of four. She grew up listening to stories from her grandfather through which she learnt oral tradition. . His grandfather was become her model character in her book The color purple.  She started writing at the age of eight but at this age, she was wounded by one of her brothers on the right eye which was declared blind by the doctors a week later. She became shy and self-conscious about it. But by the age of fourteen she outgrew the feeling as she was declared the most popular student due to her best class work performance among the senior classes. She was also declared a valedictorian.


 Writing and success.

In most of her works, she dwells on the themes of gender and race. She is well known for her masterpiece novel The Color Purple that made her to win the Pulitzer Prize fiction. Most of her works typically focuses on struggles against the sexist, violent and raciest society as we shall, look in the following texts.


 The temple of my familiar

This is a novel that was published in 1989. It is about a story of a musician Arvedyda who is in search of his historical past. He is married to a Latin American wife. There is a black professor of American history called Suwelo . he realizes that the men in his generation have failed to take care of women. Fanny is another character who is the professors wife and she is about to meet his father for the first time. Lastly is Lissie who is an active character with a lot of past issues (Walker, 1989)


 This is a book that shows the importance of family relationships and close kin ties that are aspects of cultural values. The search of ones past is a process of trying to find ones black African identity as was characterized in the black power movement.


 Everyday use

This is a story about a mother who is under two conflicting relationships between her two daughters. The mother is against the baseless values of her elder daughter and instead favors those of the younger daughter who has values which are practical. The younger daughter is less fortunate as compared by to the elder successful daughter.


  This is a book that deeply embraces the heritage of African-Americans. It is set in the late sixties and early seventies during which there was a struggle among the African Americans in redefining their personal cultural identities. The term ‘Negro’ has just been abolished and replaced with the name the “Blacks’. These struggles brought up the movements of Black Nationalism and the Power of the Black Pride. The blacks wanted to reject the American identity characterized by injustice and pain and define their roots in terms of African culture. Alice Walker uses this aspect to correct the black people by arguing out that the denial of the American heritage is being disrespectful to one’s own ancestors leading to personal harm. This is seen in the characters Maggie, Dee and Mama. The solution is then to embrace both heritages (Helga, 1998)


 The black power movement is depicted through symbolism in the book especially through the character Dee. She is a beautiful black lady who is very vocal and aggressive with her demands just like those in black power movement. (Walker, “Everyday Use”). Though Alice, Walker does not condemn the black power movement but she portrays some aspects of misguided pride of the blacks. Though Dee has adopted African Heritage she is totally unaware of the American heritage.


 The third life of Grange Copeland

The third life of Grange Copland was published in the 1970. The story is set in rural Georgia and the main characters being Grange, his son Brownfield, Wife and daughter Ruth. Grange is a poor sharecropper and basically he is a slave at the cotton plantation in Backer County. He borrows a lot of money as a debt from the person he works for. After some time he runs away to escape this huge debt and he leaves his family behind. His son follows him but meets Mem along the way and marries her. He later kills her and he is imprisoned for seven years in jail. Grange returns home (Walker, 2000)


 This novel describes the economic challenges that the African Americans go through leading to tragic effects of the family members. The oppression and victimization becomes an issue of concern that Walker asks what extend does the two aspects kills the dreams and dignity of the blacks. She couples up the themes of sexism and racism and they key role they play in oppressing African families; not from the Whites but from black men who vent their frustration to their children and wives.


 The white Patriarchal hierarchies are portrayed by the two male characters Brownfield and Grange as they prove their manliness in achieving wife abuse and sexual conquest. The book therefore summarizes the effects that white traditions and gender roles affect the relationship between women and men in the novel to add to pressures of racism and poverty in South Georgia before the development of civil rights movement.


 The color purple

This is the award winning novel of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It is set in rural Georgia in 1930s. It is about a female character Celie who is undereducated and aged fourteen she undergoes physically abuse of rape by a person she calls Pa. She gives birth to two children as a consequence of rape. The children disappear and she assumes that Pa had killed them. Along the streets she meets a young girl who strongly resembles her. Celie is forced to marry Albert.


 The books have themes concerning relationships in which women come together. They see men as being careless and of less importance to their lives since they use them as tools to pleas men. The female relationships in the novel are sisterly, sexual and friendly. Racism is another aspect in which in the 1830’s there was much prejudices towards the blacks by the white population. During this period also slavery was just a recent memory which makes the characters believed that that they were mistreated under the whites. They feared that their children would grow up with prejudiced influences filled with hopelessness. There is also gender dominance in which the male characters believe that they should dominate the women according to social norms


 The meridian

The novelwas published in 1976. It is centered on the Meridian hill. Walker wrote this novel when many black youths took extreme stands and militant movements to fight tenants of nonviolent and civil disrespect. It has been seen as a novel that critiques the Civil Rights Movement since Walker felt that the movement did not result in addressing all social grievances like chauvinistic values, perpetuated destruction and the suffering that women go through. She therefore used this book to voice her womanish attitudes. Meridian is an innately a powerful and tough character that the author uses to argue out that personal struggles are an unavoidable part of life especially as a woman. We see Meridian turning back for assurance from her fellow woman in the book (Walker, 1976)


 Possessing the secrets of joy

This is a recent story that was as published in 1992. It is a story about Tashi who a minor character in Color Purple. She originates from Africa a place known as Olinka where female genital mutilation is practiced. She is torn berthed the two cultures of Western and that of Olinkan and wants to honor both. She therefore decides to under go circumcision at her teen years. She visits various psychiatrists to heal the traumatic wounds that she has experienced before undergoing the circumcision. This novel tries to emphasize the true essence of a culture which should not include torture. It therefore calls for redefinition culture in terms of gender (Walker, 1993)


 Conclusion

Alice Walker has succeeded to represent the social concerns that emerged since the early 1930s to the late seventies. Her short stories and novels derived from every day happenings in which her immediate audience, the African-Americans would identify with. Through her thematic approaches the present and future readers of all her works would have historical information concerning the transformations that have taken place in the society that was once characterized by racism, gender insensitivity and economic and social oppression to what it is today.


 Reference

Helga, H (1998) Alice walker's everyday use. Retrieved from

          http://home.online.no/~helhoel/walker.htm

           On 26th February 2010

Walker, A (2000)the Third Life of Grange Copeland, revised edition Simon & Schuster

          publisher.

Walker, A (1976) meridian, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich publisher, the University of

            Michigan

Walker, A (1982) the color purple, pocket book publishers

Walker, A (1994) the complete stories, phoenix publishers

Walker, A (1993) possessing the secrets of Joy, pocket book star publishers

Walker, A (1989) the temple of my familiar, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich publishers


 

 
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