Alice Walker's The Color Purple

Alice Walker's The Color Purple

Alice Walker's The Color Purple

Alice Walker's The Color Purple


-- Presents the most important 20th-century criticism on major works from The Odyssey through modern literature

-- The critical essays reflect a variety of schools of criticism

-- Contains critical biographies, notes on the contributing critics, a chronology of the author's life, and an index


In my old age, as person and as literary critic, I am resolved to give up all polemic, and to limp off the battlefield, carrying my wounds with me, honorable and otherwise. Since I am (somewhat) at odds with nearly every essayist in this volume, as well as with their illustrious subject, a certain wariness necessarily informs my stance in what follows.

Alice Walker, and her allied critics, tend to idealize the influence‐ relationship between black women writers, indeed all women writers. Feminist ideology, at least in the academy, holds that rivalry, creative envy, and the sublime contest for the highest place among writers, are all masculine tendencies or anxieties. Either women do not beware other women and never compete with one another (or with their mothers), or else human nature is so purified by feminist discourse that all agonistic elements in literature subside.

Walker, whether in The Color Purple or Meridian, is very much Zora Neale Hurston's novelistic daughter. No book, she has affirmed, means more to her than Their Eyes Were Watching God. Though poignant, this affirmation is a touch redundant, since both Celie and Meridian are palpable revisions of Hurston's Janie.The literary issue then becomes (at least for old Brontosaurus Bloom) what is added to the representation of character and personality when we turn from rereading Hurston to rereading Walker.And since we are all mortal, whatever our idealisms or our ideologies, do we reread Walker, as I certainly go back to Hurston, or do we yield Walker up, since time is limited?

Walker's most glowing tribute to Hurston has the title: "On refusing to Be Humbled by Second Place in a Contest You Did Not Design." I fear that all of literature is a contest that any new writer did not and could not design.Nietzsche wrote persuasively of "Hesiod's Contest with Homer," and Hemingway memorably boasted of being in training to take on Tolstoy himself. I grant you that Homer, Hesiod, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, and . . .

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