The novel Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie and the film The Colour Purple directed by Steven Spielberg explores how the voices of female are oppressed and expressed in patriarchies. By exploring the denial of the female voice through the characters of Beatrice in Purple Hibiscus and Celie in The Colour Purple, the stories criticise gender inequality and are a reminder of the oppression women faced in the 20th century, making readers reflect on gender inequality that still exists today. They also display powerful female voices, such as Aunty Ifeoma in Purple Hibiscus and Shug in the colour purple, exhibiting the resistance of gender expectations in order to encourage feminist ideologies to arise.
In Purple Hibiscus and The Colour Purple, the voices of women are oppressed due to the patriarchal ideologies that exist in their setting.
In Purple Hibiscus, patriarchy is ingrained in Nigerian culture. Adichie, who is Nigerian, uses her cultural experiences for an accurate depiction of gender inequality. Marital status is a significant part of the culture and women, like Beatrice, believe they have no value outside their marriages. Beatrice is subject to domestic abuse by Eugene in order to control her freedom of expression. When she indicates to Eugene that she feels ill during their visit to Father Benedict, she ends up complying with the visit out of fear and is unable to voice her own opinions. She is described to speak like ‘the way a bird eats, in small amounts.’
Beatrice’s figurines are symbolic of her submissive nature. After experiences of abuse by her husband, she polishes the figurines as a coping mechanism. Once her figurines are broken on Palm Sunday, Beatrice decides not to replace them. The breaking of the figurines marks the end of Beatrices’ tolerance towards her oppression as she had started poisoning Eugene.
Similarly, in the colour purple, women are treated like objects. When Celie’s father offers Celie for marriage, she is made to turn around like a product on display. Her husband’s physical abuse is shown in one scene where he slaps her for speaking back at him. He towers above Celie in the frame, representing his control over her. Whenever she is subject to hardships, she expresses her voice through monologues addressed to God.
Like Beatrice, she utilises a silent method to deal with her oppression. She also uses silence to protect herself from the abuse. The texts are similar as they criticise the mistreatment of women and how female voices are silenced in patriarchies as a reminder of gender discrimination in the past.
Adichie and Spielberg exhibit strong females who use their voices to rebel against gender expectations.
Aunty Ifeoma in Purple Hibiscus has an independent and fearless personality. She doesn’t place Eugene on a pedestal like others and criticises him openly. She advocates for gender equality by convincing Beatrice to liberate herself from her marriage. Her belief that ‘sometimes life begins when marriage ends’ juxtaposes with Beatrice’s belief that ‘a man crowns a woman’s life’. However, Beatrice dismisses her attempts as ‘university talk’ and believes that tolerating his abuse just.
There is a sharp contrast between Beatrice and Aunty Ifeoma. Beatrice is unable to speak out about her abuse or develop her own identity under Eugene’s authority. She puts an end to her abuse by silently murdering Eugene through slow poisoning. As Beatrice’s voice is restricted by Eugene’s abuse, her silent method of murder reflects the silence enforced by Eugene’s violence.
In the colour purple, Shug has a similar role to Aunty Ifeoma in Purple Hibiscus. She refuses to be dominated by any man. Her flamboyant nature contrasts with Celie’s reserved personality. Spielberg expresses this through Shug’s eye-catching, shimmery red dress, directly juxtaposing with Celie’s dull and dark outfit. She enables Celie her to develop her sense of self-worth, such as encouraging her to pose with the red dress that symbolises confidence.
At the end of the film, Celie confronts Mister to escape her abusive relationship. Her confidence is accentuated through the use of positioning in this low angle shot where Celie stands above Mister, looking down at him. Her development is emphasised when compared to scenes in the beginning where she is abused. The film conveys an empowering message of self-liberation through the characterisation of Celie. In contrast, Beatrice liberates herself through desperate and deadly means, resulting from the extreme restrictions placed by Eugene.
The Purple Hibiscus and The Colour Purple shows female rebellion through characters with strong voices to challenge social gender roles in patriarchies. However, The Colour Purple empowers readers through characterisation in the development of a voice.
In Summary, Why do we tell stories?
In the stories, Purple Hibiscus and The Colour Purple conveys the oppression of the female voice as a reminder of the discrimination women faced in the past and that gender inequality is still prevent in societies today. Powerful female voices resisting are also depicted to break gender expectations and encourage feminist ideologies. However, the growth of resistance is characterised in The Colour Purple, which conveys an inspirational message.