Representation of Women in the African American Literature: Native Son and The Colour Purple

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This study is about representation of women in the African American Literature as written in Native son and The Colour purple. African-American literature has undergone a revolutionary change from Phillies Wheatley, the first African-American poet to publish her works, to Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Walter Mosley, Alice Walker, Gloria Naylor, and Paule Marshall, the contemporary top Black writers. Phillies Wheatley, who was sold as a slave child to America, “the child was a victim of the largest involuntary human migration in history” (Carretta, Phillies Wheatley Biography 1), and her works give an impetus to the beginning of Afro-American Literature. Other Afro-American early writers also helped the Afro-American Black writing move forward (Yee, 1992). Fredrick Douglass, American reformer, social orator, writer and statesman, is one of them. He escaped from slavery, and became the leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing.

Throughout 19C and 20C, the black woman's place in history and society has been problematized by racism, sexism, and in many cases classism. Though some black women have managed to surface to the forefront of certain political movements, stereotypes of immorality and inferiority have kept most on the fringe. The black women, who found it difficult to 'fit in' society because of their unique experiences, encountered the same dilemma in their place in literature. Literary works, called a mirror of society often reflected societal restraints, leaving the black women and their condition voiceless or only partially revealed. The existing genres of the nineteenth-century that black women occupied were the domestic or seductive genre of white women. These genres often had to be modified, expanded, or altered in some way to capture her life, experiences, and thoughts m writing (Crenshaw, 2001). Black women writers of the nineteenth-century, because of the parameters of these two genres, had to pave their own way.

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Background to the study

This study came up as a result of the author’s interest to the African American literature as part of one of the courses done in the program. Just before World War II broke out, Richard Wright, born in Mississippi yet moved north to Chicago in adulthood, distributed Native Son (1940). The tale tended to the consequences of racial bias and isolation, recommending that lawful viciousness to singular rights at last could prompt homicide. The epic recounts the story of Bigger Thomas, a Black escort in Chicago, who murders the girl of his boss. In the Novel Women exist in relation to the male figures of authority that surround them, such as their boyfriends, husbands, sons, fathers and the Protagonist of the story Bigger Thomas. In the book Native son still states how black women were portrayed by the whites from their rights as women and the limitation of their intelligence being blacks. In the Native Son, it can be easily noticed a common negative feeling shared by Bigger Thomas towards the African American Women although he is also black. Some of the black women in Native Son are: Bigger’s mother, Bessie who was Bagger’s girlfriend and Vera the worker of the Daltons. The Novel Native Son also shows the negativity from blacks to another blacks and states how women are meaningless without men and that they cannot function as independent characters. In any case, the conditions are more convoluted than an insignificant plot outline, and the book at last recommends that the nation all in all might be in charge of such culpability.

In later decades in America, critical female voices have developed unequivocally on the artistic scene, for example, those of Alice Walker. In her mid-1980s epistolary novel The Colour Purple (1982), Alice Walker portrayed isolated presence in 1930s Georgia. And again, The Colour Purple, emphasis on how black women were portrayed as Slaves and sexual instruments to male needs. The Colour Purple Shows the Sex-division of labor which goes back historically when male strength was required for outdoor activities such as hunting; and women were seen as more fragile and assumed domestic responsibilities (Eagly, 1987).

Oppression did not end with the slavery in America, during the war and the post-emancipation period there was still a lot of sexual violence against African American girls and women. Black girls were used by white men as instruments to establish their power after they lost their privilege by the abolition of slavery. Alice Walker, focused on issues such as sexual assault also by African-American men to blacks that is, she states the representation of black female sexuality in literature and the way African-American women dealt with that issue.

Statement of the problem

As literature keeps depicting black women in various negative or stereotypical ways, it affects the way black women see themselves and also the way they create their identity. In “Berry & Duke” (2011) many black women and black girls opened up to how they feel about their representation in Society. The narrative investigated the main concepts preconceptions and attitudes about skin colour, especially dark-skinned women, outside of and inside the Black American culture. It is discouraging black women feel depressed and cowardly about themselves, this is the reason why this study has to clear and eliminate the air by looking profound into the ways African American women were portrayed in Colour purple and the Native Son. Black people from the same community discriminate among each other over skin colours or race. African American women feel insecure and always want to find a way to feel better about themselves. If literature does not frequently, show African American women the way they do, will other people see them that way. Therefore, this study is centered on the representation of African American women in Native son and the Colour Purple, and also uncovering the concealing messages or images that African American women are been represented with.

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Representation of Women in the African American Literature: Native Son and The Colour Purple. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-women-in-the-african-american-literature-native-son-and-the-colour-purple/
“Representation of Women in the African American Literature: Native Son and The Colour Purple.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-women-in-the-african-american-literature-native-son-and-the-colour-purple/
Representation of Women in the African American Literature: Native Son and The Colour Purple. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-women-in-the-african-american-literature-native-son-and-the-colour-purple/> [Accessed 22 Jun. 2024].
Representation of Women in the African American Literature: Native Son and The Colour Purple [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2024 Jun 22]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/representation-of-women-in-the-african-american-literature-native-son-and-the-colour-purple/
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