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Race and Class in Alice Walker’s Color Purple

Essay on Race and Class in The Color Purple

An important juncture in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is reached when

Celie first recovers the missing letters from her long-lost sister Nettie.

This discovery not only signals the introduction of a new narrator to this

epistolary novel but also begins the transformation of Celie from writer to

reader. Indeed, the passage in which Celie struggles to puzzle out the

markings on her first envelope from Nettie provides a concrete illustration

of both Celie’s particular horizon of interpretation and Walker’s chosen

approach to the epistolary form:

Saturday morning Shug put Nettie letter in my lap. Little fat queen of

England stamps on it, plus stamps that got peanuts, coconuts, rubber trees

and say Africa. I don’t know where England at. Don’t know where Africa at

either. So I stir don’t know where Nettie at. (102)

Revealing Celie’s ignorance of even the most rudimentary outlines of the

larger world, this passage clearly defines the “domestic” site she occupies

as the novel’s main narrator.(1) In particular, the difficulty Celie has

interpreting this envelope underscores her tendency to understand events in

terms of personal consequences rather than political categories. What

matters ab…

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…. 99-111.

Shelton, Frank W. “Alienation and Integration in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.” CLA Journal 28 (1985): 382-92.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “Explanation and Culture: Marginalia.” Humanities and Society 2 (1974): 201-21.

Stade, George. “Womanist Fiction and Male Characters.” Partisan Review 52 (1985): 264-70.

Tate, Claudia. Domestic Allegories of Political Desire: The Black Heroine’s Text at the Turn of the Century. New York: Oxford UP, 1992.

Tompkins, Jane. Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction. New York: Oxford UP, 1985.

Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Harcourt, 1982.

Central Conflict, Climax and Resolution in Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown

The Central Conflict, Climax and Resolution in “Young Goodman Brown”

This essay will analyze Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” to determine the central conflict in the tale, its climax and partial resolution, using the essays of literary critics to help in this interpretation.

In my opinion, the central conflict in the tale is an internal one – the conflict in Goodman Brown between joining the ranks of the devil and remaining good, and the extension of this conflict to the world at large represented by the villagers of Salem.

It is a difficult personal journey for Young Goodman Brown, a young Puritan resident of Salem, Massachusetts, in the 1600’s to say goodbye to Faith on that fateful night and to keep a prior commitment made with an evil character (the devil) in the woods. As he travels through the forest to fulfill his personal desire: to experience evil, to indulge in devil-worship, to become a witch – whatever this strange nocturnal affair might involve, all the while he is repeatedly thinking about the “good” things he is leaving behind at church, at home (his wife Faith), and at Salem village. This internal conflict ultimately destroys the Young Goodman Brown who existed prior to the visit to the woods, and creates a new, cynical, faith-less man of gloomy, distrustful disposition.

This interpretation of the central conflict differs from that offered by Terence Martin in Nathaniel Hawthorne:

His journey into the forest is best defined as a kind of general, indeterminate [my italics] allegory, representing man’s irrational drive to leave faith, home, and security temporarily behind, for whatever individual reason, and to take a chance with one more errand onto the wilder s…

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…sts to Faith and to Salem to the extent that he is able to live with both, he nevertheless has lost the inner peace and innocence he possessed prior to the intrusion of evil into his life.


“Hawthorne and His Mosses.” The Norton Anthology: American Literature, edited by Baym et al. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1995.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Complete Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc.,1959. 247-56.

James, Henry. Hawthorne. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

Martin, Terence. Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Twayne Publishers Inc., 1965.

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” The Norton Anthology: American Literature, edited by Baym et al. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1995.

Wagenknecht, Edward. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Man, His Tales and Romances. New York: Continuum Publishing Co., 1989.

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