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The Struggles Faced in The Color Purple and The Joy Luck Club

A common bond of struggle links the novels The Color Purple by Alice Walker and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Rape, suicide, death, war, oppression, and racism invade the two novels. In The Color Purple, Celie overcomes racism, violence, and other issues to find dignity and love. In the Joy Luck Club, the daughters struggle for acceptance, love, and happiness. Though the characters endure many hardships they survive not only by not becoming bitter individuals but becoming more whole individuals. Celie in The Color Purple has struggled since the very beginning because of the poor treatment she has received by men.

Being raped by her father Fonso, Celie becomes pregnant and Fonso sells both of the children that she has. Celie promises to protect Nettie, her sister, from Fonso’s abuse is the first sign of her taking a stance to prevent the horrors which are occurring in her patriarchal existence. When married her husband Albert just uses her as a slave. He perceives her as livestock, and denies her not only love but humanity (Hall, 3) The first night together he raped her. She worked on the farm and put up with his children. At 14 she writes notes to God on the dehumanizing nature of her existence and the humiliations she has suffered (Kirkpatrick, 846).

Although she totally devalues herself, Celie finds her sister very valuable, worth protecting. Her selflessness and lack of bitterness are evident here. Celie shows resentment and bitterness at the way she has been treated by men. Albert also betrays her by hiding all of the letters from Nettie making Celie believe that her sister is dead. She also feels betrayed by God, who seems to her to have condoned much of the strife in her life. Celies life has been one of hopelessness, even longing for death as a relief from lifes hardships (Hankinson, 3) Shug suggests to her that the ultimate goal for people is life giving rather than life denying.

Celie is also a prime example of trying to overcome her struggle to find who or what she wants to be. Shug Avery is a symbol to Celie of the ideal women that she wants to be. Shug is also a symbol of life, freedom, and love. Celie is submissive and abused often. However, she has not lost her intelligence and keeps her anger in check and doesnt do anything rash for the sake of seeing her sister again. In reality, Celie gains power and authority through her anger. Celies power and authority gives her the willfulness to leave Albert. Although Albert insult her when she decides to leave him and go with Shug.

He criticizes her for her poverty, color, gender, and looks. This new philosophy that positions Celie being part of everything, not separate at all fortifies her with self-acceptance and leads her to reject male mastery (Hankinson, 3) When Celie moves into Shugs house she discovers a newfound freedom made possible by Shug. Walkers women transform their lives and focus on female bonding. Celie and the women surrounding her struggle for bondage. Celie finds a bond with many females. Walker introduces the hint of Celie’s sexual attraction to women in church.

Afraid of men because of the cruel treatment by her father, Celie turns more and more towards the company of women, who represent love, warmth, and feelings of solidarity to her. Celie affirms her sexual identity in her relationship with Shug Avery. For now, it is manifested merely as what men cannot offer. Shug helps Celie aware of her own sexuality, and ironically redefines her as a virgin (Hall, 4) Shug helps Celie with self-identification. A bondage that Celie faces is the discovery of Netties letters that Albert has hidden from her. She has regained bondage with her sister whom she thought was no longer alive.

She bonded with Shug to find the letters and with the help of Shug she was advised not to kill Albert even though it was tough for Celie to accept this for the love of Nettie. Celie seeks bondage with God, Celie tries to search for an identity and existence for God although at some point she does not understand why some people cant find God when the Church is his home. Shug explains that God is not directly in a institutionalized church but, inside you and everyone else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it (Hall, 6). Celie though must claim and accept her inheritance and bondage.

Celie tries to escape the oppression caused by the treatment by men and the way she was treated by her father and husband. Harpo came to Celie asking her advice about what to do with his unruly wife. She suggests to him to beat his wife. When confronted by Sofia, Harpos husband, Celie admits she did wrong and tells Sofia that she was jealous because she was brave enough to fight back. Sofia tells Celie not to advise Harpo to beat her anymore. The women then talk about abuse, and Celie confesses that she has never hit a living thing. Sofia asks her what she does when she gets mad.

Celie says she cannot remember the last time she got angry, for the Bible has taught her to honor her mother, father, and husband; therefore, she feels she cannot get angry with them. Celie reveals a breakthrough for she overcomes internalized oppression by recognizing the solidarity with another women. Like Celie, the characters in The Joy Luck Club are trapped by struggles. Each of the mothers tries to instill Chinese tradition and values. Each of the daughters, who want to be Americans, resists being Chinese. Suyuans struggles are the war and other obstacles that prevent her from achieving her dream of finding her lost twin daughters.

When the Japanese invaded China, Suyuan was forced to leave her daughters behind and travel to safety in America. When she has another daughter, she names her Jing-Mei and vests in her a legacy of purity and a memory of her sisters who came before her. Upon Suyuans death, the many friends she has brought together in the Joy Luck Club impress upon Jing-Mei the importance of carrying on her mothers dreams. In the end, Jing-Mei travels to China and finds her lost twin sisters. The other women of The Joy Luck Club also struggle against opponents. Rose must fight Ted to retain the house even though he is divorcing her.

Lena struggles with Harold and considers divorcing him. Waverly must fight her mother about getting remarried. The Chinese culture struggles for survival throughout the novel. The Americanized daughters of the Joy Luck Club resist their mothers and their histories without even fully understanding or knowing them. Waverlys response exhibits her matrophobia defined by Adrienne Rich as the daughters fear of becoming ones mother (Heung, 3) They seek to be a part of the American culture and want to be independent and different from their mothers. Most of them try to minimize their Chinese appearance and heritage.

Maintaining their native culture and a sense of their heritage when immigrants settle in America is a struggle that the mothers face. They find that it is even more difficult to pass the culture and heritage down to their second-generation children, who are born and brought up in America. I was raised the Chinese way: I was taught to desire nothing, to swallow other peoples misery, to eat my own bitterness (Schell, 92) Although the Chinese mothers in the book struggle to retain their heritage, their Chinese-American daughters have little interest in things of the homeland.

They want to be a part of the modern, liberal American society in which they have been raised; however, as they learn about their mothers varied experiences in China, the daughters begin to understand and accept their dual heritage. A persistent struggle in The Joy Luck Club is the quest for identity. Each of the characters faces the task of defining herself in the midst of personal loss or individual loss. Jing-Mei quests for her mother to find her sisters this trip helps Jing-Mei to understand her mothers history and to find her own identity.

Lindos early marriage into a family that was not to fond of her caused her to promise to never forget who she was. Ying-Ying records how dishonesty, loss, and removal caused her to become a ghost. Rose describes her effort to regain a sense of self and declare it against her husband. The mothers finally realize that they can have a positive influence on their daughters. This is seen in the relationship between all four sets of Chinese women and their Americanized children. There is also a conflict between appearance and reality and a conflict between tradition and modernity.

The relationship is strained between mother and daughter when the daughter asks a question in English and the mother responds in Chinese we find that the mother and daughter Never really understood one another (Hamiliton, 1) The daughters incapability to understand her mother is the same as when the mother tries to teach traditional Chinese values and beliefs to the daughter. And after I played them both a few times, I realized they were two halves of the same song (Tan) One daughter realized that her and her mother just as the song are two different people originating from the same place.

By the end of the novel Jing-Mei, Waverly, Lena, and Rose all have a better appreciation of their mothers and the tradition in which they were raised. By examining the characters of The Color Purple and The Joy Luck Club, one can conclude that many of the characters face struggles throughout the two novels. Each character finds their own way to deal with their struggles. Celie finds a new self-respect and strength while the daughters in The Joy Luck Club realize the strength and dignity of her mother and learn to appreciate her Chinese heritage.

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