Corruption Of Authority In The Color Purple And Oliver Twist

2180 words - 9 pages

In both “The Color Purple”, published in 1982 and set in rural Georgia in the early 1900s and “Oliver Twist”, a contemporary novel set in London and published in 1838, the authors use corrupt representatives of authority to manipulate central protagonists and exemplify their weaknesses. In “The Color Purple”, this villain is Celie's stepfather, Alphonso, who is responsible for her psychological and physical torture and reflects the widespread misogyny of the era. Walker's purpose in setting the novel in the early 1900s is to reflect how society has changed for the better, but also to highlight parallels with modern life. Dickens creates an archetypal villain in Fagin, who constantly undermines Oliver psychologically. Dickens uses Fagin to contribute to his social commentary, a feature of “Oliver Twist” that enables Dickens to communicate strong views on the Victorian problem of exploitation of the vulnerable.
“The Color Purple”, an epistolary novel, is told from the narrative perspective of the central protagonist, Celie, in the form of cathartic letters to God, although the addressee changes to Celie's sister, Nettie, during the novel as Celie's faith in God falters: “what God do for me?”. This reflects the novel's purpose; nobody hears Celie’s voice. Using unheard letters allows Walker to communicate Celie's low status; Celie can only speak out through letters. Nobody else cares because she is a young, black woman and Alphonso is, as far as Celie's community is aware, her father. It can be said that Walker portrays Alphonso as a corrupt figure of authority to a great extent because he infiltrates all aspects of her life. A Marxist view can be applied; Celie's social circumstances determine her life, offering little opportunity for change. The setting highlights the influence of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws at the time; maltreatment of black women was commonplace due to inadequate social protection. Modern readers would be disgusted at the abuse because the role of women has improved so much since the 1900s.
Dickens uses third-person narrative to provide an outsider's perspective on Fagin's corrupt authority. Dickens’ summary of events before chapters indicates that his comments are not limited to the novel; he is commenting on life. The confusing structure could reflect poorly-organised Victorian society. Like Celie, Oliver cannot understand that he has been mistreated thus far; he has been abused by those caring for him: Mrs Sowerberry pushes Oliver “down a steep flight of stairs”, so Fagin's den offers a safe haven to Oliver because he is naïve to the dangers of a criminal environment. Fagin could, to an extent, be said to care for Oliver more than anybody because he ensures that he is fed: “take off the sausages...” whereas Mr Bumble punishes Oliver for requesting food: “ordered into instant confinement”. A stronger argument is that Fagin is no better than anybody Oliver has encountered thus far because he too is self-centred....

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