Sedgewick observes, one’s social position is affected by various axis of classification such as gender, sexuality, race, class and the interplay of these social identities. In The Color Purple by Alice walker, Sedgewick’s observations ring true. Celie, the main character in Walker’s novel, is a perfect example of these observations put forth by Sedgewick. Celie’s social position is indicative of her gender, sexuality, race, and class; as a Black woman living in Georgia in 1910 to 1940, one can expect to witness the general ‘acceptable’ racism present within the novel towards people of color. Despite the ‘acceptable’ racism, the novel accentuates the hardships and struggles the women of color in this novel have to go through. The social positions of the characters, more so Celie and Sofia, in Walker’s The Color Purple are based on the social identities of their gender, race, class, sexuality, and ethnicity.
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple takes place in Georgia from 1910 to 1940. During this time racism was easily visible and apparent in society. Black people were seen as lesser beings in contrast to their white counterparts. However, not only are all of the colored characters within The Color Purple forced, by means of oppression, into their social positions because they are not white, but also because some of them are women, lesbian, and lower class. As Crenshaw explains, “[b]ecause of their intersectional identity as both women and of color within discourses that are shaped to respond to one or the other, women of color are marginalized within both” (Crenshaw 5). Celie, the main character in the novel, is given enormous adult responsibility from a young age. After the death of her mother, she is pulled out of school in order to raise her younger siblings. Not only is Celie deprived of an education at the hands of her stepfather; she is also victim to his sexual desire.
Kimberle Crenshaw states in “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color”: “Many women of color, for example, are burdened by poverty, child care responsibilities, and the lack of job skills. These burden[‘s are] largely [considered to be] the consequence of gender and class oppression” (Crenshaw 6-7). Due to Celie already coming from a low income poor family, and getting pulled out of school in order to raise her brothers and sisters, she is not given an opportunity to continue with school in order to get an education, and eventually a good paying job. Even though Celie’s stepfather is oppressed because he’s Black, Celie is more oppressed because she’s a Black woman: when Celie’s teacher went to the house in attempt to get Celie’s father to allow Celie to go back to school, “she see how tight my dress is, she stop talking and go” (Walker 10). Celie has no control over her social position; she is subordinate to the even most oppressive race and class.
Not only is Celie in a social position that forces her to be the ‘lesser’...