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Celie’s Lesbian Love in The Color Purple…  

2010-04-24 18:51:00|  分类: 作业及论文 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Introduction

Being the “Other” in the white-male-dominated world, Alice Walker struggles hardly with her pen trying to find voice and communication for those African American women as she is. And The Color Purple can represent her exerted effort on this behalf. Despite various negative criticisms, The Color Purple best illustrates Walker’s good intention of possible solutions African Americans especially women may follow in fight against racism, sexism, etc. And the process that Celie the protagonist searches for, and finally finds her religious and sexual identity interests a tremendous number of readers as well as critics.

We may find it natural for Celie to develop a homosexual orientation, if we take into consideration all the abuses and maltreatment Celie endures, and the advantageous homosexual environment. This paper is to analyze the case of Celie’s lesbian love to see how it develops and how this “Other” may live in a heterosexual society in Walker’s text.

 

Chapter I. Celie’s Sexual Virginity

After sexual maltreatment and birth of two babies, Celie, technically, can no longer be called a virgin. But her “absence of sexual experience”[1] best explains a kind of spiritual concept of virginity.

When the story begins Celie is only fourteen and her step-father who she takes as her own biological father rapes her. “It hurt me… It scare me just to see it.” (108). She dares to tell nobody since she feels it is a sin and her father threatens her not to tell and her mother is so sick as to help her. Since then she gets pregnant twice and each time her baby is sent away not knowing life or death. She is so afraid of men that she “don’t even look at mens” (15)

And after her marriage, her husband Mr. ___ takes her as a slave, and sexual object and beats her whenever he wants. Celie has to imagine her as wood and tree. And her sexual experiences seem blank since she never enjoys it at all. “Most times I pretend I ain’t there.” (79) That’s why every time when Celie describes her joyless sexual experiences Shug defines her as a “virgin”.

And there are so many women living under men’s oppression and maltreatment sexually or nonsexually, her mother, Mr. ___’s dead wife, Sofia’s mother, etc., that she thinks there is no happiness with men. She hates and fears men.

In Freudian theory, children will undergo a phase of latent homosexuality in the age of 11 to 12 and after that they will develop a heterosexual tendency. Although she has long passed this phase, Celie refuses to develop a heterosexual love. And although Mr. ___ really looks handsome she thinks “most times mens look pretty much alike to me” (23) and she hates those men who only bring her and other women great pain and misery. Obviously the black women’s lesbian psychological development is caused directly by their miserable predicaments.

 

Chapter II Celie’s Sexual Awakening

Celie takes Shug Avery as the sexual object is not haphazard.

Before marriage, Celie heard about Shug and even got a picture from her step-mother. And she fell in love with Shug at the first sight:

The most woman I ever saw. She more pretty then my mama. She bout ten thousand times more prettier then me. I see her there in furs […] She grinning with her foot up on somebody motorcar. Her eyes serious tho. Sad some.

I ask her (stepmother) to give me the picture. An all night long I stare at it. An now when I dream, I dream of Shug Avery […] (16)

Celie is potentially apt to love Shug who represents everything she lacks, beauty, freedom, confidence, and happiness. As the famous lesbian poet Elsa Gidlow says:

The lesbian personality manifests itself in independence of spirit, in willingness to take responsibility for oneself, to think for oneself, not to take 'authorities' and their dictum on trust. It usually includes erotic attraction to women, although we know there have been many women of lesbian personality who never had sexual relations with one another.” (385)

The lesbian personality in Celie starts from her spiritual attraction and then develops gradually, after Shug’s coming for the sickness, into the combination of spiritual and sexual love.

The first time when Celie sees Shug she is paralyzed and hope to see her eyes to give her strength to function her feet. The first time when Celie gets full sight of her body she thinks that she has turned into a man to admire and worship her beauty. And when she washes her body, her hands tremble and she cannot breathe. Shug now awakens her sexual desire which excites and suffocates her. Then in combing her hair Celie feels like she is a doll or her daughter to dote– or her mother. Shug also feels motherly love back in her. “That feel like mama used to do.” (57) It is possible and reasonable for a woman to develop a lesbian love since Freud says that “a woman develops out of a child with a bisexual disposition”. (Freud 116) Being differently nurtured (by the same sex rather than the opposite), both the boy and girl love the mother at the beginning and resent the father because he is a rival for the mother’s attention.

Celie receives and looks after Shug willingly and whole-heartedly, she and Shug develop a kind of friendship. Shug pays much attention to Celie’s sexual life because in her mind sex is one of the happiest things dedicated by God. In their intimate relationship Celie develops a kind of passionate sisterly and lesbian love. Celie is attracted by Shug’s sexual charm, power of controlling men. She begins to explore her own sexual charm and enjoy sexual happiness under Shug’s guidance. As her sexual consciousness is awakened, she begins to desire Shug’s love back desperately but hopelessly:

He [Mr. ___] love looking at Shug. I love looking at Shug. But Shug don’t love looking at but one of us. Him. […] But if that so, why my heart hurt me so? (75-76)

I don’t care if you [Shug] sleep with him, I say. And she take me at my word. I take me at my word too. But when I hear them together all I can do is pull the quilt over my head and finger my little button and titties and cry. (80)

The more she loves Shug, the more she desires. Later she can hardly keep calm whenever she feels threatened by those men around Shug, behaving herself as a jealous lover. The minute when Shug introduces Grady, her new husband to her Celie decides not to like him.

Developing her new lesbian love for Shug, passively or/and actively, Celie gradually accepts her homosexual inclination. Influenced by Shug’s liberal-mindedness and encouragement, Celie takes her homosexuality as natural and happy. And with Shug’s help, Celie transforms her subjective state into an independent entity and after a long agonizing journey of searching she finally finds her sexual identity and pretty much enjoys it.

 

Chapter III Celie’s Self Liberation

Loving Shug monopolistically is impossible. Shug loves men and loves fuck. Loving her so deeply, Celie is always hurt for Shug’s pan-sexuality. But she finally understands love and has the ability to love unselfishly, undesiringly on the way of her self searching.

When Shug begins to “buddy-buddy again with Mr. ___” (114), Celie is so outraged that she wants to choke her and slap Mr. ___. But as soon as Shug tells about her own stories, Celie begins to re-think of her own attitude. Shug tells her about her being unable to marry to Albert, Albert’s dead wife Annie Julia’s miserable state with Shug’s open sexual relationship with him, and her jealousy of Celie’s being able to marry him. Here Celie can feel calm about her own unpaid love and show her sympathetic and empathetic tears for both Shug and Annie Julia:

When Shug tells her about her new lover who is a third of her age, Celie’s heart “broke”. In Shug’s description, vague implication bursts out that Shug loves men more even though she loves Celie so much. Celie has to respect her decision, saying nothing. “Stillness. Coolness. Nothingness.” (220) She waits and waits until one day Shug feels tired and comes back. Celie embraces her. And they three, including Mr. ___, with other family members live together ever after.

Love, sisterly or sexually, is not to ask for return. In her searching for her independence economically and spiritually, Celie finally liberates herself from monopolizing, suffocating, and hurting love and consummates in forgiveness, understanding and respect.

Conclusion

According to Freudian psychoanalysis and Gidlow’s lesbianist viewpoints, it is natural and understandable for Celie to develop a lesbian love for Shug. Being the protagonist in Walker’s novel, Celie goes through a journey of finding her sexual identity, which Walker strongly encouraged in “Breaking Chains and Encouraging Life”. She says, in effect, black lesbians and lesbians of other races “are all lesbians”, like “a flower garden, with every color flower represented”. Therefore Celie’s lesbian love should and will be accepted and their way of life is also an alternative way of life represented in the colorful world.



[1] A virgin (or maiden) is, originally, a young woman characterized by absence of sexual experience. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginity, 2008-7-9.

 

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