Gender Equality In Alice Walker's The Color Purple

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By the release of The Color Purple, women had already begun to eliminate gender discrimination in education, voting, sports, and in the workforce. During To Kill a Mockingbird’s time, only “30 percent of wives worked outside the home in 1960” (“Modern America”). This would eventually grow into “50 percent by 1980” (“Modern America”), which alludes to gender bias becoming less of an issue when The Color Purple came to be. By 1980, still two years before the publication of Alice Walker’s novel, “more than half of all women were in the workforce” (“Modern America”), and “women constituted approximately 40 percent of the working population” (“Modern America”). The fact that women were almost equal to men in the workforce by 1980 is a window…show more content…
The response she receives is “you won’t get very far until you start wearing dresses more often” (Lee 263), which is a clear criticism and warning for Scout, explained by the notion that Scout would never be accepted as a lady if she did not conform to the gender norms of the 1930s. As she is growing up, Scout is faced with conflicting views of who she wants to be and what she is supposed to do as a woman. Scout repeatedly challenges the traditional view of women by wearing pants, being covered in dirt, and by acting in ways that are considered unladylike. This reflects the same conflicts women were facing during the 1960s and long before, which is why To Kill a Mockingbird fits so well within the time period.
Harper Lee takes her ideas on gender equality a step further to hint that times were changing by using the arrival of Scout’s aunt, Alexandra. Upon her entry into the novel, Scout states that “to all parties present and participating in the life of the country, Aunt Alexandra was one of the last of her kind” (Lee 146). Because Aunt Alexandra is the “last of her kind” and a source of pressure for Scout to become a “female” in society, Harper Lee provides a clue that times were changing for women, as early as the 1930s. To further illustrate women's changing roles, Scout also attends school with other boys, but is told that it would be wise to keep her literacy a secret. For the time in which the novel is set, the fact that
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