Political Critique of Race Relations in Alice Walker's Color Purple
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The Color Purple as Political Critique of Race Relations
If the integrated family of Doris Baines and her adopted African grandson
exposes the missionary pattern of integration in Africa as one based on a
false kinship that in fact denies the legitimacy of kinship bonds across
racial lines, the relationship between Miss Sophia and her white charge,
Miss Eleanor Jane, serves an analogous function for the American South.
Sophia, of course, joins the mayor's household as a maid under conditions
more overtly racist than Doris Baines's adoption of her Akwee family:
Because she answers "hell no" (76) to Miss Millie's request that she come to
work for her as a maid, Sophia is brutally beaten by the…show more content… Sophia's feelings for Miss Eleanor are of
course more ambivalent. When she first joins the mayor's household, Sophia
is completely indifferent to her charge, "wonder[ing] why she was ever born"
(88). After rejoining her own family, Sophia resents Miss Eleanor Jane's
continuing intrusions into her family life and suggests that the only reason
she helps the white girl is because she's "on parole. . . . Got to act nice"
(174). But later Sophia admits that she does feel "something" for Miss
Eleanor Jane "because of all the people in your daddy's house, you showed me
some human kindness" (225).
Whatever affection exists between the two women, however, has been shaped by
the perverted "kinship" relation within which it grew - a relationship the
narrative uses to expose plantation definitions of kinship in general and to
explode the myth of the black mammy in particular. Separated from her own
family and forced to join the mayor's household against her will, living in
a room under the house and assigned the housekeeping and childraising
duties, Sophia carries out a role in the mayor's household which clearly
recalls that of the stereotypical mammy on the Southern plantation. However,