Essay on Race and Class in Alice Walker's Color Purple

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Essay on Race and Class in The Color Purple

An important juncture in Alice Walker's The Color Purple is reached when
Celie first recovers the missing letters from her long-lost sister Nettie.
This discovery not only signals the introduction of a new narrator to this epistolary novel but also begins the transformation of Celie from writer to reader. Indeed, the passage in which Celie struggles to puzzle out the markings on her first envelope from Nettie provides a concrete illustration of both Celie's particular horizon of interpretation and Walker's chosen approach to the epistolary form:

Saturday morning Shug put Nettie letter in my lap. Little fat queen of
England stamps on it, plus stamps that got peanuts,
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But Walker's privileging of the domestic perspective of her narrators has also been judged to have other effects on the text. Indeed, critics from various aesthetic and political camps have commented on what they perceive as a tension between public and private discourse in the novel.(2) Thus, in analyzing Celie's representation of national identity, Lauren Berlant identifies a separation of "aesthetic" and "political" discourses in the novel and concludes that Celie's narrative ultimately emphasizes "individual essence in false opposition to institutional history" (868). Revealing a very different political agenda in his attacks on the novel's womanist stance, George Stade also points to a tension between personal and public elements in the text when he criticizes the novel's "narcissism" and its
"championing of domesticity over the public world of masculine power plays"
(266). Finally, in praising Walker's handling of sexual oppression, Elliott
Butler-Evans argues that Celie's personal letters serve precisely as a
"textual strategy by which the larger African-American history, focused on racial conflict and struggle, can be marginalized by its absence from the narration" (166).

By counterposing personal and public
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