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Submitted as Partial Fulfillment of Requirement for the Sarjana Sastra Degree of the English Department

Faculty of Letters and Fine Arts Sebelas Maret University


Makna Sinatria







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You dream while you

re sleeping,

But your dreams come true while you

re not sleeping.


Super Junior


Jangan pikirkan seberapa besar mimpi itu untukmu,

tapi seberapa besar dirimu untuk mimpi itu.


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I dedicated this thesis to: My self,

my family, my beloved mother,

my late father,


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Alhamdulillahirrobil’alamin, praise and gratitude to the Most Merciful and

the Most Beneficient, Allah SWT, for blessing me upon accomplishing this thesis. I tried my best and kept believing that I could do this that I finally finished my thesis.

I would like to thank Drs. Riyadi Santosa, M.Ed., Ph.D, the Dean of Faculty of Letters and Fine Arts, and Drs. Agus Hari Wibowo, M.A., Ph.D., the Head of English Department, for giving permission to conduct this research. I would like to express my forever gratitude for all of my lecturers since the start of my study in English Department, especially all of American Studies lecturers. The knowledge, skills, and experiences are irreplaceable by everything in this world. Also to Angela Brown and Harriet Blymiller who had recommended lots of good books for my thesis.

I also want to deliver special gratitude to Dra. Susilorini, M.A. for her patience while supervising my thesis. I thank you for the help of making this thesis as good as possible. I am also very grateful for any enlightening discussion every time I stuck on some points while finishing my thesis.


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words. I would also like to deliver a deepest gratitude to mbak Catherine and bu Qonitah who have given me the novels for this thesis will never be done if I did not get the books.

I want to thank Shining Stars fellows, mbak Pipit, Zain, Giwang, Vista, Casandra, Yay, Bee, Dorina, and Aken. If world is made up from F.U.N instead of W.O.R.L.D, this would is going to be filled with us. I thank you for all the time we have spent, to laugh together, to cry together, to fill the world with happiness, and to share our problems. They show me what it means to be friends. I will treasure all of those memories. A special thank goes to mbak Safitri, for she always be my best friend and my best rival.

I would like to say thank you for my high school friends, Sekar, Rani, Saskia, Devi, Erick, Very, and Ragil whom I have made friends. I am very glad that I know them, and I thank you for making me the youngest one. My life would be totally different if I did not befriend them.

This thesis will never finish if I did not receive help and criticism from Amstuders 07 (the Feds), mbak Safitri, Vista, Candra, Syaiful, Daniel, Edwi. I am looking forward to work with the seven of us again. The same thing goes to Amstuders seniors (2006) and all of the seniors whom I know in English Department, especially mas Rizqi, mas Pondra, and mas Itok, also the member of R Book Club, I thank you for your help every time I need someone to ask..


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ED07 are important to me. I wish them good luck for the next step of our life. I thank you for you guys motivate me, compete with me, that I am able to always make one step forward. The same thank goes to my English Department juniors, may the odds be ever in your favor.

It will be unfair if I do not say thank you for Super Junior, you guys mean more than just an idol to me, for you always motivate me and make me who I am now. I learn about surviving and never giving up from all of them. They also taught me about respecting and loving others. I also want to thank my twitter friends, especially Jessie eonni, Sora eonni, and Maze eonni for always giving me encouragements. I thank you for letting me rant and complain about my thesis, and for giving me any word of advice. Last appreciation goes to my KBS team, Bee, Yay, Litha Dewi, Amal, Pia, Ajeng, and everyone I could not mention one by one. I thank you for giving me the confidence to become the leader of the group.


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D. Feminist Literary Criticism………... E. The Color Purple and The Keepers of the House ………

1. The Color Purple……….

A. In Comparison: Cultural and Social Setting of The Color Purple and

The Keepers of the House……….

1. Racism and Segregation Practice as Depicted in Both Novels…. 2. Woman Subordination as Portrayed in The Color Purple and The

Keepers of the House………

B. In Comparison: Portrayal of Black Woman in The Color Purple and

The Keepers of the House……….

1. Values of True Womanhood in African and American



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B. Recommendation………



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2012. Thesis. Faculty of Letters and Fine Arts. Sebelas Maret University.

The emergence of the cult of true womanhood in the early 20th century had triggered the movement called Black Madonna Movement, which caused a great number of black women to embrace the values of true womanhood. Alice Walker and Shirley Ann Grau are two of many woman authors who write about black womanhood. The aim of the research is to describe how black women are portrayed by two racially different woman authors.

This research is a descriptive qualitative research which is conducted on two novels, The Color Purple and The Keepers of the House as the source of data. The primary data are all the texts in the novels containing of the portrayal of the black woman characters in the 1910-1940s, which includes the characterizations in the form of words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and expressions. To support the primary data, secondary data includes research on the two novels made by other researchers and the comments from the critics related to the object of the research. This research is conducted under the framework of American Studies. As the two novels are considered as woman writing, the literary analysis which is used to analyze the whole texts is under the scope of Feminist Literary Criticism. The socio-historical approach is also needed to relate the events happen in the novel, and to reveal the validity of how both authors depict the society as in the real life. The analysis finds that in the setting of early 20th century, both authors portray black women aligning with the values of true womanhood. However, both authors portray them differently. Walker portrays Celie as the product of Black Madonna Movement thus making her the idealized woman among her Black peers, and Grau portrays Margaret fitting the values of true womanhood from white woman’s point of view who held the virtue of white womanhood. In different way both novels empower black and white women to gain their independence and gender equality.


English Department Student, Faculty of Letters and Fine Arts, Sebelas Maret University. Student number C0307039


Lecturer 1



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commit to user CHAPTER I



In the 20th century, black literature developed rapidly, as the result of the advancement of black feminism, and American women writings. The authors tried to speak out what they think about black woman through their writings. On these literatures, many authors used Black Women as their characters, either as the main or supporting character. Mainly the setting of these literary works is in the Deep South and in the early 20th century. It might be due to the fact that Black women was the most suffering among minority groups in the slavery era, and the authors found it to be an interesting issue to be exploited on their works.

The authors of these novels are mainly the Blacks, but many of them are whites too. Black writers had their skill on representing Black women on their works accurately through their historical experience. Many black writers wrote about what happen to the black women at that time and they were succeeded on describing the situation or setting as if real on their novels. These authors were trying to give description on what happened to the black women through their writings, whether it‟s

narratives or essays. What about the white writers? Obviously they have no direct experience to the slavery, thus they might have differences on how they represent Black women on their writings. As one of the building elements of novel, the author‟s profile also influences the content of the literary works. This is as explained in A


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Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, “they (novels) usually treat a broader range of experience than poems do and thus are affected more by extrinsic factors” (Guerin, Labor, Morgan, Reesman, and Willingham, 2005, p. 52), in which the extrinsic factors includes the author‟s profile and background.

Black woman characters on many literary works might be represented differently in many literature works. For example: in some works, Black Woman might be portrayed to be weak, and as bad people, while on some other works, Black women struggled for their rights, were strong, and dependable. The way they wrote about Black Woman would incite different feeling, related to how the author described the woman characters on the novel.

Both white and black women experienced the same subordination in the early 20th century, although some white woman already had their „freedom‟ and their rights in the society. The woman subordination practice still happened in some country—in this case, in the Southern countries, as the society still believed that wifehood and motherhood were woman‟s profession. Though some women might gone to college and finish their study, in the end, when they were married, their husbands would likely demand them to stay at home and took care the family for him.


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the woman writers might stick to this concept. Although it is more common to the concept of the domestic woman, some writers might write differently about the portrayal of woman in the 20th century. The portrayal of black woman seems to be almost similar to those of the white woman concept and the writers tend to stick to the concept of the woman who played their original gender role in the domestic area.

The previous researches related to The Color Purple by Alice Walker are mainly about the feminism and the studies of race and domesticity, while The Keepers of the House are mainly researched for its view on slavery rather than the focus on the position of Black Woman, thus the portrayal of black woman done by both writers is an interesting issue to be taken as research. Obviously there are two different portrayals of the image of the ideal black woman in both novels, and they are written differently. First, with the regard to the author‟s background, the novel written by Alice Walker obviously sees it from the eye of black woman with her complex historical background and experience for being minority, while Shirley Ann Grau applies her white background to voice the white main character. Second, from the structure of the novel itself, the storyline is different since The Color Purple uses first point of view of Celie as the main back woman character thus the feeling of Celie is obviously seen through the writing, while in The Keepers of the House uses Abigail‟s eyes to portray Margaret, the black woman character in the novel.


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Both works receives Pulitzer Prize, meaning both novels have the same strength. Similar to the point explained above, the author profile is very important on the content of their work.

Although there are other formal elements in literary works, an author‟s ideology on building the storyline is considered as a crucial factor which will determine the depiction and the outcome of the story.

Literatures… …are informed and shaped by the authors‟ respective value systems, their notions of how the world is or ought to be. These values— reflecting a set of views and assumptions regarding such things as “human nature,” social organization and norms of behavior, moral principles, questions of good and evil, right or wrong, and what is important in life— constitute authors‟ ideologies. They may be idiosyncratic to the individual author, or may reflect and express the values of the culture at large, or of subgroups within the culture (Suntherland, 1985, p. 143).

Culture and the authors‟ ideology by all means are the important factor on making the story. As the authors tend to write what they believe in and the outcome of their work will be the representation of what they believe in.


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Alice Walker is without doubt one of the most powerful womanist writer on her era, as one of critics, Richard Wesley (as cited in Kane, 2001) states that Alice Walker can reveal “a country‟s dark secrets”. Her works aroused many debates and discussion among researchers and the reviewers, especially The Color Purple. The Color Purple is one of her most powerful work which able to tell about “… racism and sexism, pull together the author‟s main ideas about women‟s life and culture…” (in Shakhovtseva, 2000, para. 8) and what was on the black woman‟s mind on her story—which at that time only could be shown through letters and perhaps the talk between black women.

The Color Purple is an epistolary narrative of Celie, a black woman who receives an abuse from her stepfather. When she finally marries a man, although she never loves her husband, she always does whatever her husband tells her to do. On her new home, Celie is not treated as a wife; rather she is seen as his housekeeper and sexual object. Celie does not object this, as she believes that woman‟s roles are to obey her husband and should not do what he forbids. When she finally meets a black woman singer, Shug Avery, Celie makes her way out of Mr. ____‟s house and decides on making her own life.


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weaker than the male, and should not be in the public place. The only public place black woman might be in is the church and the market.

There are not many white writers who write about black woman, especially from their female point of view. The question of authenticity might be the reason why there are not many white writers to this issue. Their works might not be believable as when it is written by the blacks themselves, they might not have the same point of view for the story. Of course the writing style and the diction will be really different to get the feel, moreover when some white writer tries to be the voice of a black character. The Keepers of the House is one of the excellent examples of a white woman writer who has successfully talked about black woman, without losing its typical white people writing style. It also has great “… metaphor for the long-established families of the Deep South, their encounters with changing values and norms, and the hypocrisy of racism” (Laming, 1999, para.9).


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marriage was prohibited. When the news suddenly goes public, the people of Madison City are angry and attack the Howland Estate.

Margaret, a black woman, is presented from the point of view of Abigail Howland, as a figure of woman beyond the skin barrier. Although she is aware of Margaret being a black woman, she rarely mentions this. In this novel, there is some kind of blurry difference between a wife and a housekeeper. Margaret being a black woman is seen as merely a housekeeper by the people of Madison City, but she is a wife for William Howland.

As stated in The Emergence of “Women’s Sphere”, there are four chief characteristics for a woman, they are “… piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. She was the great civilizer who created order in the home in return for her husband‟s protection, financial security, and social status” (“”, 2008). Although Southern women had big role for their family and their husband, their supposed sphere would always be in their home (domestic sphere).


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values she acquires from her background as a white woman that she portrays her black woman character in accordance to white womanhood. In most of the story, Grau sticks to the concept of woman inferiority and how women depend on men, this can be seen from the black and white woman characters. In this research, I expect to dig out whether there are significant differences of how the authors portray black women influenced by their different racial gender background.


This thesis will highlight most on the Black Woman studies, related to the portrayal of the black woman character to fit the image of the ideal early 20th century American woman on the two novels written by Alice Walker on The Color Purple and Shirley Ann Grau on The Keepers of the House. The thesis will focus on the comparison study of the black woman characters portrayal in both novels, related to the author‟s background of being Black or White, under the study of Feminist

Literary Criticism.


This research is conducted in order to answer the following question:

How are black women portrayed in The Color Purple and in The Keepers of the House?



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To describe the portrayal of the black women in The Color Purple and in The Keepers of the House.


Blacks, or minorities issue have always been interesting topic to be researched. There are many researches about blacks in the English Department program and there are only some students of American Studies taken the American literature on minorities. This research is expected to give deeper knowledge about generally black women issue, and especially the portrayal of the black woman in American literatures. This research is expected to be beneficial to:

1. English Department students: to stimulate them on researching American literature about minorities, specifically about black women, which I think the most interesting topic to be learned deeper.

2. Other researchers: to give more information to other researchers who have same interest on black women issue in American literature.


1. Type of Research


commit to user 2. Data and Source of Data

This research will use two types of data. The first is the primary data from the raw materials from the source of data. The source of data is two literary works The Color Purple and The Keeper of the House. From the source of data, the primary data will be all texts in the novels containing of the portrayal of the black woman characters. This data includes the characterizations in the form of word, phrases, clauses, sentences and expressions in the novels. Secondary data is needed to support the primary data. The secondary data are data or research on the two works made by other researchers. The secondary data will include all selected analysis of the novels and also comments from the critics related to the object of the research.

3. Technique of Collecting Data

Upon collecting the appropriate data for the research, the data are collected by reading both novels in order to understand the whole stories about the portrayal of the black women characters. In the same time, it will be important to highlight the important points/events from the novels which relates with the plot, characterization, setting, and other intrinsic elements of the novels to support the analysis.


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In the process of analyzing the data, the interdisciplinary approaches related to American studies will be conducted. The literary analysis will be used in order to relate the text and the context as a whole related text. This literary analysis will be conducted under the scope of feminist literary criticism. The socio-cultural and historical approach is also significant for analyzing the data. In the end of the research, a conclusion is drawn to complete the research based on the analyzed data. The analysis is done by taking advantages of all the acquired data from reference books, and sites in the internet, in order to study more about the relevant topic.


This research will be conducted under the framework of American Studies. Literally, American studies is the study of American culture. America has a very vast definition of what they called as culture, and all these things related to American culture could be put under the framework of American studies. This is as explained by Robert F. Berkhofer, Jr. on his journal A New Context for New American Studies?:


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exploring the myths, symbols, and images embedded in texts, tales, and artifacts, those scholars thought they exposed the "masked" and other deep patterns underlying American culture (1989, p 588).

American studies is an interdisciplinary field which incorporates to another studies. As John Carlos Rowe (2002) states on his book The New American Studies, American studies could be used to trace the multicultural theories which attempted to compare and make a contrast difference on ethnic communities. The African American history also affects the different ethnic cultures in United States, which is somehow reflected in many literary works. By using these literary works we might be able to reveal the whole American culture.

Literature plays a great role on the development of American studies, as we will never be able to separate American literature, history, and American studies. There is a bold line which relates the role of American literature in the American life, and how the literature creates the society. The theory of Social Construction of Reality done by Berger and Luckmann (1966) made a clearer sociocultural approach to literature. As R. Gordon Kelly states on his journal on The Social Construction of Reality: Implications for Future Directions in American Studies:

The Social Construction of Reality makes it possible to conceive of literature in its several ongoing phases—its creation, publication, distribution, consumption, evaluation, and selective transmission—as an important institution for the production of meaning and the maintenance of social reality in the society (1983: 54).


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theory by Wellek and Warren on their book, Theory of Literature. Literature is social institution, and social creation. By using the language as its medium to 'talk' to the society, “literature 'represents' 'life'; and 'life' is, in a large measure, a social reality”

(Wellek and Warren, 1977, p. 94). In this sense, literature is constructed by the author and the society. The authors are influenced by the values they get from the society and then somehow, on writing they pour the values into their literary works, intentionally or unintentionally. There have always been debate over this, whether the literature is socially constructed or 'literature as expression of society'—which means literature is the mirror of the current social situation.

African American History and literature has been a part of American studies for a long time ago. African-American literature can not be separated from history-based literature. These types of literature, mainly written by the African-Americans led the American literature developed vastly, not only on the study of the literature, but also the study of history through literature. Although how the history is developed in the literature will depend on the corresponding culture and the author.


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believe that white writers can write stories about black, and vice versa. Regarding this, on writing these stories, some certain elements should be put on mind too, like the setting of time and the authenticity, for without these elements, the work will receive harsh comments and criticisms.

The characters in the stories are fictitious, so it will depend on the author whether s/he wants to make her/him a saint, or a sinner. Obviously, white writers and black writers will have different style of language and way to describe a character, aside from the character being good or bad. Thus, the analysis of how the black and white writers describe black women especially on its portrayal to fit the image of the early 20th century ideal woman based on The Color Purple by Alice Walker and The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau is conducted.


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storyline will give deeper description of the main characters rather only focusing on the characters.

Regarding the object of the research, Feminist literary analysis will be suitable to be used as the analytical approach on the research. The literary analysis by using feminist literary criticism is compulsory to be used here, since the common literary analysis will only focus on analyzing literary works by using masculine point of view. Both writers are women and practically they used female point of view for both novels. From Jared Lewis (2008) on What is the Feminist Approach to Literary Criticism?, he states that feminist literary criticism is used to analyze literature which empowers the female point-of-view.


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Shirley Ann Grau on building her story on The Keepers of the House uses the first person point of view by using Abigail‟s eyes as white American woman. She

focuses on using Abigail‟s point of view upon seeing Black woman character in the novel. Although this book focuses more on the segregated society and the power of woman—in this case Abigail Howland—to fight back what the society have given to her with her own womanly way, there is a big portrayal of the ideal woman in the patriarchal society which is portrayed by a black woman.


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178), and to actually portray the black women condition at that time who devoted themselves to be the loyal helpmate for men.

The historical approach will be used to reveal the real events and set the time—in this case is the end of 19th century (post-slavery era in Deep South) and the early 20th century. As the novels are not historical novel or biography-type novel, this approach can be used to reveal the validity of the two literary works. Although both works are fiction, the plausibility and the validity should be existed to create better arguments regarding the portrayal of black woman to fit the image of the ideal early 20th century American woman.


There are four chapters in this thesis. The first chapter serves as introduction which presents research background, scope of the study, research question, objective of the study, benefits of the study, research methodology, theoretical approach, and thesis organization.

The next chapter is literature review. It consists of the historical background of sexism in the black society, true womanhood, black womanhood, feminist literary criticism, and brief summary of The Color Purple and The Keepers of the House.


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The Color Purple and The Keepers of the House. The analysis shows that the authors of both novels are trying to create the image of Black women as to fit the image of the ideal woman of the early 20th century.


commit to user CHAPTER II


In this chapter, I will include some previous study and theories which are used as the references for conducting the research. In the research, I use some books and journals about black woman, late 19th century concept of ideal woman, woman sphere, and literary analysis from feminist perspective, or commonly called as feminist literary criticism. This literature review will be divided into four subchapters. They are: The Historical Background of Sexism in the Black Society, True Womanhood and Black Womanhood, Feminist Literary Criticism, and brief summary of The Color Purple and The Keepers of the House.

A. The Historical Background of Sexism in the Black Society

In her book Ain’t I a Woman, Bell Hooks gives account on the historical background of black woman and black feminism also sexism. Sexism has been the main issue faced by the black women, before, in and after the slavery era. Even after the slavery ended and the Blacks finally get their liberation, within the Black society there was segregation between male and female. Then, the next era of slavery existed, the black women were enslaved by the black men. This slavery doesn‘t mean it to be literally enslavement like what the whites did to the blacks, but it is slavery practice. As Bell Hooks (1981) on her book, Ain’t I a Woman states that ―in a retrospective examination of the black female slave experience, sexism looms as large as racism as


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an oppression force in the lives of black women‖ (p. 15). If Blacks were oppressed by

the whites, the black women were oppressed because of their sex, their nature to be woman.

Patriarchy system exists in the Black society too and its practice could be tracked down to the African-Americans ancestors in Africa. Like in other patriarchal society all over the world, women have their own ―sphere‖ and they are forbidden to do some things and of course inferior to their male counterparts. This condition can be seen from the account written by Amanda Berry Smith, a 19th century black missionary who visited Africa, which is written in Bell Hooks‘ book:

The poor women of Africa, like those of India, have a hard time. As a rule, they have all the hard work to do. They have to cut and carry all the wood, carry all the water on their heads, and plant all the rice. The men and boys cut and burn the bush, with the help of the women; but sowing the rice, and planting the cassava, the women have to do.

You will often see a great, big man walking ahead with nothing in his hand but a cutlass (as they always carry that or a spear), and a woman, his wife, coming on behind with a great big child on her back, and a load on her head. No matter how tired she is, her lord would not think of bringing her a jar of water, to cook his supper with, or of beating the rice, no, she must do that. (1981, p. 16-17)

Black women thought that they must do the most work and it‘s their nature to do so. They were taught that they should obey whatever the higher positioned people told

them to do, because it‘s their nature to do so. In the Black society, women saw


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did not know, or actually they did not want to know, that they were the one who got exploited the most. This idea spread widely and it became common idea of black woman inferiority, and no one would be able to tackle it without revolutionary ideas.

By the beginning of the black liberation movement, the black men got the leadership position and black women should be there to support them because it was their proper role (Lewis, 1977). According to Bell Hooks on her book, she states that black men were able to let out the sexism issue from their liberation movement because they see women as an object, and they saw racism was way more important issue. The slavery done by the whites to the blacks only reinforced more on the

blacks‘belief on the inferiority of women, and ―the devaluation of black womanhood

occurred as the result of the sexual exploitation of black women during slavery that

has not altered in the course of hundreds of years‖ (1981, p. 53).


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that ―historically, their interests as blacks have taken precedence over their interests as women‖ (1977, p. 343).

Black matriarchy was one of the reasons why black men were trying to put black women under their control. They were regarded of having ―too much control and power in their families‖ (Cazenave, 1983, p. 341). Black women used to earn more money than the men, although this did not necessarily put the women as the breadwinner. After the Civil War, black women had better jobs in many sectors such as education, nursing, maid, etc, and had bigger opportunity in the society. Some black men thought that they had to do something to ‗keep down‘ the women and to make them respect the powerful one. This was done by coercion; in some families, spanking or hitting was a way to discipline family member to show who was in charge in the house.

B. True Womanhood


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denied that the cult of true womanhood could never be separated from the life of white and black American woman.

All of theories about ideal woman or true womanhood hold the same ideas that woman‘s most proper sphere is home and womanhood equals to motherhood. Woman played important roles in her private sphere; she should be able to maintain order in their home when her husband was away, financial security, and of course the social status. To be a true woman, women were expected to have four main personalities; they are ―piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity‖ (―‖, 2008).

Woman in pedestal, although pretty famous for white mistress in the slavery era, was the most common condition for women in the late 19th century, women were highly valued and expected to be her husband‘s loyal partner, and they were

―expected to be a wife, mother, homemaker, cook, seamstress, and gardener‖ (Hagler,

1980, p. 412). Most of Southern writers placed their setting in the agriculture realm, this was because most of Southerners were agriculturalists. Easier to say is that most of the wives of these farmers were expected to stay at home, taking care of the house, being ‗the keepers of the house‘. Some families thought that women should know how to cook, clean, and take care of household duties, they were not expected to employ servant to do their supposed household duties.


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ornamental‖ (Hagler, 1980, p. 417). The ladies might be the portrayal of the European noblewomen in the Victorian era. These ladies gossiped with other ladies, talked about poetry and literature, sat idly in the drawing room while playing piano or enjoying another idle day in their houses. Hagler states that though there were two different supporters of ideal women in the South at that time, the Lady and the Farmwives—who had different characteristics, these supporters hold same perception that ―Southern women should be sensible and practical and should strife to be perfect wives, devoted mothers, and impeccable homemakers‖ (1980, p. 406).

Hagler states through his research entitled The Ideal Woman in the Antebellum South: Lady or Farmwife,

―A letter in the Farmer and Planter put the matter succinctly:

Many farmers will scrimp themselves to send their daughters to boarding schools to make ladies of them. These ladies return after a year or two, mostly full of genteel notions; they have learned to play the piano, knit edging, and work sky blue dogs in worsted. They have, as I said, become ladies; they not only will let their hard working mothers do all the house work and oversee the diary [sic], but they have such great ideas of their own worth they will hardly recognize their former associates because they are farmers and mechanics and work for a living; such occupations they despise, but they are greatly charmed with professional men and such, who live by their wits.‖ (Hagler, 1980, p. 407)


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novels and piano playing a waste of time better spent in various ‗useful‘ labors‖ (Hagler, 1980, p. 407). Women who were expected to learn how to cook and to take care of the house spent most of their leisure time in the drawing room showing off their fine dress and jewelries to other ladies. Although this condition only appeared to the haves, most of these women tried to wear fashionable dress. Being unable to do the household works by themselves, these young ladies were trained on how to order house servants, and in here the role of black woman as the housekeeper was needed.

In Southern America, women might work in the fields in which were the extensions of their role of mother and wife. Women were allowed to work as teachers, nurses, servants, secretaries but none or very few of them started chasing careers like men did. Very few made careers in the public sphere. It was still okay for women to work in the political sectors, but not as the politician, they were there to support the men (the politicians).

C. Black Womanhood


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―The bipolar conceptualization of Black and White womanhood assigned Black women all the negative traits of disgrace whereas White women were attributed all the idealized aspects of ―true womanhood‖, such as piety, deference, domesticity, passionlessness, chastity, cleanness, and fragility. Conversely, Black women were conceiver and pictured as primitive, lustful, seductive, physically strong, domineering, unwomanly and dirty. There was a breadth of stereotypical perceptions of Black women, which placed them outside the enclave of delicacy, femininity, respectability, and virtue.‖ (Morton in Mgadmi, 2009, para. 2)

As ideal woman were supposed to be passionless, fragile, unattractive, and subservient to the men in their life and of course, light-skinned. This could not be applied to the fixed image of the black women who were strong, big, passionate, and obviously dark-skinned. True womanhood was meant for the white woman in the first place, only white woman with European blood could be true woman. While ―white women are highly valued as helpmate, sex object, and driving force behind every successful man‖, black women is the negative portrayal of womanhood‖ (Lewis, 1977, p. 344). In many literature concerning life in South, Black woman always existed as the negative force in the opposite of innocent white woman.

Taken from many white literatures in the slavery and slightly post-slavery era, the recurring portrayal of black woman pointed by Patricia Morton, somehow even after the civil rights movement this stereotype was unlikely to go away. The mammy is the most common type because most black women work as domestic servant thus they were regarded as ‗devoted housekeepers‘. Mgadmi states that:


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image were in tune with the Victorian ideals of womanhood, and thus fashioned her idealized image. (2009, para. 3)

With the help of the Mammy‘s masculinity, this only empowers the feminine image of their white mistress; strengthen the concept of fragile and delicate Southern women.

The Jezebel or sex object, this could be gained easily because black women were seen as passionate and seducing, compared to the ―passionlessness‖ of the white woman. In white patriarchy, a true woman should remain passionless and through marriage a woman could get their passion fulfilled, and passionate black women was a bad thing. Black women were seen as devalued sex object while white woman were seen as highly valued sex object, which practically put them higher. A lot of cases about black woman raping or sexual abuse by the white males remained unsolved showed how the society devalued black woman, regarded them as less important, or even it was not their problems. It was not the white male‘s fault for them to get sexually attracted, it was black women‘s fault for being sexually attractive.


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the more Negro people would come up among the white society. They regarded this as an ―infection and pollution in the white society‖ (Morton in Mgadmi, 1991). By calling them ―a product of sin of all greatest sin, and the offspring of an unnatural relationship‖, the whites gave these mulatto stereotypes of being ―dangerous and unstable‖ (Mgadmi, 2009, para. 10).

These negative black womanhood image created by the white society was countered by the black society, through many of their writings. Some thought that the value of true womanhood is the reversion for black women, and they should seek their own womanhood, because true womanhood of the whites would never ever be theirs to claim. When some blacks were trying to counter this devaluation by promoting self-respect to the black females and to define their own womanhood, some black scholars tried to ―reshaped the bad image of black women into a good feminine picture aligning with white society‘s patriarchy ideals‖ (Mgadmi, 2009, para. 8). Indeed there were a lot of literatures and groups which tried to put women to fit the image of the white true women, black Madonna was what they called.


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society created for them could never be applied to black women. In order to fit the image of Black Madonna, black women‘s club movement promote the respectable image of black by doing ―educational meetings and by writing magazine articles extolling the virtues the women of their class‖ (Kaiser, 1995, p. 101).

Black Madonna supported the trial of reshaping black female image to fit the cult of true womanhood by civilizing black females to wear ‗appropriate‘ dress, sanitation, cooking, dressmaking, moral teaching to boys and girls, and more importantly to teach them about sexual mores of the Victorian women. Probably their purpose was noble, to banish the negative stereotypes of black woman, but in the process they dress and behave like white women, almost losing their black womanhood. By doing these entire civilizing things, black scholars actually

―underestimated their own values and ideals and admitted their cultural inferiority‖

(Mgadmi, 2009, para. 8).

Actually women‘s role in black or white society was not that much any of difference. White and black societies were patriarchal society, thus they expected women to be in the domestic sphere, inferior to the men, and of course motherhood and marriage were their proper nature as a woman.

D. Feminist Literary Criticism

Critical analysis of literary works based on the feminist perspective, or commonly called as feminist literary criticism, is used to analyze or being used as an


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somehow reject the patriarchal language that has dominated literature‖ (Ady in

Lewis, 2008, para. 1). On a book entitles Literary Theory: the Basics written by Hans Bertens (2001), he writes about feminist criticism which could be used in analyzing literature, especially related to the black woman issue, which is further developed in African-American criticism.

At the first time feminist literary criticism revolves around the desire to challenge or redefine the literary canon, which is dominated by men, this somehow gives chance and space to women. Debates came from the critics (who were mostly men) who defied the theory as they see literature as literature, and the critics think that there's no need to differentiate the author or the way the works was written. A research suggested different thing because fiction from 18th and 19th century was untrue to women's experience, rather the works are male-oriented, and women were seen as the enemy.


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According to Kolodny on Some Notes on Defining a “Feminist Literary Criticism”, she states that:

When applied to the study of literature, it is used in a variety of contexts to cover a variety of activities, including (1) any criticism written by a woman, no matter what the subject; (2) any criticism written by a woman about a man's book which treats that book from a "political" or "feminist" perspective; and (3) any criticism written by a woman about a woman's book or about female authors in general (1975, p. 75).

From the essay written by Opperman on Feminist Literary Criticism: Expanding the Canon as Regards the Novel, he states that feminist literary criticism can be applied to any female writing, not only criticism or writings from feminists. Opperman states

that ―female writing can be taken as special female expression of women's

perspective on a variety of social, cultural, or political issue without being commited to the feminist position‖ (1994, Chapter II para.10).

Both novels, The Color Purple and The Keeper of the House are written by women—although being different from their race. Alice Walker has been in the list of black feminist through her literary works, and her obvious writings which invoke black feminism and somehow bring negative image of black males. Shirley Ann Grau can also be considered as feminist, although most of her writings bring the issue of race rather than gender, she empowers women through her writing.


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Woman Rights Movement. Although both novels are written differently with the values of their own races, the role of woman as the narrator gives the power to the feminist literary criticism, as the common voice in narratives is previously man (Opperman, 1994). Women previously are speechless.

Alice Walker writes The Color Purple with pretty clear portrayal of the struggle of Celie, a black woman who wants to be free from her male counterparts‘ subordination practice, which she successfully achieves. Through some characters on her novels, Alice Walker encourages all black women to be able to fight back whatever kind of inferiority practice directed to them and to speak what on their mind.

In the other hand, Shirley Ann Grau seems to be focusing her story on Abigail Howland‘s life and point of view towards black women—and in some parts she also gives remarks on Southern white women. In writing her novel, Shirley implicitly sympathizes black women, she does not necessarily show supportive act towards them. Abigail‘s point although being supportive and respective towards Margaret, she does not take side to the blacks. Shirley seems to concern more to the Southern white women, in this case Abigail Howland, and to the fact that women are as capable as the men.

E. The Color Purple and The Keepers of the House

On analyzing the whole content of the story, it will be important to also include the summary of both literary works used in the analysis.


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The Color Purple was published in 1982. The novel is considered as successful novel and it received Pulitzer Prize in 1985. This novel receives a lot of praise and in the same time, criticism for its controversial theme. One reason is how Alice Walker's depiction of negative black males in the novel; makes it as if black man hater novel. While others criticized the way she portrays black males, many praised her for her powerful portraits of black women. According to a review in, ―reviewers praised her for her use of the epistolary

form, in which written correspondence between characters comprises the content of the book, and her ability to use black folk English‖ (1999, para. 1). In the novel Alice Walker focuses how black women suffer from double discrimination, the white community and from black males.


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Although always being oppressed, in the end Celie manages to 'fight back' and gains her freedom where she lives well with Nettie, Shug and Sofia who remarries Harpo. 2. The Keepers of the House

The Keepers of the House is Shirley Ann Grau's fourth novel and receives a Pulitzer Prize in 1964 for Fiction. This novel is accounted as Grau's best work to date. The story focuses on the Howlands, mainly on Will and Abigail. Abigail is the main narrator of the novel and the focus on the fourth chapter. The first chapter is the prolog from Abigail Howland—Will Howland‘s granddaughter. The second chapter tells about the life of Will Howland, from his youth until he goes back to Madison City bringing a wife with him. His wife passes away not long after she gives birth to Abigail. When his daughter gets married to an Englishman and moves away from the Howlands Estate, Will goes to his adventure where he coincidentally meets Margaret Carmichael.


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The fourth chapter is the climax point of the novel which starts when Abigail and her mother come to stay at her grandfather‘s house. She is aware of the black woman as the housekeeper and she sees the intimacy in their relationship. She also realizes that Margaret‘s children are also her grandfather‘s. Unknowingly, Will marries Margaret—the African American housekeeper. At that time interracial marriage is prohibited in some Southern countries, and they go to Cleveland to legalize the marriage. When the news reaches the press, this angers the people of Madison City and ruins John Tolliver‘s—Abigail‘s husband—political career and his marriage. The rage of the townspeople makes them attack the Howland estate, although it is long after the death of Will and Margaret. Abigail succeeds on defending her land, and she decides to avenge on what the townspeople have done to her family.

This novel brings out the racism issue in the South, which at that time being the most crucial issue. Grau writes about the racist Southerners, which is in the novel portrayed as John Tolliver who is a racist and mostly gives a racist speech against the blacks.

F. Alice Walker and Shirley Ann Grau


commit to user 1. Alice Walker

Alice Walker was born and raised in Georgia. When Walker was eight years old, her brother accidentally shot her with a gun, made her blind in one eye. This injury played a great role on building her self-conscious, and she started writing poetry. In Georgia where people would call a girl ―womanish‖, Alice Walker captures the spirit of the ―womanist‖—the term she created herself, where she reflects it through her fictional characters. She defines her own black feminism and use the color purple to symbolize her feminism, which is depicted on her novel The Color Purple. In the 1965, after graduating, she went to Mississippi and joined the Civil Rights Movement. Her participation in the Civil Rights Movement more or less influenced her political and social views which she expresses it through her literary works. This does not only influence her thoughts on racial issues, but also develop her interest of her root in Africa, which is well reflected through Nettie‘s description in The Color Purple. Alice Walker‘s first novel was published in 1970 and her second one in 1976. Both books dealt with the Civil Rights Movement. The Color Purple which is published in 1982 is her most successful work and made her an important American writer.

According to Lena M. Ampadu on Black Women Writers as Dynamic Agents of Change: Empowering Women from Africa to America, she states that:

Alice Walker has four-pronged definition of womanist:

1—womanist—from ―womanish‖. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, or willful behavior.


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4—woman who loves other women sexually and/or nonsexually (2006, p. 3) Her concept of women as described above is reflected on her many literary works, and The Color Purple is a good example. These concepts are reflected on her black woman characters, Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery, and Sofia.

2. Shirley Ann Grau

Shirley Ann Grau is a white Southerner writer, who mainly deals with blacks and its culture. She mainly writes about sex and gender, and most of them have the same setting in Deep South. She was ―raised in Alabama and Louisiana during the middle years of the century—a period when the races were segregated by law—Grau has written some of the most accurate portrayals of African-American life ever produced in American literature‖ (Allen-Taylor, 1998, para. 10). Her work style may be best described as ―tough, cold, and realistic‖ (Eisinger, 1999, para. 2). Although mainly she takes the first point of view on her novels, she is pretty well-known for her non-sentimental style and she maintains distance from her characters, and depicts them as objective as possible. She already writes six novels and many short stories and most of them are set primarily in Deep South –including the blacks and Hispanics.


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commit to user CHAPTER III


The cult of true womanhood emerging in the early 20th century also influenced the concept of black womanhood narrated in many black or white literatures. This concept of true womanhood closely related to the white woman was adapted by the black women in their Black Madonna movement. Black Madonna was black woman movement made popular in the early 20th century in order to banish negative stereotyped images of black womanhood, such as whore, prostitutes, matriarchs, ―masculinized sub-human creature‖, and sex object. In doing this, they adapted the

values of white woman to fit the image of ideal woman.

The first part of this chapter is the social and cultural setting of The Color Purple and The Keepers of the House. The second subchapter is the comparison studies of the portrayal of black women in both novels. The black woman portrayal is presented under the limitation of the portrayal to fit the image of the ideal woman in early 20th century.

A. In Comparison: Cultural and Social Setting of The Color Purple and The

Keepers of the House

Being differently written by black and white woman writers, The Color Purple and The Keepers of the House focuses on the two different thing if it comes to the


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setting of the novel. Although both novels take Deep South and the early 20th century as the main setting, both writers try to talk about different issue. In The Color Purple segregation and the struggle for Civil Rights Movement and racism are not depicted as much as in The Keepers of the House. Alice Walker seems to make the focus of the story to black woman issue in black community and the empowering of black woman self-confidence. Through The Color Purple she exploits much on the oppression black woman should endure and in the same time they have to keep their passive role as a mother and a wife.

While in The Keepers of the House, racism is one of the issues Shirley Ann Grau wanted to explore. She gives more description on racism, segregation practice, and other racial issues. Through her writing on Abigail‘s point of view, she shows that the practice of segregation and racism is a part of the living in South. Grau then focuses on the woman power almost from the third-quarter of the book, which is depicted through Abigail as a white woman.

1. Racism and Segregation Practice as Depicted in Both Novels


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They also wrote many critical essays and fictions which actually established the key concepts as the base of the black feminist theoretical approaches. Some literatures written by black women focused on the physical and psychological black women‘s oppression done by the Black men in the segregated society. These literatures written by the black women then gave difference on white feminism and black feminism, as they thought white and black woman had totally different woman issue.

The setting of the novel is also important for the portrayal analysis since the setting gives the precise timeline for relating with the real event about black woman in the society at the related year in the novel. The setting also gives the picture of what happened with Southern community, both black and white community. Thus it will be easier for the analysis to relate contextually. As I take the particular time of the early 20th century image of ideal woman, the setting should be displayed as the proof that the setting of the novel really happened around that time. Ergo, there will not be any time gap for the analysis. The setting of both novels also affects the plausibility of the literary works and how it served as close-to-reality novel.


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States, mostly in the Southern United States, and this condition is portrayed in both novels, though differently. In The Color Purple it is seen through Celie‘s letter to God and Nettie‘s letter to Celie, while in The Keepers of the House through Abigail‘s point of view.

The Color Purple takes place in rural Georgia and focuses on the life of black families and specifically on black women, though in some parts it addresses white families. The white family story is presented through Sofia‘s story where she and her husband go to the city and meet the Mayor and his wife. Here it can be seen the stereotype the whites had towards black woman;

Sofia and the prizefighter and all the children got in the prizefighter car and went to town. Clam out on the street looking like somebody. Just then the mayor and his wife come by.

All these children, say the mayor‘s wife, digging in her pocketbook. Cute as little buttons though, she say. She stop, put her hand on one of the children head. Say, and such strong with teef.

Sofia and the prizefighter don‘t say nothing. Wait for her to pass.


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The Color Purple portrays that the whites‘ life is not really involved with the blacks, since the blacks have their own part of town and community. As stated by Jones, ―…. To cite an extreme counter-example, we need only consider the black settlements on the Georgia and South Carolina Sea Islands...‖ (1992, p. 337), black settlement was a common thing in the year between the two world wars and before the Civil Rights Movement. Most of the blacks worked liberally as farmer or shopkeeper, so it was unlikely for them to relate to the whites. This probably due to the fact that most black men were unwilling on working with the whites because they regarded most of the job options were menial job with low wages and respect; while it was okay and common thing for black women to work for the whites as servant or nanny. The reason why some black women worked was due to the poverty which made them have to work to support the family, ―but most of the jobs available to black women were in the most devalued field that of domestic service‖ (Dumenil, 1995, p. 10).

The inclusion of the white society part in The Color Purple only shows the racism issue in the society;

Well, say Sofia, I was so use to sitting up there next to her teaching her how to drive, that I just naturally clammed into the front seat.

She stood outside on her side of car clearing her throat. Finally she say, Sofia, with a little laugh, This is the South. Yes ma‘am, I say.

She clear her throat, laugh some more. Look where you sitting, she say. I‘m sitting where I always sit, I say.


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Although practically Sofia always shows her how to drive, when she have to drive herself, Sofia is no longer needed and she is thrown off in the back seat. This shows that Miss Millie is no longer comfortable of having black woman acquires control over her. She urgently shows that she is in charge. The blacks and the whites are never be in the equal position is shown too, by her giving more emphasize on this is South. It is as if saying that in South, blacks and whites sitting side by side in a car is such a ridiculous thing to encounter.

Not only racist remarks from the whites, the blacks also have some racist stereotype images towards the whites:

Us dress Squeak like she a white woman, only her clothes patch. She got on starch and iron dress, high heel shoes, with scuffs, and a old hat somebody give Shug. Us give her a old pocketbook look like a quilt and a little black bible. Us wash her hair and git all the grease out, then I put it up in two plaits that cross over her head. Us bathe her so clean she smell like a good clean floor. (Walker, 1982, p. 99)

The way white women dressed were different from the blacks. Most of black women only wore proper dress and a head rag which enabled them to do household works comfortably. The whites, in the opposite, tried to always look clean and fashionable. Although it looked uncomfortable, most white women would always dress like Squeak in public places.


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they had better chance on living. From the account of Nettie's description, it shows that the Southern part of United States is under-developed.

The letter from Nettie to Celie describes Nettie‘s experience when she travels to New York for the first time. Just like in Southern U.S., African-Americans have their own black community. She states that, ―And colored own a whole section of it, called Harlem. There are colored people in more fancy motor cars than I thought existed, and living in houses that are finer than any white person‘s house down home‖ (Walker, 1982, p. 139). The African-Americans live in Northern U.S. lead a better living and they have better chances on having high-positioned jobs as doctors or lawyers; ―…. Then we were examined by a doctor (colored!) and given medical supplies for…‖ (Walker, 1982, p. 140). The surprised tone Nettie has in her letter shows that this never occurs in the Deep South, her hometown. Most African-Americans in Deep South only work as farmer, or shopkeeper, or the best job might be a preacher. However, segregation practice still applies in most of the town facility, as in:

What can I tell you about New York—or even about the train that took us there! We had to ride in the sit-down section of the train, but Celie, there are beds on trains! And a restaurant! And toilets! The beds come down out of the walls, over the tops of the seat, and are called berths. Only white people can ride in the beds and use the restaurant. And they have different toilets from colored. (Walker, 1982, p.139)


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Renaissance does not really affect the Deep South. The flourishing of black cultures can only be found from Nettie‘s letter when she is in New York, on how beautiful the Harlem area in New York is, and what kind of fashion they have. Historically New York was the center of the Harlem Renaissance, as stated in A Nation of Peoples by Elliot Robert Barkan, ―New York was the center of American culture and black music, including blues and dance forms, such as the cakewalk, which spread nationwide, aided by the radio and the new record industry‖ (1999, p. 33).

It is slightly shown that black music is popular in the Deep South and Memphis from how Shug‘s singing is enjoyed by the black men, from their tendency of going to pubs or bars and how they cherish Shug. However, Shug‘s performance sometimes triggers bad remarks from black women who regard her as a slut, from how inappropriate she dresses and sings songs.


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support their life. As described through Celie‘s letter on the owning of the fields and animals:

…. Old Mr. ____ been selling off the place so that nothing much left but the houses and the fields. My and Harpo fields bring in more than anybody. …

… I rather be out in the fields or fooling with the animals. Even chopping woods… (Walker, 1982, p. 63-66)

Although Margaret‘s family is not rich, they still have some fields and animals, as stated in:

…. She had work to do; it was midsummer and the tomato plants needed her time. It was a pretty poor woman who couldn‘t grow enough tomatoes to line her pantry shelves for the winter. (Grau, 1964, p. 84)


…. She went to the barn. It was jammed with animals, but she found an empty feeding trough and climbed in. … (Grau, 1964, p. 96)

From the field and livestock they can provide constant food and needs for the family. The main family of the blacks in The Color Purple and The Keepers of the House do not look for another job to support the family, meaning the crops and livestock serve them enough. Although in most black family when children are mature enough, some of them will go look for another job, like Mr. ____ describes his children who go away from the house to look for their own fortune:

…. Bub come with me for two weeks, stole all the money, laid up on the porch drunk. My girls so far off into mens and religion they can‘t hardly talk. Everytime they open they mouth some kind of plea come out. Near bout to broke my sorry heart. (Walker, 1982, p. 280)




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