Women and Oppression in Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" and Kate Chopin's "The Awakening"

Publication Year



Literature, women, oppression, Alice Walker, Kate Chopin, suffering


African American Studies | Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Fiction


This paper explores the oppression of women in two novels: Alice Walker's The Color Purple, and Kate Chopin's The Awakening. The novels are first treated separately to review the reactions of the two main characters, Celie and Edna, to suffering. Next, the two characters are compared to explain why Edna fails to overcome oppression, while Celie succeeds. This analysis reveals two factors necessary for a woman to overcome oppression. First, she must realize that she is a victim who suffers from an injustice. Second, she must have the self-esteem necessary to defend her rights. Quite often she must also seek help, for without support, she may be destroyed by oppressive forces that tend to isolate her in her despair. With these strengths she may triumph without them she will fail. The focus is on suffering caused by oppression rather than by natural forces. Consequently, the words "suffering" and "oppression" are used almost synonymously, since the suffering referred to is only that which is a direct result of the oppression.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

This document is currently unavailable online.