Danielle Mullard Compare how Winterson and Walter present their main characters. How are these characters used to shape the narrative and structure of the novels Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Color Purple? Jeanette Winterson and Alice Walker show realism and the development and shape of their character throughout the novels. Through their main characters, they achieve this with their use of narrative and structure. Jeanette from Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and Celie from The Color Purple are two very different, young women who have struggled through their lives.
Jeanette is a young, white girl from England who is heavily influenced by her strong-willed mother, whereas Celie is a young, black woman from America who has been abused for most of her life by men. Winterson uses a 1st person narrative while Walker uses letters as her structure in her novel. Both of these narrative structures show a different interpretation of the physical and mental abuse their characters suffer throughout their novels. Walker shows through the emotional language used that Celie has been subject to abuse from a very young age. Firstly, her father, Alphonso, sexually abused her and called her “ugly”.
This is why her character is seen as very silent “he don’t never look at me straight” and almost invisible to other characters. Through Celie’s letters to God, the reader can see how horrific her life has been “he grab hold of me and cram me up tween his legs” and he or she can see what she has been forced to endure. The reader would feel uncomfortable and very sympathetic towards Celie because of all she has had to suffer and tolerate throughout her life. By using letters, Walker can write the events of Celie’s life in whatever order she chooses.
Walker seems to have chosen to use a chronological order with memories of Celie’s life in between which makes Celie seem more ‘real’ in my opinion because in real life, you do not write in order of events in a diary or; in this case, letters to God and also the fragmented narrative creates a compassion for Celie. On the other hand, Winterson shows Jeanette’s father is very absent throughout the novel, often being referred to as “her husband” making it obvious, I believe, that Jeanette’s life is taken over by her mother, in my opinion.
Winterson has shown this by repeatedly mentioning her mother in the first few pages of the novel, “my mother got up early on Sundays and allowed no one into the parlour until ten o’clock” whereas, she only mentions her father once “My father liked to watch the wrestling”. This automatically shows the reader that Jeanette’s mother is going to be a significant character in the novel. I believe that Winterson is trying to show to the reader that the character, Jeanette is almost being brainwashed by her mother.
Walker makes this obvious to the reader because the beginning of the narrative of Jeanette in the novel is all about her mother “My mother got up early … It was her place of prayer … She always prayed standing up”. Jeanette is very observant of her mother in her early life by repeatedly mentioning and talking about different things her mother is up to and they always include the Christian religion. Walker continuously shows the reader that Jeanette’s mother is taking over her daughter’s life by constantly talking about God and Christianity “Who was the oldest man in the Bible? so she would become the perfect missionary to go and spread Christianity around the world. In Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, Jeanette finds her way out of a very restricted life of obedience and faith “One thing is certain; she can’t go back”. However, then, in The Color Purple, Walker shows that Celie has also escapes her life of mental and physical abuse and ends up the happiest she has ever been “us so happy … this the youngest us ever felt” because she is finally free of anything that was holding her back and her language, in my opinion, seems to become more clear the nearer the reader gets to the end of the novel.
Celie’s life of abuse could be seen as captivity by a reader in my opinion because she is not allowed to do anything unless her husband allows it, and throughout the novel, Celie is always at home or with Mr ____ until she leaves him. As Celie and Jeanette’s narratives makes obvious that they are both very religious “Sunday was the Lord’s day, the most vigorous day of the whole week” and Winterson and Walker use religious references to show this.
Almost all of Celie’s narrative is her letters to God, the Epistolary technique; using letters as the main use or all of the narrative; and Jeanette was adopted so she could spread Christianity across the globe. Jeanette seems to know that this is what she is here for “I cannot recall a time when I did not know that I was special”, and Winterson shows the reader that her mother wants Jeanette to grow up and have one purpose which is to serve God and become a missionary and Winterson shows this by repeating it in Jeanette’s narrative.
Winterson and Walker both use education in their narratives. Education is one of the biggest differences between the protagonists of the two novels. Celie is severely uneducated and the reader can ‘hear’ her accent when they read the novel. However, the accent that comes across in Jeanette’s language is very ‘posh’ and ‘proper’ English because she spells everything correctly and uses good grammar which is a complete opposite to Walker’s novel.
Walker seem to want the reader to feel uncomfortable with the way she uses the language because it is hard to read at first “Who dis woman, say Squeak, in this little teenouncy voice” because of Walker writes with Celie’s accent in mind. Celie’s narrative is her release from the abuse she suffers from her husband, Mr ____ also known as Albert and her father. Walker reveals that Celie began writing to God when her father, Alphonso, said “better not never tell nobody but God”. I think Walker did this to show that religion is very important to Celie.
Her letters to God are her only way to share her feelings and it is also showing that Walker wants the reader to see Celie’s self expressions which is actually partly from Walker’s own life. Alice Walker tries to speak through Celie about her lack of faith at certain points in her personal life. Walker makes obvious that Celie sees God as a distant figure. She doubts God even cares about her concerns but she still tries to write as well as she can despite her lack of education. When the reader sees her sister, Nettie’s letters, Celie’s lack of education becomes very clear.
I believe some readers would find the language difficult to follow at first and maybe even a bit off putting when they begin the novel. This is used because Walker wants to make the reader feel uncomfortable and maybe even confused by the use of language however, I believe Walker uses bad grammar and spelling for Celie to show that she is still quite young and vulnerable and this makes the reader feel closer to Celie as a character because you can feel sympathy for her, in my opinion.
Also, the massive gap between the sisters as Celie has no idea if Nettie is alive and Nettie is not sure if Celie has ever received a single letter from her. Winterson makes Jeanette’s language is a lot more educated and ‘proper’ than Celie’s because she was taught to read from the Bible “My mother taught me to read from the Book of Deuteronomy”. You can see that Jeanette has had a full education even though she was taken out of school for being over religious. Nevertheless, she may be educated, but you can see as a reader that
Winterson has made Jeanette very naive about the world because her mother has kept her in a ‘bubble’ so that Jeanette cannot find out about the world because, I believe, her mother feels like it will corrupt Jeanette from being the perfect missionary that Jeanette’s mother has always envisioned. The narrative structure of Winterson’s novel is a bit like a diary or autobiography because Jeanette writes about her life and what she has been through from a young age all the way up to a fully grown, young woman.
Jeanette’s narrative is all about her growth as a character and how she develops her own path in life instead of living the life her mother wants her to. Winterson makes it clear that all Jeanette’s mother wants from Jeanette is a perfect missionary. That is the reason that she Adopted Jeanette, also because she believe that fornicating is wrong. The Color Purple and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit are very similar even though they have been written in different times and different countries.
There are some differences, such as Winterson and Walker both write about how their characters escape ‘captivity’ from other characters like the men in Celie’s life and Jeanette’s mother. Winterson seems to focus on the main character, Jeanette, by using a narrative technique and this makes a suggestion that the novel is autobiographical or like a diary. Walker uses the Epistolary technique; which is when an author uses letters.
This creates a similar feeling to Winterson’s method of using an autobiographical style. On the other hand, Walker’s main difference is that her main character, Celie only seems to be concerned with what is going on with the other characters and how they are feeling about their lives and about her. This could be seen to make the reader feel as though he or she are inside Celie’s world.
The authors of The Color Purple and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit show that both of their characters have the same sexual orientation which affects both their lives significantly and gets the other characters to reject Jeanette and gives Celie confidence.. For Jeanette, it means she gets rejected by almost everyone she knows and for Celie, it gives her the confidence she desperately needs and she is freed sexually as well because she feels pleasure for the first time thanks to Shug Avery, the character who helps Celie through her marriage and her life with Mr ____.
Winterson makes the character of Jeanette grow up when she finally realises that she is a lesbian and Walker makes Celie realise her potential and appreciate her life. Winterson and Walker use narrative and structure to shape their main characters and show their journeys and developments as the protagonists. In Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and The Color Purple, the reader can see that the character of Jeanette and Celie are realising their potentials and what they can achieve when they take control of their own lives.