Alice Walker is a famous author and activist from the United States who has received numerous awards for her influential works. She was born in 1944, a period when the Jim Crow rules were still powerful in the American society. Despite their low financial capabilities, her parents protected their children from the cruel property owners who expected minors from the black community to work in their farms. Accordingly, her mother enrolled her in a formal academic institution at an early age. In addition, she enhanced her skills in literature by listening to tales from her grandfather. This formed a strong basis for her career as an author. At the age of eight, her brother shot a BB gun at her. This resulted in a visible scar on her right eye especially since her parents did not have enough money to take her to a doctor on time.
This unfortunate incident had a significant impact on her sense of worth. She withdrew from the outer world and became extremely shy. She perceived writing and poetry as her only companion. However, at the age of 14, the doctors removed the scar. This was highly beneficial to her self-esteem. She became the most popular female in their class and was crowned queen of her course group. She has frequently asserted that this accident enabled her to appreciate the people and things around her. Moreover, she understood that patience is one of the crucial virtues in a person’s life. After completing high school, she obtained a full scholarship and attended Spelman College before transferring to Sarah Lawrence College. During this period, her interest in the civil rights movement of the United States increased through the inspiration from Howard Zinn who was a human rights activist and professor at Spelman College.
Her enthusiasm as an activist of the marginalized African American community has a relation with the challenges that she faced in her journey to attain formal education. In her former years, the Jim Crow rules were applicable. Although she had an opportunity to join the formal academic system of the United States, she had to attend segregated schools. Moreover, she had been living in the southern region of the country, an area secluded for the black community by the racist authorities. Having experienced racism and sexism for a significant section of her life, Walker gained interests in the human rights activism movement of the United States. In line with this zeal, she visited the African continent as part of her research program while studying at Sarah Lawrence College. This strong foundation has bred a well-established activist who has been extremely vocal in fighting for the rights of the black community. She has been focusing on the challenges faced by women from her community due to their gender and racial background.
Her passion of fighting for the human rights of all the politically, socially, religiously, and economically oppressed individuals, is the reason why she met Martin Luther King Jr. in the early 1960s while still studying at Spelman College. On several occasions, she has engaged in civil rights movements with the main aim of fighting for the civil liberties of the oppressed people in the United States and other regions of the world. For instance, as the world celebrated the International Women’s Day in 2003, she engaged in a protest, in close proximity, to the White House to condemn the planned war on Iraq. Subsequently, she was arrested along with other authors for closing the police line. In terms of her marriage life, she was the first woman to have a legal inter-racial marriage in Mississippi. This is after she married Melvyn Leventhal, a human rights lawyer from the Jewish community, in 1967. They often received threats from members of the white community including the Ku Klux Klan. However, they divorced in 1976.
Contributions to Literature
As an author, she has made several vital contributions to literature at the national and international levels. This justifies her numerous recognitions by individuals, organizations and other societal groups. Some of her famous compilations include four short stories collections, seven novels, and four children’s books. In addition, she has documented numerous essays, in addition to her significant contributions, to poetry. One of her famous books in The Color Purple, which was published in 1983. This book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, facilitated her record as the first woman from the African American community to win this award although she has often stated that more women had deserved such recognition. The novel formed the story line for Steven Spielberg’s movie in 1985 and later became a key piece at Broadway Theatre in New York in 2005. Another literature piece is Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), which entails the disturbing effects of female genital mutilation (FGM). Other novels include The Third Life of Grange Copeland, Now Is the Time to Open Your Heart, and By the Light of My Father’s Smile.
In addition to her large collection of short stories such as In love & Trouble and Stories of Black Women, she has composed numerous poems. These collections are in different languages, an aspect that has made it easy for people from different ethnic communities around the world to appreciate her contributions to literature. She mostly uses a feminist approach to highlight the challenges faced by people in the black community and other marginalized societal groups in a society that is yet to fully abandon racist, sexist, and classist ideologies. In 2007, she donated numerous manuscripts to Emory’s University Library. This collection included her poems, unpublished books, and short stories. It was a suitable approach of promoting the reading culture, in addition to increasing the students’ appreciation for literature. Most of her contributions to literature are in line with her ideologies regarding human rights and the need to end oppressive practices and ideologies. In addition, she presented her ideas as an activist and author in The 11th Annual Steve Biko Lecture in South Africa at the University of Cape Town.
These contributions have earned her numerous awards. This includes the National Book Award and recognition by the Guggenheim fellowship. In addition, she is one of the initial trainees into the California Hall of Fame. Moreover, she received the Ono Peace Grant award in Iceland following her presentation in the University of Cape Town. These awards confirm her enormous contributions to literature. In the recent past, she has published various manuscripts, which have gained popularity in all geological regions of the globe. This includes Overcoming Speechlessness, The Chicken Chronicles, and Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.
The Flowers is one of the most popular short stories written by Alice Walker. She structures the plot by focusing on the life of Myop. She is a young girl whose childhood- blamelessness becomes subject to the cruelty of human beings and nature. The subsequent narrations depict a society defined by racist, sexist, and classist ideologies. Walker wrote this short story in 1973. During this period, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States strived to promote equality by protesting against the racist practices and principles upheld by the community and authorities. This was because of the fear shown by the members of the African American group with reference to the purported supremacy of the white community. In line with this setting, Myop, the ten-year-old girl from the black community, is a daughter of sharecroppers. Similar to other family units within this societal group, her parents were poor and could not afford to offer her quality life in terms of the basic needs of existence.
This little girl spends most of her time enjoying the elements of the natural world. Her love for flowers and other plants within their little farm is evident in the initial section of this short story. The narrator of this short story discusses her thoughts and emotions as a way of showing her innocence. Nonetheless, this innocence is short-lived owing to the brutality of human beings and other elements within the natural world. One morning during the summer season, Myop engages in her usual playful activities that comprise collecting the beautiful flowers in their garden. She skips through the woods behind her family’s sharecropper cabin and feels contented with the calm environment and pleasant sunlight. She freely jumps across the forest although she understands that she has to be careful since this region harbors snakes.
However, as she returns home after picking pleasant blue flowers in the midst of silver ferns, the mood of the story shifts. She finds herself in unfamiliar surroundings about a mile from their residence. As the narrator indicates, the area is silent with a gloomy feeling. As she tries to leave these surroundings, she stumbles on a skeleton of a man killed during a lynching that took place in the recent past. His teeth are broken, an aspect that indicates that the murderers of this person beat him before terminating his life. As she looks up a tree that is in proximity to the skeleton, she identifies pieces of a rotten rope. This incidence torments her and ends her babyhood innocence. This is evident when she abandons the flowers that she had earlier picked from the forest.
The mood and setting of this short story are some of the effective tactics adopted by Alice Walker with the main aim of highlighting such broad themes as racism and inhumanity. At the beginning of the story, the narrator portrays a desirable environment by highlighting such aspects as the pleasant sunlight, attractive blue flowers, and the freedom experienced by this little girl in jumping across the woods. However, the mood and tone of the story transforms in line with its setting. The gloominess and weird silence in the forested zone alerts the readers of a possible tragedy. The descriptive nature of the story is also effective in defining the mood and tone in various sections of the plot structure. For instance, as the narrator describes the natural environment defining the forested area, as well as the thoughts and emotions of the little girl, the reader is able to relate to the entire story. In line with these techniques, foreshadowing is evident in certain sections of the story. For instance, the narrator refers to the gloominess and silence in the woods as a way of alerting the readers of an unpleasant event in subsequent sections of the plot.
Since the story regards the life of a ten-year old with intact childhood innocence, the language and structuring of the plot is simple. In addition to aiding the readers in understanding the story and the embedded themes, this technique is useful in creating the mood of the story. This makes it easy for the writer to address sensitive societal issues clearly with no bias. With the theme of childhood innocence being one of the chief motifs addressed in this short story, the simple language is ideal for all societal groups. This technique also concurs with the descriptive details offered in different sections of the plot. Through these techniques, the readers can easily picture the life of Myop and her surroundings. Subsequently, members of all societal groups can relate to the story from different perspectives.
There are various themes discussed by use of the highlighted tactics. For instance, the writer portrays the link between innocence and ignorance. For instance, Myop sees the summer days as beautiful. However, this perception changes after the disturbing event in the woods. In the first section of the story, Walker illustrates the summer mornings of Myop as enjoyable. This includes the fresh air, attractive crops, and animals. For her, life had nothing else to offer other than the lovely natural environment, which is the source of genuine satisfaction in a human being’s existence. The writer of this story attributes this innocence to the lack of knowledge. The little girl is hardly aware of the race-related challenges in this rural region of Georgia. This relates to the symbolism used in the girl’s name. Her name is somewhat similar to myopia, the health complication regarding shortsightedness. She has minimal knowledge on the events taking place outside her childhood life with reference to the oppression of the community inhabitants due to the promoted racist ideologies and practices.
In addition, the theme of racism is evident throughout the plot. To start with, the setting of Myop’s residence highlights their social and economic oppression. The existence of a sharecropper’s cabin relates to the historic features of the United States regarding slavery and the Jim Crow rules. The sharecropping system was one of the approaches used by the authorities after the civil war to promote a virtual structure of slavery, which was comparable to the original framework. Similar to other family units within the African American society, Myop’s parents spend most of their time in the farm in order to maximize the output of their small land. In addition, the setting of the story supports the racial discrimination defining the American society during this period. The major events in this short story occur in a rural area of Georgia. Similarly, in the history of the United States, this region was one of the zones with a high level of racial favoritism against members of the African American community.
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