Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sorry, Harris.

“Readings are never neutral (duCille, 571).” This is the idea that duCille leaves us with at the end of her critique of the argument about which she is writing. I think that this is the most important line that I read in all of the three essays that we read for this class. Trying to write a piece of literature that will be universally interpreted in the same way by every person in the whole world is like trying to keep a new pair of white sneakers perfectly flawless: the only solution is to never let it see the light of day. The world has many facets and people will understand the same thing in different ways, like looking in to the same house through different windows. Each person is different and they will identify with the story in their own personal way. The essay that I feel this statement is most relevant to is On the Color Purple, Stereotypes, and Silence by Trudier Harris because she seems to be under the impression that everybody needs to have the same opinion as her, that the novel only gets at one thing, and that the novel is to be faulted for people who cannot understand the deeper meanings.
Right from the get go in her essay she states that she is against The Color Purple being canonized (Harris, 155). Her reasoning for this is a legitimate concern--some people will take the story at face value and only see the racism--and she has every right to be against it. However, I feel that the way she goes about arguing why—when all the fancy terminology and illusions to other famous figures are boiled away—is basically “I don’t like it and I know that some other people don’t like it so we must be right.” The concerns she raises as a reason for not supporting the book are present but she has taken a very narrow-minded view of the novel. She overlooks everything important and moving that makes so many people around the world love the novel and sums up the novel under the one-track idea that it “reinforces racist stereotypes (155).” There is no doubt that this novel has racist qualities to it—it is, after all, a depiction of small town life for a black person in the early nineteen hundreds—however, it seems that Harris is unable to see past that aspect of it, to the truth it is telling of a sometimes-present, bad quality of that time period.            
It can be taken as an insult; the way Harris views the masses. She says that “these readers, who do not identify with the characters and who do not feel the intensity of their pain, stand back and view the events of the novel as a circus of black human interactions…(155)” Uhm, what? Excuse me, Miss, but are you—the one depicting herself as the advocate for racial fairness—arguing that many are incapable of relating to a protagonist because of their skin color or where they come from? That they would consider it a "circus of black human interactions"? How very tolerant. She overlooks all of the positive aspects that people tell her they liked about the book and implies that those people are being ungenuine in their analysis for fear of how they will be perceived. And again, that may be partly true. But you cannot completely discredit half of the positive things people say and call it nonsense because it does not fit your interpretation of a novel. She assumes that the people she is talking too must be making things up for fear of going against the norm. She says that she had a session with a group of twelve women. One woman made a comment that fit Harris’ argument and she says that it “affirmed one of her major objections to the thematic developments of the novel” that the book supported racist stereotypes, instead of debunking them. The lack of explanation for what the other 11 women had to say about the novel’s meaning to them leads one to believe that it did not affirm her major objections.

She says at one point that people could not distinguish between the life in The Color Purple as a particular case in a particular town and as a representation as the black south as a whole. Besides being a very narrow-minded thing to say, I think that is also ironic; the irony being that Harris cannot seem to distinguish between the world as it is in its many facets and the world as she sees it.

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