These essays discuss the ways in which authors write their truths, critique other's truths, and how perspective alters truth. In this specific case, the Harris, duCille, and Gates articles are about the different perspectives and truths of African Americans in an artistic world and how backgrounds and opinion effect writing. The impression one gets from reading these excerpts is that when African Americans are portrayed in art there seems to be a constant questioning of whether or not the portrayal is accurate and respectful.
Harris’ article seems to be a complaint about the somewhat complacent way The Color Purple was received by critics and readers. Harris argues that the messages that African American women are taking and cherishing from the novel, like the protagonist as a black woman who endures suffering only to be rewarded at the end of the novel. Harris argues that all praise of the novel came without any critique at all, which puts the novel on a perfect pedestal, though it is far from perfect in Harris’ opinion. Harris’ main problem with the text is that the characters become stereotypes of their race and gender and the perpetuation of praise of the characters leads readers to believe that every African American woman is like Celie and every Africa American man is like Albert. Harris is also frustrated with Celie’s complacency and unwillingness to fight back or just leave. This complacency which is later rewarded with a “happy ending” (which Harris argues could never make Celie truly happy after her many years of abuse) is not the best image to inspire black women, according to Harris. Though I don’t completely agree with all of her sentiments, I see the point that Harris is trying to make, which is that novels should be questioned and critiqued and shouldn’t be taken for face value. I think something that is extremely important to take from the Harris article is her awareness of her own opinion and bias to her own opinion and her active attempts to understand other perspectives in order to further understand her own. Harris admits that her reaction to The Color Purple was extremely strong and therefore she collected other critiques and review of the novel in order to further explore her own ideas. In addition, she was constantly searching for opportunities to discuss the novel and her opinion in different capacities with different people. This is extremely relevant to our class discussion as we have been talking about how to approach and question novels and their effect on our world. We should question and critique and according to Harris “the novel demands participation”.
The duCille and Gates articles speak more about African American portrayals in a wider range of art. Their arguments have more to do with what the truth is and how different authors write their own truths. In the Gates article, Barbara Smith responds to a question of the obligation of authors to their race or gender by saying that they only have an obligation to the truth and to tell the truth but that experiences, identities, and environments create different truths. The influences and bias don’t create lies, they just create different perspectives or interpretations of what the truth is. Congruously, in the duCille article, the closing lines declare that “readings are never neutral”. duCille even admits that her own writing is full of influences of her race and gender. She also declares that “texts have a way of becoming what we say they are”. If this is true then a text can have a million different truths or meanings based on who it is that is reading it.