The Color Purple
Women and Femininity Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
She [Sofia] say, How you, Mr.______?
He don’t answer the question. He say, Look like you done got yourself in trouble.
Naw suh, she say. I ain’t in no trouble. Big, though.
She smooth the wrinkles over her stomach with the flats of her hands.
Who the father? he ast.
She look surprise. Harpo, she say.
How he know that?
He know. She say.
Young womens no good these days, he say. Go they legs open to ever Tom, Dick and Harry.
Harpo look at his daddy like he never seen him before. But he don’t say nothing. (17.26-35)
Mr.__ has a double standard regarding sexual behavior between the genders. While it’s fine that Harpo has been sleeping with girls, Mr.__ clearly thinks that Sofia having sex and being pregnant is "trouble" and that she’s sleazy.
The Olinka do not believe girls should be educated. When I asked a mother why she thought this, she said: A girl is nothing to herself; only to her husband can she become something.
What can she become? I asked.
Why, she said, the mother of his children.
But I am not the mother of anybody’s children, I said, and I am something.
You are not much, she said. The missionary’s drudge. (62.3-7)
Nettie learns that women are not thought of very highly in Olinka culture. To the Olinka, a woman’s only importance is with respect to the men in her life. Nettie, on the other hand, sees women as having inherent value.
Why do they say I will be a wife of the chief? asks Olivia.
That is as high as they can think, I tell her.
He is fat and shiny with huge perfect teeth. She thinks she has nightmares about him.
You will grow up to be a strong Christian woman, I tell her. Someone who helps her people to advance. You will be a teacher or a nurse. You will travel. You will know many people greater than the chief.
Will Tashi? she wants to know.
Yes, I tell her, Tashi too. (62.13-18)
Nettie tries to help Olivia to look higher than simply becoming a wife and mother, and not to accept prescribed gender roles for herself.