Women’s Creativity in Cane and The Color Purple
Thesis DT 3.5 1996 L753
vii, 82 leaves; 29 cm.
This thesis examines the relationship between Jean Toomer's Cane and Alice Walker's The Color Purple in their treatment of the Black woman as suppressed artist. Toomer's Cane is one of the first literary works, written by a male author that highlights the dilemma of the Black woman's suppressed creativity. In their article, "Alice Walker In Search of Zora Neale Hurston: ReDiscovering a Black Female Literary Tradition", Sabine Brock and Anne Koenen raise the question whether such a canon (call and response) exists in Black women's literature. In other words, do Black women share subjects and themes which reflect Black women's unique vision? I expand their question to include Black men. The question arises, do Black men and women share subjects and themes which reflect Black women's unique vision? I offer Jean Toomer's Cane and Alice Walker's The Color Purple to demonstrate this hypothesis. Jean Toomer's Cane, written in 1923, initiates the "call" and Alice Walker's The Color Purple, written in 1980, is the "response". Call and response in the African American literary tradition is a concept in which the themes of previous narratives are taken up by new authors, varied, changed, and further developed by giving them dimensions.
There is an ongoing dialogue between the female characters of Cane and The Color Purple. Unlike Toomer, Walker does not reduce her women to victims. They are committed to changing their lives. In doing this, Walker offers more possibilities and more options for her female character, further developing Toomer's original concept. While Toomer's women wander about aimlessly and continue to live in isolation, alienated away from the community, entombed in their silences, Walker frees them in The Color Purple by empowering them with a creative outlet. In my final analysis I prove that Walker's women are an evolved version of Tommer's original construct.