Awakening and The Color Purple

Awakening and The Color Purple

For this paper, you have four choices.

First, you can write about the complicated connections between love and social institutions, such as marriage. In The Awakening and The Color Purple, love in its best form typically occurs outside of marriage, and the marital relation itself often seems to be a form of suppression, particularly for women. Choose one of these novels and explain why marriage and love seem to be at odds. Think about what purpose or purposes marriage has, and what the aim of love is. Are they the same? Overlapping? Fundamentally different? Sometimes different? A feminist might argue that marriage itself is a sexist institution. In texts as different as The Awakening and The Color Purple marriage seems not to be a good place for love to flourish. Why might this pattern exist? Is it a misrepresentation of marriage or a problem that marriage actually evokes?

Second, you can write about the connection or disconnection between sensuality, sex and love in The Awakening, Disgrace or The Color Purple. In both The Awakening and The Color Purple, a woman awakens to a more self-affirming sense of life either after or while also awakening to sensuality, to the physical dimensions of desire. In both cases, this occurs outside of marriage. You can choose either novel, and write about why sensuality becomes for the book’s main character a means of growth, change or transformation. Why is the physicality of desire so important to this growth? What is it overcoming? What leverage does physical love provide to act against social rules and institutions? Does this leverage come with risks? If so, what are they? If you choose The Color Purple, think about the role of homosexuality but also just flexible sensuality in the process of awakening. Shug Avery may have her own, different kind of awakening compared to Celie. You could also write about her.

Third, in Disgrace, is there an implied criticism of the way that men like David Lurie disconnect love and sex, and think of looser connections than real companionship as the best one can do given the powers of eros (which don’t choose partners for companionship or compatibility). For Lurie, relationship is something that emerges only in the aftermath of other kinds of desire. Is there a truth about a certain version of love in this, or is Lurie’s version of love a distortion and errancy?

Fourth, in Disgrace, Lurie struggles with the selfishness of what he considers love to be (the expression of individual yearning, whether welcomed by the other or not). But Lurie is not entirely selfish. Why does he have sex with Bev Shaw? Why does he feel the need to take the dead dogs for cremation? Is either of these acts a different form of love than becoming, to use his words, a “servant of eros?” Why doesn’t Lurie save the little crippled dog at the novel’s end? Alternatively, you could write about why Lucy chooses to have the child of one of her rapists. Is this a form of love, adaptation, capitulation, or something else? Why does she approach the issue so differently than her father does? Does Lucy find a place of generosity and love that her father can’t, or is she simply giving in to a troubling reality for white settler farmers in the new South Africa?

The questions in the prompts don’t all have to be answered. They are meant to get you to think carefully and critically about your topic. When you write, you need a clear thesis or main idea, and then paragraphs with good topic sentences and support from the text. Try to think as carefully as you can about your topic. Conventional social answers to these questions may not actually respond to what the texts imagine, as the texts may be criticizing or critically examining conventional social beliefs about love, marriage, sensuality, etc.

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