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Historical Context Paper

I. Introduction
d. Two Part Thesis Statement: Abuse, be it sexual, physical, or emotional,
from the hands of a parental figure or spouse, can leave a person with very
poor self esteem and feelings of worthlessness, and authorities in the
South historically did very little to help victims of domestic abuse. An
understanding of the vulnerability of abused women that resulted from
their degraded self esteem illustrates how the sexual and emotional abuse
Celie suffered at the hands of her father exposed her to further abuse from
her husband and how, alone and devoid of confidence and love, Celie
turned to self assured Shug Avery for stability, affection, and passion.
II. Historical Context: Parental Abuse
a. Topic Sentence: Authorities in the South historically provided very little
aid to victims of child abuse, which can scar children for the rest of their
lives, leaving them with poor self esteem, various mental health
conditions, and warped understandings of their value as a person.
b. Very little protection in south against sexual abuse committed by family
members (Peck) context: Peck argues the South was a hostile environment
for victims of abuse to seek help
c. What little protection there was in south was biased towards African
Americans, and many were too scared to ask for help anyways (Peck)
d. Appellate Courts in South required corroboration to convict someone of
incest, not needed in North (Peck) Context: Peck adds that the South was
much more hostile towards helping abuse victims than the north.
e. Effects of child sexual abuse (Rus): context: Rus argued that 90% of
people were abused in their youth, that they don’t know it because they
always accepted it as the norm, but it can still have appalling
psychological effects
 Negative effects on school work--inability to learn or focus
 More likely to be depressed or have issues with anxiety
 Often distrust men
 Low self-esteem with sexual situations--ex. not satisfied with sex
 Classes of child sexual abuse consequences:
o Long term
o Short term
o Psychological
o Social
o Physical
III. Literary Analysis: Parental Abuse
a. Topic Sentence: An understanding of the devastating effects of parental
abuse highlight the way abuse perpetrated upon Celie by her father left
Celie feeling powerless, changed her view of men and women, imparted
upon her a fear of man, and made her more susceptible to spousal abuse
b. “You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d Kill your mammy” (1)
i. Context: Pa’s warning to Celie as he rapes her; power—frightening
her into silence. Also warns that: “You better shut up and get used
to it” (1)
c. Doesn’t known any men besides her Pa (2)
i. Context: Isolated, doesn’t know this isn’t normal
d. “He beat me today cause he say I winked at a boy in church…I didn’t
wink. I don’t even look at men…I look at women, tho, cause I’m not
scared of them” (5).
i. Context: first indication of physical abuse/ isolation by Pa. Celie
has already had two kids at this point.
e. Enjoys school, but has trouble (9)
i. Pa pulled Celie out of school when she was pregnant with her first
child, never caring how much she loved it. Doesn’t care about her
f. “That cow still coming?”... “Her cow” (11)
i. Context: Transition to spousal abuse: Celie is less important in the
marriage than the cow
g. Influenced marriage: Celie doesn’t take any pleasure in sex with husband
i. Context: revealed right before Shug has Celie examine her privates
with a mirror.
IV. (Historical Context: Spousal Abuse
a. Topic Sentence: Spousal abuse can give women a feeling of intense
loneliness, which in turn opens them up to further abuse and also leaves
women with a feeling of worthlessness and a very low self esteem, which
can leave them vulnerable to outside influences.
b. Domestic abuse can include: (Arokack) Context: Arokack stresses the
prevalence of domestic violence and victims experience a long list of
negative consequences, including physical injuries.
i. Physical injury
ii. Emotional harm
c. Loneliness can mean being physically separated from people by virtue of
geographical distance, but more pertinent is "the adverse and painful
experience of not belonging,, not feeling connected to others or valued by
them" (334). (Arokack) Context: Arokack argues that abused women deal
with loneliness differently from women who have never been abused.
i. Loneliness is commonly not dealt with and can lead to negative
emotional effects, as well as spiritual and physical consequences
ii. Arokach discusses a study of how abused women deal with
iii. 6 areas of interest:
1. "Self development and understanding"
2. "Distancing and denial"
3. "Religion and faith" (334)
4. "Reflection and acceptance"
5. "Social support network"
6. "Increased activities subscales" (335)
iv. Women who had been abused had higher scores for the first three,
and equal scores to the non abused population for the last three
v. Find Evidence for lonliness opening to abuse
d. Vulnerability: (Umberson) context: argues people abuse because they feel
they have lost control over themselves and so want to control others
i. "Battered woman's syndrome"
ii. "Learned helplessness"--can't predict consequences of their actions
iii. Consequences of losing personal control"
1. Flashbacks
2. Depression
3. Suicide
4. Substance abuse
5. Bad self-esteem
e. Domestic abuse can lead to mental issues such as: (Arokack) context:
physical injuries not the only result of abuse
i. Anxiety
ii. Stress
iii. Depression
iv. Social withdrawal
v. Feelings of fear and helplessness
f. Coupled with previous abuses such as…(Rus) see Rus context
i. (Often distrust men
ii. Low self-esteem with sexual situations--ex. not satisfied with sex)
g. Vulnerability evidence
V. Literary Analysis:
a. Topic Sentence: An understanding of the prevalence of loneliness in
domestic abuse sheds light on Mr. _____’s ability to further control Celie
through her lack of protection from any friends or family.
b. “It’s all I can do not to cry. I make myself wood. I say to myself, Celie,
you a tree. That’s how I know trees fear man” (22)
i. Context: Celie abused in front of children, closes herself off to
pain, brings about fear of men again, exacerbated by spousal abuse
c. One sided sex (77)
i. Context: Celie explains to Shug—shows Albert didn’t really care
about her, just about using her to please himself. Shug describes it
as if he’s “going to the toilet on” Celie
d. Mr. ____ hides Nettie’s letters—isolates Celie
i. Context; Celie finds with Shug—he hid them b/c he was mad at
Nettie for not allowing him to rape her )
VI. Literary AnalysisDrawn to Shug’s confidence
a. Topic Sentence: The vulnerability brought about by abuse highlights the
how Celie’s abuse and low self esteem led to her idolization of Shug and
ultimately her turning to Shug for protection and love.
b. “She bout ten thousand times prettier than me” (6)
i. Context: Celie first sees a picture of Shug Avery and her
idolization begins
c. “I know what he doing to me he done to Shug Avery and maybe she like
it. I put my arm around him” (12)
i. Context: Idolizes Shug…What Would Shug Avery Do? (WWSAD
d. “I think what color Shug Avery would wear. She like a queen to me” (20)
i. Context: Picking out clothing, still idolizing and trying to emulate
Shug. QUEEN!!!! Confident, regal, majestic!!!!
e. “I just be thankful to lay eyes on her” (25)
i. Context: Celie wants to see Shug sing not to hear her sing or
socialize, just purely to lay eyes on her idol.
f. “I think my heart gon Fly out of my mouth”
i. Context: when she sees Shug in person for the first time
g. Songs she sing seem to defy social rules (53)
i. Context: Celie is cleaning Shug when Shug is ill and notices this
h. “First time somebody made something and name it after me” (73)
i. Context: Shug singing at Harpo’s, Celie feels valued
i. Shug vows to protect Celie from Mr. _____ (75)
i. Context: Shug decides not to leave Celie and Mr. ___ even though
she’s well b/c she wants to protect Celie from Mr. ____’s physical
j. Shug transforms Celie’s vision of herself from ugly to pretty
i. Context: Mirror scene: “wet rose” (78)
k. If you was my wife, she say, I’d cover you with kisses stead of licks, and
work hard for you too” (109), Shug to Celie
i. Context: Christmas: Celie is upset that Shug has married Grady.
l. Celie had previously felt “No one ever love me” (112) before, but Shug
i. Context: Celie telling Shug about her rape
VII. Conclusion