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Significance Of Titles To Our Understanding Of The Novel English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 894 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Small Island by Andrea Levy follows the life’s of four characters as there nationality and race collide, its remarks on many themes and hints to the real thoughts and problems of racism and prejudice at the time set and even in modern Britain today. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker also uses similarly themes as the story of Celie’s life progresses. Both these titles have a significant link and reference to the novels meaning as a whole and to its various idea’s the authors indented meaning throughout the novel, using nationality, themes and characterization.

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Similarly as Gilbert experiences America for the first time, in the Colour Purple Nettie visits Africa, a place she states she’d never dreamt of going to. However her initial experience is far different to Gilberts as she emphasises a reoccurring theme through the colour purple of self discovery. ‘The little I knew about my own self wouldn’t have filled a thimble!’ Her journey to Africa reveals her heritage and she not unlike Hortense throughout Small Island wishes to broaden her mind and education from the small ignorant home in which she comes from. This not only suggests the ignorance of both Jamaica and Britain that we have understood from Small Island but also the progression of Nettie during her life. This can also relate to Walkers use of ‘the colour purple’ as a title, as I feel she attempts to encourage her readers to broaden there minds to the world and to appreciate what is offered to us as Nettie does.

Racism, prejudice and ignorance remain strong themes throughout Small Island. Levy effectively uses the time period of late the 1940’s to present the prejudice black civilians faced. While characters such as Queenie represent the minority of unprejudiced people, Bernard embodies the typical outlook of society at the time. An example, during the prologue, gives us the impression of racism and ignorance through society by the use of the exhibition, and the reactions Levy’s characters have. ‘We were in the jungle. Huts made out of mud with pointy stick roofs all around us. And in a hut sitting on a dirt floor was a woman with skin as black as the ink that filled the inkwell in my school desk’. Although only being a child at this point but her cultural ignorance is a strong statement to the various themes. However Levy presents us with the evidence of changing ideas through Queenie’s character, not only through her relationship with Michael Roberts and Gilbert, but her views in contrast to Bernard. ‘The two of them, arms folded and heads practically touching and shaking sombrely. “Putting them here really isn’t doing anyone any good”. I thought it must be Hitler outside the door’. It’s through this use of character that Levy suggests the themes of the book, which are the key meanings the title itself carries. ‘Small Island’ depicts the ignorance and ideas of Britain as a country, emphasising how these themes are a fundamental part of the book.

In the Colour Purple we see similar themes of racism and prejudice, however Walker introduces very different themes of self discovery and religion as too of the critical meanings of the novel. These themes are mostly portrayed through Nettie’s character and her experiences in Africa. ‘God is different to use now, after all these years … in Africa. More spirit than never before, and more internal. Most people think he has to look like something or someone-a roof leaf or Christ-but we don’t. And not being tied to what God looks like, frees us’. This in contrast to Nettie’s and Ceile’s earlier vision of god, as a white man suggests the character’s freedom from racism and prejudice she once suffered. This is a key theme Walker has used in the liberation of her female characters, by changing there image of god. ‘Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear god’. This meaning can be related to the title the Colour Purple from her suggestion of pantheism, as the colour purple representing religion.

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In conclusion, it can be argued that although both Small Island and The Colour Purple are very different stories in terms of layout and plot they both highlight frequently on the ignorance of us as people in the set time periods and even perhaps today. I personally understand these aims of the authors with these themes. ‘I think it pisses god off if you walk by the colour purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.’ Though Walker uses her title to relate to a religious idea later in her book, he idea of her characters not appreciating there land and life is shown throughout Celie’s life, Nettie seeming to be the first to redeem herself of this, therefore eventually sharing it with Ceile. Levy correspondingly connects her title to the Gilberts view of life since he has travelled, however in contrast to Nettie as his mind is opened to the world his impression is to how small Britain truly is to the world, and how its too small both literally and in terms of acceptance to be the dream destination of so many. ‘This is a small island. Man, we just clinging so we don’t fall off’.


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