Squeak/Mary Agnes

The Color PurpleCharacter: Squeak/Mary Agnes

Source Text:  Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. The United States of America: Harcourt, 1982. Print.

Entry Author:  Claire Tierney

Squeak is a minor character in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, but she is essential, as she is the only character expressly identified as mixed race, having both white and black ancestry. Squeak’s story is one of growth and transformation. Squeak becomes Mary Agnes, and in the process becomes strong, independent, and appreciated.She is called Squeak because she is quiet, and assumed to be ineffectual. She is often called “little Squeak”,  as she has been conditioned by society to respond affectionately and feebly to everyone, especially the men, around her. She constantly calls her lover Harpo “baby” and cries when she is ignored (84). She believes her light skin is the primary reason Harpo is with her, suggesting her race is a large aspect of her identity. She asks Harpo, “Do you really love me, or just my color?” (97).Initially Squeak begins a life with Harpo after Sophia leaves him, creating a natural point of comparison between the two females. At the beginning of the novel, Squeak acts as a foil to the thick-skinned and confident Sophia, who does not accept disrespect from anyone, male or female. After Sophia is imprisoned for defending herself against the mayor’s assault, the characters are distraught, and are considering solutions when Squeak asks, “What can we do?” (90). Squeak figures out she is the blood-relative of the white warden, and Celie and the other women “dress Squeak like a white woman” (93).She is passing for a white woman when she goes to the prison to plead for Sophia’s release, only to return having been raped by the warden. This event changes Squeak, causing her to realize her power and self-worth. Her first words to Harpo after he recognizes she has been attacked are “Shut Up, Harpo. I’m telling it” (95).After she is raped, she fights against Harpo just as Sophia did, and ultimately leaves him just as Sophia did. She becomes a singer like Shug, providing herself with a job that relies on her feminine singing voice, which is “high, sort of mewing” according to Celie(98). While she initially sings Shug’s songs at the juke joint, she eventually writes her own. Additionally, she helps Sophia take care of the Mayor’s children. In doing this, she becomes a part of a community of strong women of color.

Squeak’s character is shaped largely by her relativity to the other women in the novel. Readers are introduced to her as Harpo’s new girl, where she is slightly villainized as she is seen as Sophia’s replacement. This is evidenced when Squeak’s teeth are knocked out by Sophia during a confrontation. By the end of the novel, Mary Agnes’s character is as dependable and competent as any of the other female characters, and this forces the characters and readers to respect her. This transformation and this sense of separation from the other characters is evident in her song,

They calls me yellow,

like yellow be my name

They calls me yellow

like yellow be my name

But if yellow is a name

Why ain’t black the same

Well, if I say hey black girl

Lord, she try to ruin my game


Squeak stands strong with the other women in the novel, while also claiming her own independence and identity as a woman of mixed race, as an outsider looking in. This separateness becomes a point of independence for Mary Agnes. At the novel’s beginning Squeak is an outsider in her world. She stood pale in comparison to strong characters like Shug and Sophia. By the end of the novel, she proves that she is not to be compared to other women, that she stands alone.

Charles Bon

Absalom, Absalom! cover

Absalom, Absalom! cover

Character:  Charles Bon

Source Text:  Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom! 1936. New York: Random House, 1951.

Entry Author:  Claire McDonald

Charles Bon is the son of protagonist Thomas Sutpen and Sutpen’s first wife, Eulalia Bon Sutpen. During Sutpen’s time spent as a plantation overseer in Haiti, he was offered Eulalia’s hand in marriage after ending a slave rebellion on the plantation. Sutpen assumes that she is of Spanish descent, but she is actually part black, meaning that their son is also part black. Sutpen cannot bear the knowledge that his wife and son are partially black, and so he abandons them and attempts to begin a new life. Eventually, Eulalia and Bon leave Haiti and move to New Orleans.As a student at the University of Mississippi, Bon is admired and practically idolized by many of his classmates, including Sutpen’s recognized son, Henry Sutpen. Henry and Bon become friends at school, and Henry brings Bon to Sutpen’s Hundred for Christmas; at the time, Henry is unaware that Bon is his half-brother. Bon’s reunion with Sutpen poses a significant threat to Sutpen, as Bon is evidence of Sutpen’s past actions. However, he refuses to acknowledge him as his son until Bon and Judith, Sutpen’s daughter, express their desire to marry each other. Sutpen is furious about this, but his anger is more directed at Bon’s perceived blackness than at the fact that Judith and Bon are half-siblings.Just as Sutpen disowned Bon because of his blackness, Henry eventually does the same. Henry and Bon are close friends while they are attending University of Mississippi together, and Henry initially repudiates his father when he learns that Bon is his half-brother and that Sutpen had abandoned him and his mother. He continues to support Bon’s wish to marry Judith until Sutpen reveals that Bon is partially black. Henry, much like his father, is also disgusted and infuriated by the thought of Bon tainting their family’s pure bloodline. Bon’s death comes at the hands of Henry, who shoots him at the gate of Sutpen’s Hundred.

Bon’s race is important to Absalom, Absalom! because of his father and brother’s response to it. Despite the fact that both Bon and Henry are Sutpen’s biological sons, Sutpen rejects Bon because he cannot accept the fact that Bon is partially black. Bon’s status as black also means that Sutpen’s dream of becoming a Southern aristocrat cannot be achieved; Bon cannot inherit his father’s plantation because of it, meaning that Sutpen’s goal of creating a legacy cannot be achieved. Bon also signifies the desecration of the Sutpen bloodline’s purity, which Sutpen also cannot abide by. Faulkner is able to use Bon as a way to comment on Southern perceptions of race. Because Bon is considered to be black, he brings shame upon his own father because he is seen as subordinate; the bond between father and son is severed because Sutpen refuses to accept a son who is, by the one-drop rule, black.