Alienation is when an individual is estranged from their traditional community or made to feel different by others in general. The alienation of women is a key issue to bear in mind when discussing any texts which can be interpreted as having some relevance to gender issues. The Color Purple and Behind a Mask are incredibly disparate in the way they treat the alienation of female characters, which is especially visible in the presentation of the two main characters, Celie and Jean Muir. These two women couldn't be more different, their race, class, level of literacy, temperament and lifestyle are clearly at opposites with each other, but they both face alienation within their communities. From their culture, society and the men that populate those societies, as do the other female characters that surround them. There is much that is contrasting in the way this female alienation is presented, but there are some underlying similarities that are open for comparison.
Celie is introduced to us as a victim of abuse, from the very first letter she writes. 'He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it.' (The Color Purple p1). This physical and sexual abuse, which is dispensed by the man Celie think is her father, is the first step in the long process of alienating Celie from almost everyone around her. Initially her pregnancy angers her mother who dies 'screaming and cussing' (TCP p2) at Celie. This is followed by years of Celie losing the people she cares about; first Nettie is forced to leave by Mr. __. Nettie was Celie's only link to her past, 'It's like seeing you buried' (TCP p18) says Nettie as she leaves Celie with just the company of Mr. __ and his 'rotten children' (TCP p18).