The Color Purple Questions and Answers Marks 2/5/10/15
1. Q. Discuss the themes presented in the novel The Color Purple. Or, Q. What is the theme of The Color Purple? Discuss.[The Color Purple]
“No one is exempt from the possibility of a conscious connection to All That Is,” } Alice Walker explores this quote through the story of Celie. Just like the color purple, the truth, no one is exempt from. No one can run away from the truth. It is inevitably inescapable. Starting off in a rather harsh setting, Celie starts off her story at the time she is raped for the first time by her own father. Rather straightforward, Walker captures her reader’s interest right in the beginning of her novel.
The theme of the “The Color Purple,” is to always stay strong and keep fighting In the beginning of the story Celie got separated from her sister, Nettie, the person she loved the most but she stayed strong and waited patiently to get a letter from her sister.
Sexual relations between men and women in The Color Purple is a major theme. Alice Walker sets her story of Celie’s transformation from a passive female to an independent woman within the culture of southern black rural society from the 1920s to the 1940s. In the beginning of the story, Celie is dominated first by her father, whom she later learns is really her stepfather, then by her husband, Albert (Mr.). The catalyst for the character change in Celie is the relationship she develops with Shug Avery, her husband Albert’s mistress. Because Celie has been warned by her stepfather, Alphonso, not to tell anyone but God about how he repeatedly rapes her, she begins to write letters to God. It is through the letters that the reader develops a sense of Celie’s being, which at first is self effacing, but eventually becomes strong and independent. In the novel there are a number of role reversals that take place between men and women. Harpo, Albert’s son, tries to emulate his father and attempts to dominate his strong-willed wife, Sofia. By the end of the story, Harpo and Sofia have reversed traditional male-female roles. Harpo stays home to take care of the house, while Sofia works. Celie and Albert also reverse roles. By the end of the story, Celie is an independent businesswoman, and Albert is her assistant. Celie has also learned to speak up for herself, claiming her house when her stepfather dies. The sexual relationship between Celie and Shug further breaks with the traditional roles of passive women and dominant men that the story challenges. In the relationship between Samuel and Corrine, the missionaries who adopt Celie’s children, and later between Nettie and Samuel, Walker presents what could be called a partnership relationship between a man and woman. In these relationships, both the man and the woman share the same goals and work together to realize them. Walker uses the incident between Squeak and her white uncle, the warden at Sofia’s prison, to illustrate how sexism and racism were expressed. The warden has no qualms about raping his own niece, which reflects a southern, white, male disregard for the dignity of black women. During the period of the novel, it was a commonly held view among white males that they could do whatever they pleased with black women, a view that many black males shared as well.
The Power of Strong Female Relationships
Throughout The Color Purple, Walker portrays female friendships as a means for women to summon the courage to tell stories. In turn, these stories allow women to resist oppression and dominance. Relationships among women form a refuge, providing reciprocal love in a world filled with male violence. Female ties take many forms: some are motherly or sisterly, some are in the form of mentor and pupil, some are sexual, and some are simply friendships. Sofia claims that her ability to fight comes from her strong relationships with her sisters. Nettie’s relationship with Celie anchors her through years of living in the unfamiliar culture of Africa. Samuel notes that the strong relationships among Olinka women are the only thing that makes polygamy bearable for them. Most important, Celie’s ties to Shug bring about Celie’s gradual redemption and her attainment of a sense of self.
God and Religion
As the narrative perspective shifts and develops, so too does Celie’s view of God. When Celie writes her first letter to God, we have a very limited idea of what she means by God. At first, God is an abstract, authoritative, and dependable figure to whom Celie can share herself. White skin and a white beard, he will be there for Celie as long as she believes in him. When Celie tells Shug that she will stop writing to God because he does not listen, Shug teaches her something highly significant. Shug does not tell her to imagine a black God instead, nor does Shug simply tell Celie to keep believing anyway because God will return in the way she remembers him. Rather, Shug tells Celie to feel loved by God by being herself. For Celie, God moves from being a person to being something (not someone) inside Celie, a goodness that inspires. Celie learns that she writes from her own view of the world and that every view must be challenged and not taken for granted. Whatever people may think about God, whether the Bible says it or not, Celie learns to find her own meaning in God.
Celie’s transformation from a young passive girl, who is the object of violence and cruelty from her stepfather and her husband, into an indepen-dent woman with self-esteem is at the heart of The Color Purple. While the ways in which conflicts are resolved may stretch the imagination at times, they are central to the author’s view that goodness can triumph over evil. That Celie is able to forgive Albert by the end of the story and take him in as a helper reflects Walker’s insistence on the redeeming quality of the human heart. She shows in transformed relationships that the worst cruelty committed by one person on another does not prohibit a change of heart. Her
view is basically that the conditions under which human beings struggle shape their behavior. Albert had a difficult life and took out his frustrations on Celie. When Celie became self-sufficient, she could easily have turned her back on Albert, but it is not within the frame-work of her character to be uncharitable. In becoming independent, Celie has found happiness. Rejecting Albert would detract from her happiness. Celie’s behavior toward Albert reflects Walker’s insistence on forgiveness and contributes to the overall religious overtones of the book.
Self-Discovery and Self Actualization
Ultimately, this story is one of self-discovery for Celie, and for other characters. Celie begins the novel as a passive, quiet young girl, perplexed by her own pregnancy, by her rape at the hands of Pa, and her ill-treatment by Mr. Slowly, after meeting Shug and seeing her sister run away, Celie develops practical skills: she is a hard worker in the fields, she learns how to manage a house and raise children, and she meets other inspiring women, including Sofia, who has always had to fight the men in her life. Further, she discovers her own sexuality and capacity to love through her developing romance with Shug. Nettie’s arc is also one of self-discovery. Nettie received more years of schooling than did Celie, and Nettie has seen the world, working as a missionary in Africa, and eventually marrying a kind and intelligent man. But Nettie also realizes that she can balance her independence, and her desire to work, with a loving married life that also includes two stepchildren-Celie’s children, Olivia and Adam. Indeed, it is the arrival of this extended family on Celie’s land at the end of the novel that signals the last stage in both Celie and Nettie’s journey of self-discovery. .
Race and Racism
The story takes place in two distinct settings-rural Georgia and a remote African village-both suffused with problems of race and racism. Celie believes herself to be ugly in part because of her very dark skin. Sofia, after fighting back against the genteel racism of the mayor and his wife, ends up serving as maid to that family, and as surrogate mother to Eleanor, who does not initially recognize the sacrifices Sofia has been forced to make. In general, very few career paths are open to the African Americans in the novel: for the men, farming is the main occupation, although Harpo manages to open a bar. For women, it seems only possible to serve as a mother, or to perform for a living, to sing as Squeak and Shug Avery do. In Africa, the situation Nettie, Samuel, Corrine, Adam, Tashi, and Olivia experience is not that much different. Nettie recalls that the ancestors of the Olinka, with whom she lives, sold her ancestors into slavery in America. The Olinka view African Americans with indifference. Meanwhile the English rubber workers, who build roads through the village and displace the Olinka from their ancient land, have very little concern for that people’s history in Africa. The British feel that, because they are developing the land, they “own” it, and the African people who have lived there for centuries are merely “backward” natives. It is only at the very end of the novel, after Samuel,
Nettie, and their family have returned from Africa, to Celie’s home in Georgia, that Celie and Nettie’s entire family is able to come together and dine-a small gift, and something that would be considered completely normal for the white families of that time period, whose lives had not been ripped apart by the legacy of slavery and poverty.
Cultural difference plays a significant role in The Color Purple. Walker effectively uses black folk English in Celie’s letters to express the voice of poor, black rural African Americans. Walker presents a clear picture in the book of the economic and social hardships that African Americans faced in the rural south during the early 1900s. She also presents an honest picture of the effects of racial repression. The picture Walker paints of black life is not one-sided. While Celie and Albert are tied to the land and the harsh life it represents, Nettie es-capes into a black middle-class life through her missionary friends. Religion in the South played an important role in liberating many African Americans from poverty. As a spin-off for involvement with the church, literacy and education flourished. Celie is embracing religious literacy through her letters to God, and in her letters to Nettie she comes to grips with the larger world, including Africa, outside her small community. By making the connection to Africa, Walker emphasizes the importance of African Americans’ roots.
Men, Women and Gender Roles
The story is also an extended meditation on the nature of men, women, and their expected gender roles. In the beginning, Celie is expected to serve her abusive father, and, later, her husband Mr. and Nettie, not wanting to do either, runs away. But Nettie sacrifices the job generally reserved for women-motherhood-in order to educate herself and work for Samuel and Corrine during their missionary labors in Africa. Celie, meanwhile, has two children, whom Nettie then raises in Africa, coincidentally-Celie only leaves behind the drudgery of housework when Shug comes to live with her and Mr. and begins to teach Celie about her body and about other ways of living, outside the control of men. Celie and Squeak, Harpo’s second wife, end up living with Shug in Memphis, and Celie is able to her pantsmaking company. The men in the novel, however, experience a different trajectory. It is expected that black men of this time, especially in the South, work in the fields, and that women obey them absolutely. But after Shug and then Celie leave him behind, Mr. realizes just how much he took for granted and how much he, and his son Harpo, have relied on the work of women throughout their lives. Similarly, in Africa, Nettie manages both to achieve the gender role initially expected of her (by marrying the widower Samuel), and keeps working and forging her own path in life, eventually spending over twenty years as a missionary in Africa. The end of the novel, then, celebrates both the continuity of family, populated both by strong female characters and repentant male ones, and the fact that “families,” and the roles within them, are fluid, often overlapping, and part of a long arc toward equality and greater
understanding, even if that arc is often dotted with tragedy, abuse, and neglect.
Blood is thicker than water. This saying is most exemplified throughout The Color Purple. Love, the tale of two sisters reconnecting, was one of the major themes of the story. In depth, love was not always romantic, but existent. There were different types of love depicted in the novel: love between family, friends, and couples. Love, in turn, helps with creating and developing relationships between characters.
Many other themes are depicted in this great work of fiction: Race, racism, African American women and men, abused wives, sexuality, and relationships. These many themes are illustrated throughout the novel through different settings and people. Structuring her writing in short journal entries to God and the family of Celie, the round character, Walker employed them as one of the three symbols throughout the work of fiction. Traumatizing and explicit events occur during the entries which lead to the internal and external conflicts that will take place through the duration of the novel. In addition to these graphic events that were both inconceivable and horrific in every sense for Celie, the events described in the entries led to the novel being banned within some high schools.
A visual diary of a 21st-century designer was created to allow the themes to be applied to the modern world and to mirror Celie’s letter/diary writing and her being a pioneering designer. It was the best medium that was capable of imaginatively exploring the themes because the thought processes undertaken were easily portrayed as the character’s. It was also chosen for they are used to freely express artistic creativity which is related to the theme of freedom of expression. The character of Ember Oriaan was inspired by Celie and her development. However, Oriaan’s journey is only visible from when they had their breakthrough with their journey of selfdiscovery, while we see Celie’s full maturing process. Both believed that people should not be restricted to one particular style of clothing, and consequently began to design garments that could be worn by anyone.
A modern twist was put on these themes so that the issues explored could be seen from a contemporary light. The letter on page 3 is a similar self-discovery to Celie’s where they want to make a change after being oppressed. The title page was drawn with an irremovable calligraphy pen because the designer was certain that they wanted to start a new chapter of their life. Despite this, a lead pencil was used throughout the rest of the diary because there was still uncertainty in this new challenge they were taking on. By designing clothes that were functional in a variety of settings, they would both allow people the opportunity and freedom to express themselves. Both the skirts and the pants have represented many topics such as societal change, creating freedom from oppression and blurring the lines between gender, illustrating the fluidity of the symbolism in these garments. The mind map on page 4 not only shows the brainstorming process and inner conflict of the designer but also how complex the topic of gender can be.
Alice Walker’s use of character development, plot and dialogue in The Colour Purple helps to explore and examine the many themes at a deeper level. The oppression of minorities, the journey of self-discovery that can lead to freedom, and gender roles that reinforce stereotypes are issues that people will hopefully be more open to discussing. It is evident that the people still face the same issues and feel the same emotions, even if they are set in two different centuries. Both are therefore deeply empathetic and have a desire to help people question themselves and grow into better individuals.
2. The Significance of the Title
[Q. Why is Alice Walker’s novel entitled The Color Purple, and what does it have to do with beauty?
Or, Q. Explain the title of The Color Purple in relation to its theme. Or, Q. Discuss the title of the novel The Color Purple.]
Alice Walker’s Purple weaves an intricate mosaic of women joined by their love for each other, the men who abuse them, and the children they care for. In the first few letters, Celie tells God that she has been raped by her father and that she is pregnant for the second time with his child. Celie’s mother is quite ill and after cursing Celie, dies, leaving Celie alone to face her father. Celie then turns her attention to protecting her sister, Nettie, from her father’s sexual advances. Celie soon marries Mr. (later called Albert) after her father strikes a bargain with the older widower, and Celie finds herself in a loveless marriage, caring for her husband’s four children and being regularly raped and beaten. Celie becomes fixated on Shug Avery, a glamorous blues singer who is her husband’s mistress. Several years later, Celie eagerly accepts the responsibility of nursing Shug back to health, thus beginning a lifetime of friendship and love between the two women.
The oldest of Celie’s stepchildren, Harpo, marries an independent young woman, Sofia, and soon after, Celie encourages Harpo to beat her into submission, just as all men have beaten Celie. Sofia later confronts Celie about this betrayal, but that confrontation leads to a deep and enduring sisterhood, and Sofia remains an independent, strong woman throughout the novel. The two women create a “Sister’s Choice” quilt together-the symbolism of quilts permeates much of the novel. Just as scraps of cloth come together to form a new, strong, useful product, so, too, can black women come together to forge a similar strong and useful bond.
Sofia later punches the town’s white mayor, an act that lands her in prison and snatches the independence she so values. By this time, she and Harpo have split up and taken other lovers, so the women in Sofia’s life take on the responsibility of releasing her from jail. An alliance forms between Celie, Shug, Sofia’s sisters, and Squeak, Harpo’s mistress. When trying to help Sofia, Squeak is raped by her uncle, the prison warden, but in telling her friends about the rape, she becomes stronger, insisting that she will no longer be called by her nickname and beginning to compose her own blues music. Sofia is able to leave prison, but she finds herself caged nonetheless, working as a maid in a white household.
Meanwhile, Nettie has become a missionary in Africa and has written countless letters to Celie, all of which Albert has hidden. Nettie, in spite of her upbringing, is a self-confident, strong, faith-filled woman. When Celie discovers Nettie’s letters, she not only catches up on her sister’s life, she also discovers that her own two children are alive and living with a missionary couple with whom Nettie works. Nettie’s letters about their shared African heritage are a tonic to Celie, who becomes stronger and more self-assured every day. That confidence soon turns to fury-over her rapes, her her. Nettie’s beatings, and the love and affection the men in her life have kept from letters also demonstrate parallels between Celie’s world and the African world, including the bond that can develop among the multiple wives of African men, the deep friendship and love that exists between two women, the deep love of a man for a woman, and the unrelenting structure of sex roles.
With her new-found strength, Celie confronts her father, whom she has just learned is her stepfather and not a blood relative, and this brings great relief to Celie, who now know that her children are not her brother and sister. She also confronts Albert, leaves him, and moves to Memphis to live with Shug, a move that stuns and pains Albert. In Memphis, Celie, who started wearing pants when she gained her strength and self-confidence, opens a business as a pantsmaker. Later, after Shug has taken on a male lover, Celie visits Albert, and they develop a new bond that eventually grows into love and respect.
Nettie, still living in Africa, marries the now-widowed man who had adopted her sister’s children, thus becoming a mother to her niece and nephew. Later, when Celie’s father dies, she and Nettie inherit his home, creating financial freedom for the two women. At the novel’s end, the two sisters are reunited, while Albert and Harpo have learned to take on new roles in the household and in their relationships.
Note that the novel’s title is alluded to in Letter 12, when Celie associates the color purple with royalty and longs for a purple dress. But the title undoubtedly comes from a passage near the end of the novel, in which Shug says that she believes that it “pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”
The title of Alice Walker ‘s novel is taken from a line in the text. Shug tells Celie that she thinks it irritates God if people walk past “the color purple in a field somewhere” and don’t pause to look at it. What Shug is saying is that the world around us is full of beautiful things in this case, this is symbolized by purple flowers, which are unusual and particularly delicate, appearing in the midst of a field. The title draws attention to the importance of colour in this brilliant novel and how brighter colours are linked to the experience of liberation that characters achieve at various points. Thus, it is beautifully interconnected with the underlying theme of the novel.
3. The Structure and Setting of the Play
[Q. Describe The Color Purple formally. What is the plot structure in the novel The Color Purple and what type of novel is it?
Or, Q. What is the setting of “The Color Purple”? Or, Q. Examine the significance and effectiveness of Walker’s use of place and the natural world in The Color Purple.
Or, Q. Walker’s novel examines not only violence against women, but also racism and imperialism in America and Africa. How does the correspondence between Nettie and Celie highlight differences and similarities in the two places?]
Set in the deep American South between the wars, The Color Purple is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
The structure of The Color Purple is the series of letters Celie writes to God and to her sister Nettie. Some of the letters in the book are written by Nettie to Celie. This literary form is called the epistolary novel, a form developed in eighteenthcentury England by novelists like Samuel Richardson. A major advantage of this structure is that the reader becomes intimate with the character of the letter writer. With the epistolary form, Walker was able to focus on the inner life of her main character and create a sense of intimacy that may be partly responsible for the success of the book. This technique creates a confidential reading experience.
The reader has a chance to read over the character’s shoulder and look inside her. Nettie, to a great extent, escaped the cruelty that Celie experienced because she was able to leave home early. The tone of her letters to Celie contrasts sharply with Celie’s letters to God. In Nettie’s letters, there is much less intimacy. They do not contain the suffering that Celie has expressed in her letters to God. By introducing Nettie’s letters, Walker is able to shift her story from Celie’s life of despair to a life that begins to have hope. It is through the help of Shug Avery that Celie finds her hope the letters from Nettie that Albert had hidden from her.
Basically there are four time frames of the novel. In the first period of her life, Celie experiences the misery of poverty and cruelty at the hands of her stepfather. In the second closely-related period, Celie experiences continued cruelty from her husband Albert. In the third period, she awakens to the possibility of self-realization through her relationship with Shug and her renewed contact with her sister Nettie. Finally, Celie has realized herself and has established a life where she has control; she has found the happiness and contentment that come from self-realization. Another period, not directly a part of Celie’s life, is Nettie’s time spent in Africa. The letters
from Nettie serve as a contrast to Celie’s life. They also enlarge Celie’s perspective and help to universalize her life.
The Color Purple is composed of very short chapters, written as letters to God, that explain in the shortest possible ways the trials and tribulations Celie (and, later, Nettie) experience. Walker presents Celie’s thoughts in the vernacular, with poor grammar and spelling. These emphasize the point that Celie is not an educated woman. Celie’s letters also tend to touch upon topics briefly and sparsely rather than being developed and embellished in long paragraphs. After Nettie and Celie reconnect, Celie’s letters get longer and more detailed. She is happier in her life, and tends to express joy by writing more.
4. Narrative Style
[Q. Discuss why the use of dialect is so important to The Color Purple. Were there any passages that were hard to understand? Or, Q. Walker’s use of language, especially black idiom, adds poignancy and depth to the narrative. The Color Purple is convincing because of the authenticity of Celie’s ‘folk voice’. How far do you agree with this statement? Or, Q. What are the narrative strategies that Walker uses in The Color Purple?]
The Color Purple is not written in the style of most novels. The author does not tell us everything about the characters, the setting, and why the characters behave the way they do. The novel is written in a series of letters, not dated. There are large gaps between some letters, but this is not revealed by the author; we have to figure it out ourselves. The letters are written in what Walker calls black folk language, which also reduces the easiness of the reading.
When the novel opens, Celie is a young black girl living in Georgia in the early years of the twentieth century. She is an uneducated girl, and writes her letters in common language. Celie is entering her adolescence believing she was raped by her father and that he killed both of their children. She writes to God, because she has no one else to write to. She feels that what happened to her is so terrible that she can only talk about it to someone she feels loves her. She knows her sister Nettie loves her, but she is too young to understand. Celie believes only to God may she talk honestly and openly about her suffering. Celie is not, however, at this point, complaining to God, she is simply confiding in him.
Celie was born into a poor family; her mother was sick most of the time, mentally and physically; there were too many children in the family; and Celie was abused by the man she believed was her father. Celie feels used and abused, but does not understand why. So many bad things have happened to Celie that she lacks self esteem and confidence. Celie does not even feel she is worth enough to sign her name at the end of the letters.
Slowly, Celie evolves into a mature woman with great confidence, but not before her sister Nettie is taken away from her, and she marries a cruel man who really wanted to marry Nettie. For a long time, Celie is almost a slave to her husband, until her husband’s mistress comes to live with them to recuperate from a sickness, and Celie becomes her nurse. Shug is a strong woman, and encourages Celie to grow stronger. At the same time, Sofia, Celie’s daughter in law, shows Celie to stand up for herself and fight prejudice and injustice, and fight.
By the end of the novel, Celie’s new strength pays off, because she is able to live happily with the people she loves. She reunites with Nettie and her two children, who have been raised by Nettie. Celie learned to fight, to stand up for herself, and she was rewarded. Celie was able to survive physically and spiritually, and is able to mature into a full, modern twentieth century woman.
The Color Purple is written in the first person, and the voice is predominately Celie’s, but some of the letters that comprise the book are written to Celie by her sister Nettie. The story covers thirty years of Celie’s life from childhood to her maturity as an independent woman. By having Celie write in black folk English, Walker brings the reader close to the quality and rhythms of life that her characters experience. Celie’s dialect also reflects her lack of formal education. Nettie, who was formally educated, writes her letters in standard English. They are full of information that becomes a source of knowledge for Celie outside the world of her own small community.
In The Color Purple, Alice Walker is able to illustrate the abuse, neglect, and oppression a black woman had to go through in the early twentieth century, but she also illustrates how a woman must fight back to regain the self esteem and confidence lost way back in the early adolescent years. The Color Purple is a story about growth, endurance, and fight, all nurtured by love.
In The Color Purple, Alice Walker writes in a southern dialect and low level diction. The setting takes place in rural areas of the south where race played a huge part during the time when discrimination was more prevalent in America. Based on the level of diction, Walker writes in an uneducated, southern style. By writing in this type of style Walker is able to fully exemplify Celie’s thoughts creating a better understanding for the reader by revealing her level of education and social class. Sequentially, this adds verisimilitude to the novel.
5. The Story in Brief
[Q. Write a brief summary of the events that made Celie decide to take control of her life.
Or, Q. Outline the ways in which Walker examines love, self-acceptance and forgiveness in The Color Purple.]
Celie is a poor, uneducated 14-year-old girl living in the Southern United States
in the early 1900s. She writes letters to God because the man she thought was her father, Alphonso, beats and rapes her. Alphonso has already impregnated Celie once, a pregnancy that resulted in the birth of a boy named Adam, whom Alphonso also abducts, and Celie thinks he killed him. Celie then has a second child, Celie’s ailing mother dies after cursing Celie on her deathbed. The second child was a girl she named Olivia, but Alphonso took the baby away shortly after her birth.
Celie and her younger sister, 12-year-old Nettie, learn that a man identified only as Mister wants to marry Nettie. Alphonso refuses to let Nettie marry, instead arranging for Mister to marry Celie. Mister, a widower needing someone to care for his children and keep his house, eventually accepts the offer. Mister physically, sexually, and verbally abuses Celie, and all his children treat her badly as well.
Shortly thereafter, Nettie runs away from Alphonso and takes refuge at Celie’s house, where Mister makes sexual advances toward her. Celie then advises Nettie to seek assistance from a well-dressed black woman that she saw in the general store a while back; the woman has unknowingly adopted Olivia and was the only black woman that Celie had ever seen with money of her own. Nettie is forced to leave after promising to write. Celie, however, never receives any letters and concludes that her sister is dead.
Time passes and Harpo, Mister’s son, falls in love with an assertive girl named Sofia, who becomes pregnant with Harpo’s baby and, despite initial resistance from
Mister, Harpo marries Sofia. Harpo and Sofia have five more children in short order, Celie is amazed by Sofia’s defiant refusal to submit to Harpo’s attempts to control her. As Harpo is kinder and gentler than his father, Celie advises him not to try to dominate Sofia. Harpo temporarily follows Celie’s advice but falls back under Mister’s sway. Celie, momentarily jealous of Harpo’s genuine love of Sofia, then advises Harpo to beat her. Sofia fights back, however, and confronts Celie. A guilty Celie apologizes and confides in Sofia about all the abuse she suffers at Mister’s hands. She also begins to consider Sofia’s advice about defending herself against further abuse from Mister.
Shug Avery, a jazz and blues singer and Mister’s long-time mistress, falls ill, and Mister takes her into his house. Celie, who has been fascinated by photos of Shug she found in Mister’s belongings, is thrilled to have her there. Mister’s father expresses disapproval of the arrangement, reminding Mister that Shug has three out-of-wedlock children, though Mister indirectly implies to him that he is those children’s father. Mister’s father then leaves in disgust. While Shug is initially rude to Celie, who has taken charge of nursing her, the two women become friends, and Celie soon finds herself infatuated with Shug.
Frustrated by Harpo’s domineering behavior, Sofia moves out, taking her children with her. Several months later, Harpo opens a juke joint where a fully recovered Shug performs nightly. Shug decides to stay when she learns that Mister beats Celie when she is away. Shug and Celie grow closer.
Sofia returns for a visit and promptly gets into a fight with Harpo’s new girlfriend, Squeak, knocking Squeak’s teeth out. In town one day, while Sofia is enjoying a day out with her new boyfriend, a prizefighter, and their respective children, she gets into a physical fight with the mayor after his wife, Miss Millie, insults Sofia and her children. The police arrive and brutally beat Sofia, leaving her with a cracked skull, broken ribs, her face rendered nearly unrecognizable, and blind in one eye. She is subsequently sentenced to 12 years in jail.
Squeak, a mixed-race woman and Sheriff Hodges’ illegitimate niece, attempts to blackmail the sheriff into releasing Sofia, resulting in her being raped by her uncle. Squeak cares for Sofia’s children while she is incarcerated, and the two women develop a friendship. Sofia is eventually released and begins working for Miss Millie, which she detests.
Despite being newly married to a man called Grady, Shug instigates a sexual relationship with Celie on her next visit. One night Shug asks Celie about her sister, and Shug helps Celie recover letters from Nettie that Mister has been hiding from her for decades. The letters indicate that Nettie befriended a missionary couple, Samuel and Corrine, the well-dressed woman that Celie saw in the store, whom Nettie eventually accompanied to Africa to do missionary work. Samuel and Corrine have unwittingly adopted both Adam and Olivia. Corrine, noticing that her adopted children resemble Nettie, wonders if Samuel fathered the children with her. Increasingly suspicious, Corrine tries to limit Nettie’s role in her family.
Through her letters, Nettie reveals that she has become disillusioned with her missionary work. Corrine becomes ill with a fever. Nettie asks Samuel to tell her how he adopted Olivia and Adam. Realizing that Adam and Olivia are Celie’s children, Nettie then learns that Alphonso is actually her and Celie’s stepfather. Their biological father was a store owner whom white men lynched because they resented his success. She also learns that their mother suffered a mental collapse after the death of her husband and that Alphonso exploited the situation in order to control their mother’s considerable wealth.
Nettie confesses to Samuel and Corrine that she is in fact the children’s biological aunt. The gravely ill Corrine refuses to believe her until Nettie reminds her of her previous encounter with Celie in the store. Later, Corrine dies, finally having accepted Nettie’s story. Meanwhile, Celie visits Alphonso, who confirms Nettie’s story. Celie begins to lose some of her faith in God, which she confides to Shug, who explains to Celie her own unique religious philosophy. Shug helps Celie to realize that God is not someone who has power over her like the rest of the men in Celie’s life. Rather, God was an “It” and not a “Who”.
Celie, having had enough of her husband’s abuse, decides to leave Mister along with Shug and Squeak, who is considering a singing career of her own. Celie puts a curse on Mister before leaving him for good. Celie settles in Tennessee and supports herself as a seamstress.
Alphonso dies, Celie inherits his land, and moves back into her childhood home. Around this time, Shug falls in love with Germaine, a member of her band, and this news crushes Celie. Shug travels with Germaine, all the while writing postcards to Celie. Celie pledges to love Shug even if Shug does not love her back.
Celie learns that Mister, suffering from a considerable decline in fortunes after Celie left him, has changed dramatically and Celie begins to call him by his first name, Albert. Albert proposes that they marry “in the spirit as well as in the flesh,” but Celie declines.
Meanwhile, Nettie and Samuel marry and prepare to return to America. Before they leave, Adam marries Tashi, an African girl. Following an African tradition, Tashi undergoes the painful rituals of female circumcision and facial scarring. In solidarity, Adam undergoes the same facial scarring ritual.
As Celie realizes that she is content in her life without Shug, Shug returns, having ended her relationship with Germaine. Nettie, Samuel, Olivia, Adam, and Tashi all arrive at Celie’s house. Nettie and Celie reunite after 30 years, and introduce one another to their respective families as the novel ends.
6. As An Epistolary Novel
[Q. How is the epistolary form used in The Color Purple by Alice Walker? Or, Q. What type of novel is Walker’s The Color Purple? Comment on the significance.]
The Color Purple is an epistolary novel, made up of letters written by Celie to God and by Nettie to Celie. At the start of the novel, Celie is a fourteen-year-old, vulnerable, abused black girl who addresses her letters to “Dear God.” Thirty years later, at the end of the novel, she has forged her own life despite a male-dominated and racially prejudiced society. She fights her way through life and questions everything she has been taught. Her most ambitious challenge is to remake her idea of God as an old, white, bearded male-her antithesis-into a God who encompasses everything and lives within her.
In Celie’s first letter to God, we learn that she has been raped by her father, Alfonso. Alfonso told her that she must not tell anybody what happens, except God. Celie falls pregnant twice and is taken out of school. Alfonso puts the children up for adoption, and they are taken in by a reverend living in the town. After her mother dies, Celie’s father marries her off to Mr. Albert
Married life is also quite painful for Celie. She must raise Albert’s children, take full control of any house chores, endure unenjoyable intimate nights with her husband, and undergo regular, unnecessary beatings from him. Things improve for Celie for a short while after her sister Nettie comes to live with her. Unfortunately, Albert (who always preferred Nettie to Celie and asked Nettie to marry him first) refuses to allow Nettie to stay in his house unless she rewards him. When Nettie leaves, he follows
her and tries to rape her, but she escapes and seeks out the Reverend, who is raising Celie’s children.
She gets a job as a maid with the family. The Reverend, whose name is Samuel, and his wife Corrine are both missionaries preparing to go to Africa. After they find that one of their partner missionaries is unable to go, they offer Nettie the chance to join them in Africa, Nettie is delighted and accepts. When Nettie arrives in Africa she begins to write frequently to Celie. She is constantly worried that her letters will not reach her sister and voices her concern, telling Celie that Albert had promised that she would never hear from her again. Celie accordingly is not given a single letter from Nettie for years.
Albert’s eldest son Harpo falls in love with a fifteen-year-old girl named Sofia. She is soon pregnant, and they marry. Harpo tries to dominate Sofia the way his father dominates Celie, but she is stronger and fights back. Eventually Sofia gets fed up with Harpo and leaves him to go live with her sister Odessa.
Albert finds out that his mistress of many years, Shug Avery, is ill. He drives off and brings her home, where Celie is required to take care of her. Celie is happy to do so; she remembers the first time she saw Shug in a photograph before she got married, and she thinks Shug is even more beautiful in the flesh. Shug is ill-tempered and nasty to Celie at first, but she soon starts to like Celie.
Harpo converts his house into a juke joint when Sofia leaves, but no one comes. He decides to ask Shug, who is a well-known jazz singer, if she will sing at his place. She agrees. Albert does not want Celie to go on the first night, but Shug insists that she go. Shug draws a large crowd and dedicates one of her songs to Celie.
Shug plans to leave but, in an attempt to keep her from going, Celie tells her that Albert beats her. Shug promises not to leave until he stops. Shug also learns that Celie has never enjoyed sex. Shug tries to educate Celie about how to get pleasure from sex, but it is soon clear that Celie feels nothing for Albert because she is attracted to women. Later, Celie experiences her first sexual pleasure with Shug.
One day Sofia turns up at Harpo’s place with a new boyfriend named Buster. She sees Harpo, they start chatting, and he asks her to dance. His new girlfriend Squeak is very jealous and slaps Sofia. Sofia immediately punches Squeak back, knocking out several of her teeth. Soon after, out in town, Sofia meets the Major and his wife Miss Millie. Quite taken with the children and impressed by their cleanliness, Ms. Millie asks Sofia to work as her nanny. When Sophia refuses, the Mayor slaps her and, in response, Sofia knocks him down. She is arrested and given twelve years in jail. Squeak is sent on a mission to get Sofia out of jail and move her into the Major’s house to work as a maid. Squeak goes to visit the warden and is raped by him. The visit is not fruitless, however, and Sofia is moved into the Major’s house as a maid. Following her rape, Squeak tells Harpo to call her by her real name, Mary Agnes.
Shug returns to Celie and Albert, bringing with her a new husband named Grady. Shug warns Celie that Albert is hiding letters from her, and they soon discover that Albert has been hiding Nettie’s letters all this time. Celie is furious, but Shug keeps her calm. Together they find all of the letters and start to read them.
Nettie’s early letters explain the beginning of her missionary trip to Africa with the Reverend and his family. The Olinka tribe there worships the roofleaf the people use for their roofs-without it their homes would be destroyed in the rainy season. The natives view Nettie as a second wife of Samuel, which makes Corrine very jealous. Soon she stops Nettie from meeting with Samuel in private or from borrowing her clothes. After a few years, Corrine comes down with a fever and dies, but she learns the truth about Nettie and her adopted children beforehand: Olivia and Adam are not really Nettie’s children by Samuel. Soon after, on a trip to England, Samuel and Nettie are married.
A road is built right through the village of the Olinka by a rubber manufacturing company, and it destroys the entire village. They are forced to relocate to a more barren area with poor water. The new owners of the land charge them for water and for the new tin roofs which the Olinka are forced to use. Many of the people leave to join the mbeles, a group of natives deep in the jungle who are struggling against the white man.
Since arriving in Africa, Adam and Olivia have become very good friends with a young Olinka girl named Tashi. Tashi decides that she must undergo the ritual Olinka scarring ceremony on her face as well as the female circumcision initiation in order to honor her culture. But she becomes so ashamed of the marks that she soon leaves to join the mbeles. Adam goes after her and brings her home, but she refuses to marry him because she is afraid she will not be accepted in the United States. Initially scathing about Tashi’s decision to become scared, Adam now gets his face marked as well so that they look alike and so that she will not feel ashamed. Tashi and Adam are married, and the whole family then makes plans to return home.
After finding her sister’s letters, Celie decides to leave home with Shug. She tells Albert she is leaving. When he tries to stop her, she stabs his hand with a fork. Before she leaves, she curses him for the way he has treated her and tells him he will be cursed until he changes his ways. In response he refuses to send her any of Nettie’s letters as they keep arriving.
Celie goes to Memphis with Shug, where she starts making a lot of pants. Eventually she gets so good at designing them that she receives regular orders. Shug helps Celie turn the work into a business. Soon after, Celie learns that Alfonso, known to her as Pa, is not her real father after all, just the man who married her mother after her real father (who was a successful businessman) had been killed. After Alfonso dies, Celie receives a phone call telling her that her family home now belongs to Nettie and herself.
Celie fixes up her new house while Shug elopes with her new love interest, a nineteen-year-old flute player named Germaine. Celie is heartbroken, but she meets up with Albert occasionally when she visits Sofia’s daughter Henrietta, and they become good friends-he has changed a lot since the old days. Apparently, after Celie left he let everything go and almost died of malnourishment. Harpo finally forced him to send Nettie’s letters to Celie, and from that point he began to change his life around.
Shug returns and decides to retire, for her flute player has gone to college. Celie is now financially comfortable. She has her new house and her father’s dry goods store (which she also inherited) as well as her business.
Nettie finally returns home with Samuel and with Celie’s grown children. Celie and Nettie fall into each other’s arms and lie on the ground hugging. Celie writes that she has never felt so young before in her life.
6. Racism in ‘The Color Purple
[Q. Compare and contrast the problems of Black Americans in the early 1900’s with those of modern Black Americans with reference to Walker’s novel.
Or, Q. Discuss race, gender and marginality in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.
Or, Q. Discuss the relationship between Western and African cultures as presented in The Color Purple in terms of sexism, racism, or colonialism. For what reason is Walker critical of Western colonialism in this novel?
Or, Q. The Color Purple has been described as ‘a celebration of the independence of Southern black women and black sexual equality’. How far do you agree with this description?]
Racism against Blacks inflicted by Whites, another theme depicted, was just as essential to race as it was to the dehumanization of African Americans. Setting the tone, such blatant, unfair and harsh treatment during early times serves for the foundation of how Blacks treated their own kind. “They have the nerve to try to make us think slavery fell through because of us, say Sofia. Like us didn’t have sense enough to handle it” (102). Unlike most in the novel, Sofia had pride in her race. She did not let racism change her outlook and reflection of herself and race. Seemingly, a sense of pride that one could only wish that most African Americans exhibited.
Another theme expressed in The Color Purple is African American women and abused wives. Walker paints a picture that all Black males are controlling and disrespect their wives. To some Black males the way Walker portrayed them was offensive. According to the New York Times, critics claimed that Alice Walker “portrayed black men harshly.” Many Black men felt that Walker expressed prejudiced views toward them especially since she married a White-man. With that being said, others commended her for her portrayal.
In essence, many felt that The Color Purple encouraged lesbianism not only offended African American men. This is confirmed in an article on race and domesticity in The Color Purple. The article states that the novel was “degrading to Black men and promoting lesbianism among Black women.” The males in the novel were Celle’s antagonists. Some felt that Walker had something against African American males and that she thought they were all bad. Likewise, sensing any hostility toward Walker against African American males is understandable. Furthermore, the author was just trying to tell a story of the love of two sisters and the hardships of African American women and wives down south in the early 1900s.
Due to the disturbing events that Celie had to endure through her childhood especially she does not even label men in her journal entries. Celie always referred to them as “Mr.______.” Perhaps in a way this was her way of taking away power from males. The only good feelings and sexual ones are given to her by females, one in particular Shug Avery. The constant and explícit talk about sexuality is one of the many reasons why there are high schools who banned the work of fiction from school curriculums.
According to the School Library Journal, “The Color Purple ranks 18 on the American Library Association’s list of 100 most frequently challenged books.” With that being said, high schools forbid their school libraries from ordering the book. The incestual scenes between Celie and her father alarmed the parents of Little Axe High School and they forced the school to ban the novel (Norman).
Although there are some overtly explicit experiences Celie dealt with, it is nothing that should be banned. Some high schools, usually those with a predominantly Black population can relate to this story, but schools like Little Axe High School probably would find a harder time relating to the story since their school is predominantly White. However, that does not mean someone White would not enjoy reading the novel. A Caucasian student, attending Warren Mott high school as a senior this year, actually enjoyed reading the novel in her English 11 class her junior year.
To help enhance the understanding of African American culture and history, The Color Purple has been put in many high school curriculums. A case study written by Rob Baum states that, “Woods High School added The Color Purple to its curriculum to rectify its balance of gendered and raced texts.” Adding on, reading The Color Purple for opposite races and even African Americans themselves can give much insight on some of the oppressed, abused, cultural backgrounds of African Americans.
7. Symbolism in the Novel [Q. What significant symbols are there in the novel The Color Purple?
Or, Q. Why have pants and other clothing symbols been used in the novel? Symbolize the meaning.]
The Color Purple is not an easy book to read because it is not written in the style of most novels. Walker does not tell us everything about the characters and the setting and why the characters behave as they do. This novel consists of a series of letters, none of which are dated, and in order to have a time frame for the novel, we will have to read through it carefully, watching for clues about social attitudes, clothes, and other telling details.
Only after finishing the book do we realize that the letters begin in a time when people ride around in wagons, and when the letters end, people are driving cars. Thus, the time span of the novel is about forty years.
In addition, we soon realize that there are large gaps between letters, sometimes five years, but this information is not revealed by Walker herself. We gather this information from clues within the letters and by comparing letters. Walker does not write as an all-knowing, omniscient narrator, filling in the gaps and giving us background. We must rely on our own close reading and on the details that the women who write the letters Celie and her sister Nettie – give us.
There is yet another difficulty in reading this novel. We begin with Celie’s letters and we encounter a language problem. Celie’s letters are not written in standard English. Celie writes her letters in non-standard dialect, what Walker has called black folk language. Thus, at first, Celie’s language might seem awkward to some of us, but most readers respond to this novel more immediately if they read the letters aloud, especially Celie’s letters, listening to Celie’s voice.
Celie is uneducated, and she is writing exactly as she speaks and thinks. There is nothing artificial about her writing “style.” In fact, the most distinctive characteristic about Celie’s letters is their naturalness. There is a continuous emphasis on the oral sound and sense of what Celie writes, rather than on the “written” style of the letters.
There is also a keen and enduring quality of honesty throughout Celie’s letters. She is writing to God, trusting him as she would trust a best friend for guidance and strength to carry on, despite the terrible, painful unhappiness that she feels within her and all those around her.
You should also note that Celie doesn’t sign her letters for a long time, which can be explained by realizing that Celie doesn’t think of herself as a person of sufficient worth to sign her name. When we meet Celie, she has very little selfconfidence. She feels unloved. No one has made her feel valuable. Thus, she turns to God. But even in God’s company, Celie feels of little worth.
It will be a long time before Celie gains enough self-esteem to sign her name with pride, but by then, we will have realized that in reading this long series of letters, we have witnessed a wondrous growth of a black woman who was born with all the odds against her. She began life as a virtual slave, the victim of men, of traditional sexual roles, of racism, and of innumerable social injustices. When the novel is finished, we will have seen Celie grow into a whole human being as into a mature, twentieth-century woman. – as well
There are many fine women in this novel, and each of them has a distinctive, fighting sense of courage. They refuse to be beaten into submission. The fierytempered women, of course, are easily recognized, but it is the quiet, growing strength of Celie that finally impresses us most. For over half the novel, Celie’s method of resistance to violence of all kinds is stoically to endure – to pretend that she is wood, a tree bending but not breaking. This psychology works for Celie. For a long time, it is enough. But later, she luckily has friends who convince her that it is not enough to simply endure and “be alive.” One must fight. By nature, Celie is not a fighter. In fact, she refuses to fight until she realizes how thoroughly cruel her husband has been.
For years, Celie “absorbs” Albert’s brutal violence, but when she sees proof that he has hidden all of her sister’s letters from her, trying to make her think that Nettie was either dead or that she never wrote to her, Celie can take no more. She revolts. She erupts, cursing her husband, and she leaves him to go to Memphis and find happiness with a woman who loves her.
Celie has struggled for many years, keeping alive the memory of Nettie, believing in Nettie, despite the fact that there was no proof that Nettie was alive. It is Celie’s courageous spirit that we admire, her fierce, unflagging love for Nettie. And it is Celie’s love for Nettie and for Shug that finally allows her to forgive her husband, Albert, for all of his intentional cruelty. Love heals heartaches, and love leads Celie to forgiveness and reconciliation.
When the novel ends, we feel that Celie is “solid” (an adjective that she once used admiringly to describe Sofia). Love has sustained Celie; she has learned to love herself and to share love despite continually cruel pressures. Celie has endured and learned to fight, and she has won her battles. In fact, not only has Celie won, but she has also claimed a sense of joy that she never realized was possible, as well as the knowledge that her strong, constant faith – and her ability to hold on reunited her with Nettie and with her own children. The family is whole again. Celie has survived – physically and spiritually.
Now, you are ready for the letters. Walker didn’t number them, of course. That would have destroyed the verisimilitude of the novel. But for the sake of referring to a particular letter, or for cross-referencing, it is convenient to number the letters in the book itself, numbering each complete letter. Do not number letters within letters. To double-check your numbering, note that Celie writes Letters 1-51. Nettie’s letters begin with Number 52. The letters should end with Number 90.
Above all, don’t neglect the opportunity to read aloud as many of Celie’s letters as possible. The humor, the love, the pain, and, finally, the faith that sustains Celie are found in her simple, unaffected phrases. By reading Celie’s letters aloud, you
recreate her voice, and a connection is established between you and this woman who offers you a chance to understand suffering and the need for compassion.
Symbolism takes place throughout the novel. Like God, the color purple, represented nature. It stands for all the beauty that nature beholds and one of the unrecognized truths Celie had yet to understand. Celie had no idea of what the color purple was in the beginning. She lived life only to get to the next day. It was not until Shug came into her life that she gets a sense of the color purple. Then she is able to liberate herself from the control of her husband and move forward in life. “Until you do right by me, I say, everything you even dream about will fail. I give it to him straight, just like it comes to me. And it seems to come to me from the trees” (206). This quote is evident of Celie’s transformation. Once wounded, she is now a warrior. Unrecognized, the color purple was the main idea of the story carried forward, hence its name.
Later on in the novel once Celie is living her life freely without the strong hand of men, she begins to make pants. Gaining a sense of actuality, beauty, and confidence in herself, Celie wears the pants as well as making them. The pants symbolized how Celie overcame the sexism she always was subjugated to. Since pants, culturally, was a male article of clothing in the early 1990s, wearing and producing them gave Celie a sense of power she never felt before. The idea that men wore the pants was no longer a belief of Celie and it proves true in the novel. She no longer felt oppressed and afraid emotionally or economically. Her clothing business consisting of only pants was one of the starting blocks in her life that she was not afraid of men and she did not need them to support her emotionally or financially either. Therefore, pants being symbolic of manhood in many ways, making them was liberating for Celie.
Clothes – Clothing is an important part of a person’s identity and the clothes that people choose to wear usually indicate the role they occupy in life. At the beginning of the narrative, Celie is humiliated by the fact that her clothing is stained by breast milk and she has nothing else to wear. This situation signifies the impoverishment of her life with Fonso, similar to the lives that slaves endured. When she marries Albert, Celie still wears unattractive clothes and even when Shug Avery arrives and Albert’s sister Kate takes Celie to buy a new dress to watch Shug perform, Celie chooses a blue dress that represents her dowdy life rather than the red or purple one she would like to order to impress Shug.
Shug Avery wears clothing that is totally appropriate for her career and lifestyle, made of luxurious material and in colours that are symbolic of passion and lust. Paradoxically, her clothes are both attractive to her audience and repellent to respectable citizens of the local church.
Nettie is hampered by her clothing as a missionary. She is expected to wear conventional, restrictive Western dress that is unsuitable for the African climate and
causes her considerable discomfort. Having very little clothing, she is given Corinne’s when Corinne dies. Wearing it maintains her outward appearance as a respectable Christian missionary’s wife. In Letter 56 Nettie describes the clothing of the black inhabitants of Harlem in New York which is imitative of the white fashions of the time.
Pants/trousers – Trousers are a symbol of women’s emancipation and wearing them would have been both daring and unusual at the time in which the narrative is set. Celie designs and manufactures a unisex style of clothing which combines feminine appeal and materials in a traditional masculine garment. Her ‘Pants Unlimited’ tailoring business not only allows women to assert their independence but also to celebrate their femininity.
When Celie begins to make and wear trousers, she discovers a new creativity and freedom. Both Celie and Shug delight in the different textures, fabrics and colours that can be used and enjoy driving around the countryside wearing matching trouser outfits. Patterning trousers with blue flowers defies the convention that men are the only people allowed to ‘wear the trousers’. The theme of emancipation is developed as Celie’s hobby becomes a thriving business which guarantees her financial independence.
Quilts – Making quilts has been a traditional female occupation in many countries for many centuries. A quilt is usually made by joining two or more layers of material together with some form of padding between the two layers. A design is then stitched through the layers and sometimes braiding or embroidery is added. They can either be made with large single pieces of material, or smaller shapes of different materials, sewn together to make the larger quilt. Quilts can be used to illustrate folktales, as wall-hangings and even as articles of clothing. Quilting was a widespread tradition in Africa brought to North America during the period of slavery. (Nettie compares Senegalese costumes to quilts.) Diamond and circle patterns symbolised the cycles of life. Members of the Underground Railroad would use quilts to send messages. Some quilts marked escape routes out of a plantation or an area, while others marked the stars that would act as a night-time map through the country to freedom. Quilting is associated with female companionship and’ solidarity. The process of sewing different pieces of material together in order to make one single quilt physically links quilting with the idea of sisterhood or unity. It is also associated with laughter and relaxation, as when Sofia and Celie are united in sewing quilts at the end of Letter 21.
In Letter 27, quilt making provides a setting for Shug Avery to make her first tentative contact with Celie when she attempts to sew a square or two onto the quilt Celie is making with Sofia. Celie later gives this quilt to Sofia as a way of apologising for her collusion with Harpo’s brutality when Sofia moves back to live with her sister. Making pieces from scraps of old material evokes the context in which that fabric was originally used, thus quilts can be a testament of a person’s history. Nettie is able to by
jog Corinne’s memory of Celie by discovering a quilt which contains the fabric Corinne bought the day she met her adoptive children’s birth mother.
Needles – As well as being the literal instruments used by women to sew clothing and quilts, needles are also the symbolic means by which women were able to provide warmth and protection for their families. The needle is also important as the means by which Celie achieves economic independence and through that, increased self-esteem and the reassurance of a stable future. It is possible also to see the needle as a type of non-violent weapon because, as used by Celie and her fellow workers in Folkspants Unlimited, it becomes a means of protest against the dominance of men.
God was also a symbol, not just the color purple and pants. Writing to God is what kept Celie life moving. Her letters to God were an indication that she was still alive and sane. Furthermore, the letters added to the verisimilitude of the novel. The employed symbol was used to give insight to the setting through Celie’s eyes which helped to create realism.
The Color Purple expresses the theme that everyone has a story to tell. Celie’s story was told in the novel. Going more in depth, the plot of the story helps enlighten readers on all the themes discussed in the previous paragraphs. The plot shaped the Walker’s story into a tragic love story of two sisters trying to reunite once again. The violence, abuse, and sexuality of the plot are told from Celie’s perspective and through her writing of letters the other themes in the novel are revealed: symbols, marriage, and race.
As stated in the Masterplots Revised Second Edition, “Alice Walker’s novel is unique in its preoccupation with spiritual survival and with exploring the oppressions, insanities, loyalties, and triumphs of Black women.” Speaking to many unrecognized truths and possibilities of life, The Color Purple employs symbols in order to let those truths become understood. Setting, structure, diction, and dialect serve the purpose of verisimilitude for Walker. She uses them to create realism and credibility for her readers. Although criticized for her portrayal of African American men, the novel is still to this day a classic. The critical analysis of sex and lesbianism caused much uproar in some high school including Little Axe High School resulting in the banning of the novel in the school’s curriculum. Yet, it remains a best seller.
[Q. How does Celie develop throughout the novel? Or, Q. What effect do Shug and Sophia have on Celie’s development throughout the novel?
Or, Q. How important is Sophie’s character to this book? Or, Q. Explain who you believe is the “hero” of the novel and why. Or, Q. Compare and contrast the different male characters in The Color Purple. What generalizations does Walker make about males? Or, Q. Compare and contrast the different female characters in The Color Purple. What generalizations does Walker make about females?
Or, Q. How does The Color Purple illustrate the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood? Can any of the characters be described as good role models for their children?]
Celie the main character of the novel. The story spans Celie’s life from the age of 14 to 44. Celie starts out the novel as a young girl who is enduring sexual and physical abuse from her father. Since her father tells her that the only person she is allowed to tell about the abuse is God, Celie begins writing letters to God asking him why her life is this way.
Throughout the novel, Celie’s belief in God is shaken by the events of her life and at one point she seems to give up on it entirely. Toward the end of the novel, after enduring rape and abuse not only from her father but from her husband as well, Celie begins addressing her letters to her sister, Nettie instead. However, at the end of the novel, Celie seems to have reaffirmed her faith, partly due to Shug Avery’s influence in requesting that she stop viewing God as a man and start viewing him in a more abstract sense. Celie’s last letter is addressed to: “Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear God.” Apart from just learning about her religious beliefs, Celie has learned much about herself and her place in the world. She goes from a scared, abused child to an affirmed, powerful woman who is no longer afraid of her sexuality.
Mister – Celie’s husband. Mister’s real first name is Albert although his last name is never revealed. Mister is a divisive character. The antagonist for most of the book, Mister is still shown to have a more vulnerable side in his dealings with Shug Avery. He not only endures her dating and marrying another man but allows her to tell him what to do and seems to be genuinely in love with her. In this way, he has the same motivations as Celie and it is through their mutual love of Shug Avery that the two eventually bond and are able to become friends. However, in his dealings with everyone else, and particularly Celie Mister is a heinous tyrant who insists on getting his own way and does not view women as equals or, for that matter, even people.
Shug Avery (Queen Honeybee)- a jazz singer who becomes well known over the course of the book. Shug is Mister’s mistress and Celie’s first love. Shug seems to be somewhat of a force of nature throughout the novel, causing Celie to realize that she is attracted to women and causing the normally argumentative Mister to bend to her will. Shug is also portrayed as somewhat of a wise woman who always has the right advice to give Celie in any situation. Regardless, Shug is a confident woman who is very sure of herself and ahead of her time as far as knowing her own sexuality. Celie seems to worship her for this as well as love her. Shug can be mean, and comments on Celie’s beauty negatively the first time she meets her. She can also
be selfish in the way she deals with her sexual affairs. But Shug’s, purple dress is the namesake for the book and she seems to bring color to the lives of everyone around her.
Nettie – Celie’s younger sister. In the beginning of the novel, Celie confesses that she often protects Nettie in any way she can from their father and Nettie is said to still be in school after Celie was forced to leave due to pregnancy. Nettie enjoys education and stays in school for as long as she can. Nettie escapes her first home when she discovers that her father may be planning to be sexually abusing her in the same way that he did Celie. After she is forced to leave Mister’s house, Nettie bravely makes a life for herself living with the Reverend and his wife and eventually travels to Africa with them to do missionary work. Nettie seems to take it upon herself to look after Celie’s children while she is with the Reverend and becomes somewhat of a second mother for them. Although Celie and Nettie had not seen each other for years at that point, Nettie writes to Celie religiously and does not get discouraged when she doesn’t get an answer.
Alphonso (Fonso/Pa) – Celie and Nettie’s father. Toward the end of the book the girls now women discover that Alphonso was actually their mother’s second husband and that he is not their biological father. Alphonso, like Mister, is a selfish, controlling heinous man who regularly rapes Celie. Alphonso seems to be a pedophile as he not only takes advantage of Celie but later marries two teenage girls. When Alphonso is confronted by Celie at the end of the novel he only says: “Now you know”. He dies before the end of the novel. –
Carrie and Kate – Albert’s sisters. Although we meet the sisters only briefly, they give us a good idea of the values Albert was brought up with: they gossip condescendingly to Celie about Albert’s love affair with Shug and about how they thought Annie Julia was a bad housekeeper. Kate visits the house again by herself and insists that Celie be bought new clothes. Kate takes Celie clothes shopping herself, marking the first attempt to make Celie comfortable in Albert’s home. The introduction of this bold female into the house marks the beginning of change away from male dominance; it signals very clearly that Albert will have to fight to maintain his role.
Harpo – Harpo is a sensitive boy. He is only twelve when Celie first meets him, when he throws stones at her. At this stage, he is clearly protective of his mother and does not want Celie to replace her. He is found crying a couple of times by Celie, once after a nightmare of his mother dying in his arms and the other time because Sofia does not do what he tells her to do. He finds happiness young and is too ignorant to know he is happy. When he and Sofia get married and have their children, he works hard, whistling the while but, unsure of what his role should be, relies on his father for advice and learns from his father’s relationship with Celie that he should be dominant. This pattern leads to marital disaster. Harpo is not brave enough to
follow what he feels is right. He is a bright boy, though, who fulfills his entrepreneurial potential by building his juke joint.
Sofia Butler – Harpo meets Sofia in church when she is fifteen, but even at that age, she is “strong and ruddy looking.” She is confident and not intimidated by men who think they have power over her. She is loyal and devoted to Harpo, but when he starts treating her badly, she does what she thinks is best and leaves him. She has huge support from her sisters and looks like she has potential to be successful-she is practical and strong willed-but she has a fiery temper. After she is put in jail, she loses her fighting spirit. She also is changed after her time at Miss Millie’s; she resents white people and the way she has been treated, and she retreats into a shell. When she gets back together with Harpo at the end of the novel, we see a gleam of hope that she might find her spirit again.
Personal strengths in this book are exhibited through the protagonist, Celie. Throughout the novel we see how everything was stripped away from her, for this reason she decides to flip the script and take control after all the years of being controlled. There is more in store for this character than we thought because she beautifully begins to change. As the story goes on, she really starts to grow and develop. When Celie was victimized and oppressed her only way out was to write letters to the only one she thought that could save her, God, because she was forbidden to ever speak of what she was going through. Celie had only the mindset to survive neglecting the thought to fight. Strength in her is exhibited by how she transformed from the victimized and oppressed character to taking charge and finally being independent. All of what she has been through made her believe men were all trouble. She says that whenever there’s a man, there is trouble.
Sofia’s strength is also expressed verbally and how she had to fight all her life. She continues saying she had to fight her family including her father, brother, and her cousins. However, there was a weakness detected in a statement saying that a girl child isn’t safe in a family full of men. This statement may be true to some people, but doesn’t apply everywhere. This can be stereotyping and can be the character’s re weakness (Walker, 40). Sofia shows a strength of characterizing like a man. She breaks the cage of stereotyping of women by fighting her husband. Her attitude seems to suggest that she made resolutions with her life and that no man will ever trouble her. She exhibits a personal strength of having independence and direct personality. She acts like a man.
It is essential to understand that this book was narrated in first person and that it’s difficult to know if the audience is reading the author’s opinion or that of the character. It’s easy to think that Celie is the projection of the author’s emotions of the southern culture and the sex prejudice that was known at that time setting. The author does a tremendous job by keeping the reader intact but still informing a very. important history lesson, with a style of both subtle and blindly. Character’s growth and expressions of personality are all done through imagery. There are random
quotations regarding color and texture which happens to be parallelisms of a character’s exact emotions.
Some of the initiatives that the author makes to highlight areas of character’s strengths and weaknesses shows the true traits of them. The author does this by the use of quotes uttered during a given situation and by showing a characters’ perception of particular issues. Walker also shows the correlation between one character to another. She highlights the strengths and weaknesses in a character by revealing the impacts a given character has on the other regarding their relationship. In this way, the audience can determine the strengths and weaknesses of the particular character.
The relationship between Shug and Celie highlights some areas of strengths and weaknesses. In the book Shug is described as an alluring woman. She is an entertaining singer. She is more so entertaining not by just her role in the story, but because she is basically that light Celie needed to see to climb out that deep dark shadow that her weaknesses was keeping her hostage. Shug Avery is the source of the reason Celie becomes an independent woman, through the book she doesn’t change very much she is more of the same. She is presented as a sex symbol or more of being very good at loving which in her case is her strength but a weakness simultaneously. It is a weakness because she loves entirely too much. Walker portrays Shug as a person that cannot be in a committed relationship and someone that needs to be adored and admired by others. She is also depicted as the reason why Celie is lesbian.
Walker uses Nettie who is Celie’s younger sister to show the perfect example of a good life. Nettie’s strength was portrayed by her living with an independent lifestyle. She is the complete opposite of Celie. Another strength Nettie holds is that she is educated and untouched by men. However, all this happens to be Celie’s sacrifice. Celie indirectly protected her younger sister even though she wasn’t a fighter.
Walker also uses the language to show the difference between strengths and weaknesses of Celie and her younger sister Nettie as well as emphasizing on how Celie transitions throughout the story. It’s the use of language that the reader can know whether a character has had formal education or not. In the beginning through speech the author reflects Celie’s childhood and lack of formal education. Noticeably she happens to use shorter sentences with improper grammar. This shows the weakness of Celie. In her statements, she uses more complex sentences that have diverse vocabularies. This defines her strength in communication. Alice Walker also uses tone. Through the novel the tone was somewhat bitter, but still holding to bits of forgotten hope characterized by the personal tragedy and Celie’s immense loss. He builds relationships with those around her regardless of the traumatic life she holds.
conclusion, through the book the author used many different characters and themes to exhibit areas of a character’s strength and their weaknesses. The several letters told in this novel emphasizes much on self-expression in developing one’s sense of self.
8. As A Feminist Novel
[Q. How do the female characters in the novel determine their own lives?
Or, Q. Walker gives some of her female characters masculine attributes that make them stronger than the men in their lives and some masculine characters attributes that are unexpectedly feminine. How effective do you find these role-reversals and how do they illustrate Walker’s ‘womanist’ philosophy?]
Alice Walker’s epistolary novel The Color Purple demonstrates how the mistreatment of a woman cannot prevent her from fulfilling her destiny. The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Celie, is a young, uneducated black girl who is verbally and sexually abused by her supposed father, Alphonso. He fathers two children with her, kidnapping both and presumably killing one, if not both. Because of the unwarranted trauma, she struggles for the rest of her life to recover from his abuse and establish her own power.
Celie has a much smarter and prettier younger sister Nettie, whom she loves, and of whom she is very protective. Celie saves Nettie from marriage to a suitor referred to only as Mr. when their father forces her to marry him instead. Celie’s step son Harpo, wed a strong-minded woman, Sofia, who is the complete opposite of Celie. Sofia’s refusal to be abused by anyone, man or woman – sparks a curiosity that makes Celie take a closer look at herself. The catalyst of the story is Mr. ‘s lover, Shug Avery. –
Although Celie realizes Shug is her husband’s lover, she does not resent Shug; in fact, Shug becomes Celie’s best friend, lover and even mentor. These influential women, each trying to find their own happiness, fighting their own personal demons, tremendously impact Celie’s life. The women help to educate Celie, whose natural intelligence and talents have been stunted by years of constant humiliation and abuse by her father and husband. It is through each character’s definition of life and struggle within The Color Purple that Alice Walker is able to tell the story of victorious transformation.
Walker’s narrative symbolically illustrates a woman’s psychological journey rising from the mentality of an abused victim of poverty to become a strong, independent and confident woman who establishes her own place within her society. The sexual abuse Celie endures at a very early age leaves her powerless with nowhere to turn. Alphonso’s (Pa) sexual abuse is taken a step further when he gives. Celie’s two children away to a family. Celie’s ignorance, due to her age and poor education,
prevents her from understanding why the children were taken from her, but she does not believe they are dead.
I Alphonso entices Mr. a widower with four children, to take Celie instead of Nettie, so he will not have to care for her anymore, by throwing in a cow with the deal. Walid El Hamamsy characterizes the combination package of Celie and the cow as further “patriarchal oppression” and a way to continue to “dehumanize” her. Her brutality is continued in her loveless marriage to Mr., who beats and uses her for sexual convenience. One way to endure the torture is to tell herself “Celie, you a tree”. The other way she is able to tolerate her plight of isolation and despair is through writing letters to God.
The letters afford her a voice which otherwise she does not have. Celie’s relationship with her sister Nettie goes beyond just a sisterly bond. Nettie turns out to be the first person to show Celie true unconditional love. With Celie’s children being taken away from her, Nettie fills her void of motherly obligation. Celie wants to guarantee Nettie’s well-being and puts Nettie first for everything. Celie’s view of Nettie as someone filled with potential is in direct contradiction to how Celie sees herself; however, it never stops Nettie from trying to teach Celie so she can open her mind to what is going on in the world around her.
When Celie’s husband tells her Nettie has to leave, it is like a ton of bricks landing on Celie. Nettie is the only person from whom Celie ever felt love. When Nettie leaves, she encourages Celie “to fight,” but Celie is so broken she says she only knows how to “stay alive”. Celie’s mental state is still that of an abused victim: she is encapsulated in a world of deep despair, but Nettie has planted a seed that will grow and eventually take her to a place of confidence.
Alice Walker introduces Sofia, a bold, headstrong woman that illustrates assertiveness and self-dignity. Mr.’s son, Harpo, marries Sofia because he loves her, but later tries to make her succumb to him through brutal force. Harpo has grown up seeing his father physically abuse Celie in order to get his way and when he asks Celie what he should do to get his headstrong wife to submit to him, Celie tells him he should beat her. Celie sees little or no value in herself. She survives victimization by accepting that fighting back will only cause more harm than good.
Anyone can do or say anything they want to Celie since she has accepted her place and submits to the violence. With telling Harpo to beat his wife, Celie is once again showing her abused mentality: she truly believes that physical oppression by husbands is normal. Critic Stacie Lynn Hankinson contends Celie portrays “a survivalof-the-fittest perspective, which pitted her against, rather than aligning her with, other women. “After Sofia learns of the betrayal of Celie, she boldly confronts her only to figure out Celie is actually on her side.
Sofia tells Celie “All my life I had to fight”. Sofia embodies something that would not allow her to be a victim, no matter who she has to fight. Celie professes her jealousy of Sofia because she unfortunately did not have the strength to fight and was continuously a victim. Sofia offers something to Celie she never had before, moral support. Sofia’s constant retaliation against Harpo assists Celie to understand that rebellion, fighting, is a way to escape victimization. Celie’s lack of confidence resides in her fear of not being loved.
When Shug Avery, a Blues singer and her husband’s lover, enters Celie’s life, Celie becomes conscious of an intimate, trusting love, which empowers Celie to assert herself. Shug enables Celie to freely express herself and talk about all the unfortunate things that have happened to her over the years. Shug also helps Celie find her voice and change how she views herself. After Shug tells Celie “you still a virgin” Celie starts to look at herself less as a victim and gradually lessens her acceptance of ill treatment and stands up for herself.
Shug shows Celie how having a powerful voice can be pivotal in changing their life. Walker uses the relationship between Shug and Celie as a way to emphasize consistency and a strong bond. Shug is not only Celie’s confidant but there is a role reversal and Celie becomes Shug’s confidant. Their conversations bring up points not only do they think about, but the reader might as well. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it”.
After her conversations with Shug Celie realizes she must strip her mind of the impression of God that her male-dominated society has placed on her and replace it with a holistic one. Celie’s recognition of God as a Creator allows her to establish a place in her society and finally love herself, just as she is. Marc A. Cristophe agrees as he writes in his essay The Color Purple: An Existential Novel, “she has rejoined the community of men and women; she has found herself, her own place…and is able to marvel at the creation, at life itself. ||
The Color Purple is considered a classic womanist text. It is about being a woman and a black, living in the frame of male civilization, racist and sexist, being subject to all possible forms of oppression. It explores the modern search for wholeness, connection of people in an age of fragmentation and exploitation. Trudier Harris in Black American Literature Forum states that The Color Purple has “become the classic novel by a black woman” because “the pendulum determining focus on black writers had swung in their favour … and Alice Walker had been waiting in the wings of the feminist movement…”
The Color Purple is an epistolary novel i.e. it is written as a series of documents, the usual form is letters. This technique allows Celie to speak for herself; she also gets to structure her identity and her sense of self by writing her letters. Celie’s letters, her growing ability to express her thoughts point out to her spiritual development and also pave the way for her independence. The novel’s narrative technique is linked with the novel’s main thematic image of gaining an identity, of rebirth and of survival. Through the form, Walker also links a formal and western tradition to an oral and distinctly African American folk expression. The use of the vernacular infuses an old
form with new life. Alice Walker uses the color purple which is a color of triumph, regal power. By using this color, Walker has rendered heroism to their lives and to their ability to survive and triumph over oppressions and hardships.
The novel faced criticism by the Afro Americans because of the unfavourable portrayal of men as being capable of oppressing other members of the community especially women. Young women are treated like sexual objects; Celie is raped by her ‘Pa’. Her education is discontinued forcibly against her wish; she is married off to a person because she has become a “burden”. At the start of the novel, her only voice is her letters to God. In ‘The Bluest Eye’ Pecola is completely silenced as a result of paternal violence, Celie does not resign her beauty to a world where blue eyes seem to be the white standard of beauty. Celie confides in God about her sufferings and not to any imaginary friend, she refuses to be a voiceless victim.
The novel makes use of the Socialist and the Radical theory of Feminism. According to the Socialist theory, the lower status of women is due to the fact that the women are economically dependent on the male partner and the ideological myths about women have strengthened the male power over them. These myths have played a powerful role in defining their major roles as that of a mother, housekeeper and a child rearer. According to the Radical Theory, patriarchy is a result of the exploitation of female biology by men; marriage based family relationships in which men control women’s behaviour.
At the beginning of the novel one can notice that Celie is completely devoid of identity. Her husband Mr calls Celie a ‘nobody’. Celie is unable to define herself. Her life has been fragmented into pieces, given away to others. In the later stages of the novel, through the narrative, one realizes Celie takes a step forward towards her own self-acceptance when she announces her decision to leave Mr _______ and live with Shug in Memphis. Celie declares, “I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook…But I’m here”. Initially in the novel Celie does not sign her letters but after a certain point she does so emphasising on her identity through her family relationships, her business, her love, her new place in the world.
The Womanism in The Color Purple brings out the depiction of various women characters which are Celie, Nettie, Shug, Sofia, and Mary Agnes. The bonding between them is also a reason responsible for Celie’s metamorphosis into a strong and an independent person. In the novel the tale of Sofia’s sisters brings to light the importance of female bonding and the potential power of women. Quilts and quilting play an important role in The Color Purple. They embody the ideal of unity in diversity which is very prominent in Walker’s novels. As a truce Sofia and Celie make a quilt of diverse patterns suggesting the above stated idea of unity in diversity. Women’s quilting plays the role of creating a female community in a world that represses any form of female expression. Quilting in The Color Purple is a symbol of female bonding, creativity and a manifestation of African American folk culture.
9. Gender Troubles and Relationships
[Q. Celie’s relationship with herself changes throughout the play. Which life events have the strongest impacts? Why?
Or, Q. Celie does not refer to her husband by his name. In the book his name is Mr.____________ and the play has his name as “Mister”. We learn from Shug that his first name is Albert. What does this imply about their relationship?
Or, Q. Shug’s illness is called ‘a nasty women’s disease’ and that she ‘earned’ her illness through her behaviour. What does this imply about the treatment/expectations of women during this time?
Or, Q. Walker presents Celie and Shug’s relationship as part of a normal life trajectory that is neither unusual nor subversive. Discuss.]
Throughout the novel, Celie struggles with her sexuality. This is an example of the internal conflict within Celie. All her life she was beaten and raped by the men, including her father and husband. Dealing with much abuse causes Celie to have no confidence. Celie has no sense of her own actuality. She has no self worth, inner beauty, or formal intelligence. As Celie works through her internal conflict, the symbols employed throughout the novel are shown. The conflicts worked through the novel to add to the tragic and upsetting atmosphere.
Along with internal conflict, there was also some external conflict. There was external conflict between Celie and the men in her life. Her father and husband are just some of the examples of external conflict. Not only did the protagonist have external conflicts between men, other supporting characters such as Sofia and Harpo did as well. The males in the story try to dominate their women, while some succeed in doing so and others do not. Celie is an example of the women who accepted oppression and just tried to survive. Day by day, she never fought back until given the courage in the end. Sofia, on the other hand, was an example of how women fought back against the sexist ideas that men could do whatever they wanted to overpower their wives, including beat them. Relationships were significant in the development of the novel.
The relationships between women and women, men and women, and people and God were illustrated. Just like there was love among the women, there was also jealousy. The bond between Shug and Celie started off with jealousy as Shug was prettier and was able to get the attention of Celie’s husband and stand up to him. The women stayed within competition of one another until they were finally able to ban together and rise against the men in their lives that were keeping them down. The relationship between Celie and Shug was one the most prominent relationships in the story. After their bond was formed Celie learns many life lessons that ultimately help to liberate her from the captivity of male dominance in the story.
Next, the relationships between men and women often lacked love and passion in their marriages. The men were too busy following after their fathers that they never learned how to truly love their wives. Depicted in the novel, Black men felt they had to “wear the pants”; this idea transcends through The Color Purple as the men fail to break away from the tradition of trying to tame and train their wives. In doing so, some lost their wives respect and love in some circumstances.
Instances such as when Harpo observed his father’s relationship between him and his wife. Harpo formed the conclusion that by beating his wife like his father did to Celie, he might create a more controlling and accepting relationship between him and his wife. Trying to earn her respect by watching his father’s relationship with Celie, he beats his wife, Sofia. In response, Sofia lashes out and fights back. She was the perfect example of women who were true to themselves in mind and physique. Additionally, the males in the novel let their violent fathers dictate how they handled their own relationships.
can Furthermore, the relationships that Celie encounters with men in her life cause her to feel no type of attraction or passion from men. “Naw, I say. Mr. tell you, I don’t like it at all. What is it like? He git up on you, heist your nightgown round your waist, plunge in. Most times I pretend I ain’t there. He never knew the difference. Never ast me how I feel, nothing. Just do his business, get off, go to sleep”. In this excerpt, Celie describes how she felt about having intercourse with her husband. Unfortunate enough, no love or passion is felt, just abuse.
Last, but not least, the relationship among people and God was exemplified through Celie and how she views God. After being raped Celie loses her sense of love with God. To Celie, God was a male therefore, she lost faith in him like all the other males she had to encounter in her life. Writing to him out of loss of hope, she loses sight of the color purple and the liberation of life. By the end of the novel, Celie realizes the color purple is nature and the two combined is God as well. Viewing the two as one, she grasps the feeling of joy and being free.
This visual diary created was inspired by many aspects of The Colour Purple. The purpose was to pose questions that allowed individuals to reflect and change so that we can continue to mature as humanity. The issues presented in the novel are obviously still very relevant to today’s society so a more contemporary style was adopted for the exploration of these themes.
Celie’s journey through oppression allowed Alice Walker to explore the theme of self-discovery. Celie should have been too broken to do anything with her life but was able to stand up for herself with the help of the strong women around her. When Albert interrogates her about her choice about moving up north with Shug, she tells him, “You a lowdown dog is what’s wrong, It’s time to leave you and enter into the Creation.” She has really been able to create a better life after gaining confidence and independence, proving those who looked down on her wrong and making a social stand against stereotypes. …
The self-discovery of Celie was an important point in her character arc where she finally realises her potential and unnecessary reliance on the male dominions in her life. Without this development of character, Walker would have been unable to highlight the importance of freedom from the oppression of minorities.
While the symbol of pants is to show the journey of self-discovery and freedom from oppression, it is also a symbol of opposing gender standards. The pants that Celie was making were for women, and she makes a point to say that “anybody can wear them”. When Albert and Celie’s relationship has become more genuine, Albert admits to wanting to sew but never doing it in fear of discrimination. The males are also oppressed because they feel like they have to avoid and even demean feminine traits and activities to fit in. Walker is showing that conventional gender standards are harmful to everyone when taken to the extreme and that we should move towards creating safer environments for everyone to develop equally and in their own style.
Walker explores the topic of gender, stereotypical roles, and sexuality throughout the novel and shows how close-mindedly keeping traditional views can be harmful. Some characters tried to break the boundaries of gender roles but this disruption of society’s long-established stereotypes caused them many problems. Being very sexually confident and bold in nature, Shug is branded a tramp. Sofia will not take anyone looking down on her lightly and says “hell no” to any acts of repression, resulting in a backlash. Harpo feels insecure about his masculinity and was pressured to follow his father’s actions, so he tries to beat Sofia in order to “make her mind.” The Author has blurred the lines so much that even the characters cannot distinguish between the different roles.
All of these show that traditional gender roles can be very restricting with many consequences. They should be full of fluidity to allow expression of self to be explored to its fullest. The ways in which we conventionally understand gender roles are, in reality, not that simple and Walker overturns these ideas by creating strong characters who defy these roles.
10. Sexism in the Novel
[Q. How does Celie’s identity/”the self” develop throughout Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple?
Or, Q. What does The Color Purple teach about the sexual liberation of women? Discuss.
Or, Q. How does Alice Walker address issues of gender and sexuality in The Color Purple?]
In The Color Purple, Alice Walker writes of a predominantly sexist setting through the frequent beating of women, the stereotypes cast upon people, and the thoughts and feelings of the Olinka peoples. The author writes about the common
and frequent beating of Celie by her father as discipline and of Mr. to present a sexist setting. To show the predominantly sexist setting, Alice Walker includes the stereotypes cast upon people such as Celie’s wearing and making of pants and Mr._________’s sewing. The writer includes the thoughts and feelings of the Olinka people through their not educating females and their thought of a woman’s ideal
The thoughts and feelings of the Olinka people are depicted through their choice to not educate females when Nettie asks an Olinka why she thinks this and when Tashi’s father tells Nettie that there is no place for women to have important careers. While in Africa, Nettie asks an Olinka woman why they choose to not have their daughters educated, and the woman responds, “only to her husband can [a woman] become something” and she later goes on to say that she can become “the mother of his children;” these remarks imply that Olinka women are meant to be mothers and nothing else that they would enjoy.
When Nettie informs Tashi’s father of his daughter’s great intelligence and the great careers she could pursue, he immediately responds “there is no place here for women to do those things;” this shows how the men of the Olinkas have it preset in their mind that women should not have the same career as a man does; this, along with stereotypes, add to the sexist setting.
that Mr. The stereotypes cast upon people show the sexist setting when it is found out sewed as a child with his mama and when Celie predicts what Albert will think if she wears pants. Albert admits to Celie that he “use[d] to try to sew along with [his] mama;” this goes against the common stereotype that men do not sew. When Shug spontaneously decides that she should make a pair of pants for Celie to wear; Celie states “Mr. not going to let his wife wear pants” without even asking him his opinion. Along with these stereotypes, the common beating of women adds to the sexist setting.
The common beating of Celie by her father in her youth and by Albert to dominate her both help contribute to the sexist setting of the book. While in church one day, Celie’s father catches her eying a boy and when she goes home, Celie write in her letter to God that “[she] don’t even look at mens,” and then says the she does look at women “cause [she’s] not scared of them;” this demonstrates the fear that she has of men from her abusive father. When Harpo has a conversation, Celie tells him “[if] you don’t do what he say, he beats you;” this shows that Celie has learned this lesson by simply not obeying a command in The Color Purple.
Through the common beating of women, the stereotypes cast upon people, and the attitudes of the Olinka people, Alice walker writes about a predominantly sexist setting in The Color Purple. Walker writes about this to show how things really were in black as well as white culture in the past. If Alice Walker were to write about something more recent, she would write about sexism and discrimination of other cultures or religions.
In The Color Purple, women tolerate racism, sexism and gender discrimination, but they unite with each other. Through sisterhood, women realize their talents, verbalize them and follow them As they have emotional supporters, they follow their dreams without worrying and then achieve their goals. As Haste asserts, by giving authenticity to female subjectivity there should be some ways to change women’s view of themselves and males? view of women. There should not be any preconception of women’s subjectivity. Men are against women’s progress at first and are opposed to it, as they think that with women’s power and success their manhood will be under question. As a result of patriarchy, they are blind to women and intend to put barriers in their way. As her sewing improves, Celie becomes wealthy and she returns home to wait for her sister and her children’s arrival. At this time, Mr._ recognises his mistake and his mistreatment of her and starts supporting her. Mr._ sews pants with Celie and gives her some ideas about shirts which are suitable to go with Celie’s pants.
Moreover, Harpo supports Sofia in her job and takes care of their daughter while Sofia is away. In fact, women have had marginal positions, both in their families and in society, and this marginality “allows us to view [the] repression of the feminine in terms of positionality rather than essences”; in essence, women are not inferior or weaker, but in society they are considered as such by patriarchal system. However, in The Color Purple, women start to bond together and then men join them, and that is the main reason why progress happens. “By thinking and acting women can overcome man-made barriers to their humanity”. This novel envisions a better future for black people through union. In fact, …in “in Search of Our Mother’s Gardens,” Walker speaks about three types of black women: the physically and psychologically abused black women, the black women who are torn by contrary instincts, and the new black woman, who re-creates herself out of the creative legacy of her maternal ancestors.
This novel reflects Walker?s new black women who verbalize their needs and go after them. In fact, through sisterhood, female characters get rid of their marginalized positions in the family and recreate their subjectivity through recognizing their needs and talents, expressing them and finding ways to improve them.
1. What do you know about the socio-cultural background of the novel?
Although slavery was prohibited by the Emancipation Proclamation of the year 1862, Blacks were still not included in everyday life. They were hardly able to find well paid jobs or work at all. While some had the chance to open small businesses of their own, mainly selling dry goods, others had to continue or start working on
fields. Working on fields meant working as “sharecroppers, tenant farmers, farm laborers, and casuals (work for food)”. By the end of the 18th century and during the 19th century, however, farmers were given the opportunity to buy their own land and tools to start their own businesses. Walker places The Color Purple in the American South among independent but still poor farmers. “Walker’s heritage and history provides a vehicle for understanding the modern world in which her characters live.” Her heritage and the modern society she grew up in are of utmost importance to understand the novel. Walker included herself strongly in the Civil Right Movement, which was not always easy at this time. Being black already difficult enough at this time, meant being a woman was another challenge. Although there was the fight for equal rights, in the beginning, it did not necessarily include female rights. Thus Walker can be seen as a southern, black feminist or using the author’s words womanist.
2. What does the way the community reacts to Shug’s illness say about the status of women?
The women in Celie’s church speculate that Shug has a disease contracted through sexual promiscuity. They call it a “woman disease,” even though men are equally susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases. The community considers sexual freedom, which represents a goal and prerogative for men, to be a sin for women. Shug’s constant challenging of and resistance to this double standard makes her the target of many attacks. Ironically, the same women who berate Shug for her affair with Mr. are the ones who flirt with Mr. shamelessly. Additionally, when Shug later returns to the stage, for her first performance in Harpo’s new juke joint, she draws a huge crowd of loving, admiring fans. Showing their fickleness, many of these fans, who were unwilling to take Shug in when she was sick, bend over backward to express concern and proclaim their relief at finding she is still alive.
3. What importance do the letters hold?
The book follows Celie in a series of letters addressed to God and Celie’s sister, Nettie, who moved to Africa. Celie’s story begins as a fourteen year old who is being sexually abused by her father. She has two children named Adam and Olivia. Upon turning twenty years old, she is married to a man she calls, Mr. He sexually, physically, and emotionally abusive throughout their marriage. Celie begins a sexual and eventually romantic relationship with Mr. ‘s ex-lover, Shug Avery, who helps her to uncover Nettie’s letters to Celie that were hidden by Mr.
In the letters from Nettie, we find out that she has moved to West Africa with a missionary couple, Samuel and Corinne, who are also the adoptive parents of Celie’s children. The last letter that Celie writes is addressed to God and sums up the spiritual aspect in the book. Celie writes, “Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear God.” With her new-found sense of self from Shug’s love and Nettie’s letters, Celie ends up leaving.Mr. and moves with Shug to Memphis TN, where she begins a business selling pants. Samuel and Nettie
bring the children, who are adults now, back to Georgia with them to meet the family. (Samuel and Nettie were married after Corinne passed away in Africa.) Olivia, Adam and Adam’s wife, Tashi, are all reunited with Celie and all the other characters, bringing an immense joy to Celie’s heart.
4. Comment on the growing relationship between Shug and Celie.
Alice Walker uses a variety of techniques in ‘The Color Purple’ to present the growing relationship between Celie and Shug. Using pages 68-70 as a starting point I will be exploring attitudes towards sexuality as well as a number of lexical, grammatical and phonological choices. As soon as Celie encounters Shug Avery, we get the sense that she already has a subconscious sexual desire for her. “First time I got the full sight of Shug Avery” she says, “I thought I had turned into a man,” and from this description we can see that Shug Avery is a big factor in expanding Celie’s mind and feelings towards other desires and ideas. This point is then developed by a subsequent sentence, “I wash her body, it feels like I’m praying. ” Celie, being a strict believer in God, is obviously moved in new and different ways by the presence of Shug. Celie uses prayer to escape from her life and talk about issues that have, or are currently, troubling her. Thus, the presence of Shug allows Celie to mentally free herself; even though Shug is slightly bitter towards Celie. Later on in the novel Celie discusses her frequent rapes by Alphonso; thus reinforcing the point that Celie is able to discuss private and sensitive issues with Shug only. A close and personal link is created by Celie and Shug’s first physical encounter. Celie’s sexual urges for Shug continue to develop in a later letter. “If I don’t watch out I’ll have hold of her hand, tasting her fingers in my mouth.
The syntax of this sentence shows a change in desires; the caesura splits a relatively soft, harmless urge with one of more extreme consequences; thus showing Celie’s confusion over her desires. The use of a complex sentence represents that Celie does not wish to pause whilst describing the event as it offers her too much pleasure. On the other hand Shug still resists Celie and does not wish to know her, “Can I sit in here and eat with you? I ast. She shrug. She is busy looking at a magazine. It becomes obvious that Shug has other issues and matters on her mind; conceivably Shug is thinking about her current relationship with Albert and where her future lies. The relationship between Albert and Shug begins to upset Celie and make her jealous, but jealous of whom? “He love looking at Shug. I love looking at Shug. But Shug don’t love looking at but one of us. Him.” Celie could be jealous of Shug, as she believes Albert is her husband and relationships should relate to the marital situation. Although Celie could be jealous of Albert in that she doesn’t want Albert sleeping with Shug, Celie wants Shug to herself. This could reflect Celie’s growing feelings for Shug and the fact that Shug is beginning to become more involved in Celie and her life. The use of the third person singular object pronoun, ‘him’, portrays that Celie has little respect for Albert and that she is too disgusted to mention his name. The fact that it is a sentence on its own conveys that Celie wishes Albert was
not involved in a relationship with Shug and also that Celie was not married to Albert. Celie views Albert as an intruder in her relationship with Shug.
5. Is rebellion a major theme in The Color Purple?
An important theme of The Color Purple is the power of love to transform people and set them on a path towards self-acceptance. Celie has been long mistreated and unloved, first by Alphonso (who she thinks is her father) and later by her husband, Albert. It is not until Celie is loved by Shug Avery that she can stand up for herself and leave her abusive husband. When she feels unloved, Celie does not value herself or stand up for herself. Love has the power to transform her into a person who values herself, and it also has the power to transform her husband, who becomes more moral after she leaves him. The love that Celie experiences is entirely from women, including from Shug Avery and from Celie’s sister, Nettie. The transformative power of love (although love of a more platonic kind) is also a theme in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as McMurphy’s friendship encourages Chief Bromden to stand up for himself in the ward.
6. Depict the character significance of Celie.
Celie was even denied the freedom to raise her child. Immediately she delivered the baby, the baby was taken away from her by her father. Though she bore a child of her own father it is the right for every mother to raise one’s child on their own. She was even denied that right of a mother as women, though she may not know what exactly motherhood is. Celie was not ashamed to have the baby. Yet her father sold her right to be a mother and married off her to another family. This alienation which has started from her family continues to pursue her to her new family too. In reality Celie does not have a family in its true sense until she reunites with her sister. She was abused and regarded as nothing in her own family and considered to be a servant and nanny without payment in her husband’s house. Though Celie was never outspoken and endured everything as an invisible person in that house; she never received any love or care in the truest sense. As a member of the household Celie was provided with enough food and other substances in her Husband’s house. Though she did not lack any physical comforts, she lived in such subordination that she did not even know her husband’s name. This shows that Celie was not accepted in her husband’s household and was alienated. Even her step children were cruel to her when she first arrived at the house. Celie, denied her own motherhood, took care of someone else’s offspring. She never showed any dislike to her new husband and his children.
Though the children were not that receptive of her, she withstood everything and took care of the children with love and affection. She never discriminated against them as someone else’s children. There too Celie was alienated as a mother from the children. The children never considered Celie as their real mother and they abused her whenever it was possible. Celie was moreover like a machine or another
Thing among her husband’s household articles; a nanny to kids, a cook to everyone, sweeper to the house, sex machine to her husband, and an overseer in the field. Her husband never spared her a second glance until he needs her for his pleasure, Though he was officially married to Celie he had tried to rape Celie’s sister Nettie. Celie had to send her sister away from his house in order to save her from his mistreatment. This shows that he is a man of no integrity and has no compassion for his wife. He commits adultery without any shame. He was not even ashamed to take his mistress to his house and asked Celie to take care of her.
Celie, too more than getting offended by her husband’s action, took care of Shug very well even after being treated like a vermin by her. After Shug came to his house, he never even considered Celie was living in his house and always spent his time taking care of Shug. He was like a whining puppy in front of Shug Avery and treated her like a queen. Celie was very much attracted to Shug’s confident nature. She was never worried about her husband’s relationship with Shug or the way Shug treated her in the beginning. Celie was even amused by the way Shug looked down on her husband. Though Celie and Shug were not much close in the beginning later they both developed a friendship among them. Celie was never loved or recognized by anyone until she met with Shug Avery. Shug taught Celie to smile without covering her mouth, to love herself and her body, to have self-confidence, and to be uptight about her opinions.
Celie had never taken a single decision of her own or never had any opinion of her own until she met with Shug Avery. She believed that her life was to be ruled by others opinions. And she is to live the life of a slave. But Shug Avery had changed Celie’s notions about her life and other woman’s life. Shug was epitome of confidence and very feminine in her features. She valued her life and believed that she was precious. Having seen Shug’s attitude to men and to society Celie had learned to value her and understood that he is not below anyone. Shug made Celie stand in front of a mirror and made her smile without covering her mouth. Though Celie was a little reluctant in the beginning after trying sometime she was able to gain some self-confidence. Shug also made her aware of her physical beauty. Celie thought that she was not beautiful like other women. Shug made her realize that Celie had a wonderful physique by caressing and touching her compassionately. That was the first time Celie ever experienced such physical love from another person. Celie never knew what real physical pleasure was from her husband. She always used to simply lie under him so that he can do his “business”. That was kind of an everyday ritual to her. She never liked her husband groping all over her body and it was a disgusting act for her. She was unfortunate to know her mother’s caressing hand and only experienced the forceful alcoholic breath of her abusive father. Thus for Celie physical touch was something that is associated with awful memories.
Shug made her forget all about her bitter experiences and Celie loved the way Shug caressed her. Through this Celie started to give some credit to her and understood
that she is not someone others have to be messing around for their benefit. Shug also urged Celie to not to carry out all the orders by her husband like a slave and have an opinion of her own like Shug. Shug taught her to have respect for herself. Though Celie received so much love and affection from Shug which she never had received from anyone before, she could not change herself completely. Celie was more independent and free to Shug. But she could not control herself from running around like a slave to her husband. When Shug was not around she had gone back to her old life of being controlled by others. More than anything Celie was alienated from herself. Celie has never received love or recognition from other people. She never knew how to appreciate herself and love herself. Since she does not give much value to herself, she believed that women have to be under the control of men. She believed that a woman who is not controlled by man is not a good one. Though she admired Shug Avery’s outspoken and daring nature Celie could never change her inferior complex completely. She even advised Harpo (elder son of Mr. _) to beat his wife Sofia (who was a fiercely independent woman) to make her do what Harpo wanted her to do. Sofia is younger than Celie, which partially explains why she is unable to accept the confining role laid out by the system for the meek black maid and the dutiful black wife. Sofia was meant to rule, not to take orders. She fights back when Harpo tries to rule her with an iron fist.She wants a partnership relationship
in their marriage, not a master servant relationship.
If Celie would ever have known what love and affection in reality, she would never have suggested Harpo to beat Sofia in the first place. From this, it is proven that Celie has very less self-consideration. Celie did not advise Harpo to beat Sofia out of her jealousy but she believed that it is the way things have to be done. What made her think of the society that it should be abusive of women? This very idea is the offspring of her low self-esteem which was the result of alienation.
7. What life lessons does The Color Purple by Alice Walker teach readers?
One major life lesson in Celie’s life is the power of her perseverance in the face of extreme abuse, oppression, loneliness, and pain. Even when her mother curses Celie as she dies for things her father put upon her, she does not get angry about the unfairness or complain about the circumstances. Instead, she pushes forward and focuses on her and her sister’s well-being very intensely. The Color Purple displays and encourages the resilience of Celie’s spirit throughout the book. When positive things come to Celie, like the discovery of her children, Sofia’s friendship, or the reunion with Nellie, they come because of her ability to move forward in her life and maintain a reflective outlook about her past. The book’s ending suggests that such strength will be rewarded eventually, as both Shug and Nettie return.
8. In her letter to God after she was raped by Pa, why did Celie use the sentence “I have always been a good girl” instead of “I am a good girl”?
This suggests that she is searching her past for reasons or ways to explain what has started happening to her. She does not deserve the treatment she is getting. She does not deserve to be punished because, not only is she currently a “good girl”, but nothing from her past opens her up to a need for the kind of cruelty she is being subjected to. She has always been good. Her history does not justify her ill treatment.
9. Discuss the development of clothing as a symbol in the novel.
It is rightly said by mark twain that clothes make a person’s personality, but not only do clothes become one’s identity they are also used to protect one. Initially clothes were made by man so as to survive the weather conditions, for protection from wild animals by wearing earthy coloured clothes or animal skins, the purpose of surviving and protecting oneself by using clothes still remains but we now seek protection from our own kind, to survive in our own society to cope up with the fashion trends. In Alice Walker’s novel ‘The colour purple’ we see the usage of clothes in the same way. In the beginning of the novel clothes are being used for protection. For instance, Celie dresses up to try to protect Nettie from Alphonso so that Nettie’s life isn’t spoiled the way hers was. Not just protection but clothes are also used so as to improve celie’s physical appearance. For instance when Mr.
‘s sister- Kate visits him she convinces Mr. to let her buy cloth to make a dress for celei because she felt that celie deserved it. At the same time she chooses the colour blue upon not being able to find purple and here the colour of her dress symbolises her life as a slave for Mr._ Later, in the novel Nettie is forced to wear Corrine’s old clothes and this is portentous of her marriage to Samuel. •
The novel begins with clothes being used for protection, but as the novel progresses, celie slowly removes herself from all the ties, she starts focusing on sewing. In the novel, the kind of clothing Celie chooses to wear upon is influenced by the kind of clothes Shug wears which make Shug look beautiful and sexy. Her choice of clothes is thus a very strong symbol of liberation from patriarchal societal ways as well as being an independent woman. Before freeing herself Celie had that she always worn dresses, it is only after she breaks free from Mr._ simultaneously breaks free from her identity as an oppressed woman. The change in her identity is connected to the change in her clothes as she starts to wear pants, which was an item of clothing only worn by men. Not only does Celie wear pants but also starts a successful business herself of making pants for not just men, but for women as well, showing the way that she refuses to be afraid and intimidated by the sexual stereotypes of her society.
Clothing (wearing pants) therefore becomes a symbol of gender and sexual liberation as they identify to the way that Celie frees herself from her gender restricted roles that society has given women and she strives for her own freedom and independence, both in terms of her identity as well as becoming financially independent. Thus parallels can be drawn between the development of the protagonist of the novel as well as the development of clothes in it. Because not only did Celie decide to wear
pants or make pants for everyone but she also went against the regular societal norms and in the process she rediscovered herself and became a free, self-reliant person and began living a normal life, a better life.
10. What is the meaning of calling Albert Mr_ Purple by Alice Walker? fee in The Color
Celie never gives us her husband’s last name. She writes his name in her letters as Mr. We know his first name is Albert, but Celie never uses that name for him and is only reminded of this name later on when Shug addresses him. This consistent elision or blanking out of his name denies the written report of their union; we are never told what name Celie and Albert share, their marital surname. Not only that, but where Celie’s candid personal language usually illuminates her characters and her story, Albert is hidden behind a fog of blank space, reinforcing how alien he is to Celie and thus how alien he is to the reader through Celie’s narrative. In this novel, Celie’s language is dominant. When she disempowers another in her text, she does so through language, such as literally denying Mr. a name. Similarly, the Reverend is The Reverend Mr. until Nettie forges her own relationship with him and his family, when he becomes Samuel. Where Celie might be wary of a dominant male figure whom she has no confidence to communicate with, Nettie is able to personalize the Reverend in our eyes as Samuel. Using a blank line to signify a name is not unique to this novel, but Walker does so in a unique way.
There is an element of power in the choice of eliminating Albert’s
last name. Whether we presume that the author (Alice Walker) or the character writing the letters (Celie) makes the choice, eliminating the name is a method of removing Mr. from his position of power by effectively erasing the idea that he has a real human identity. Additionally, this technique is used to lend a semblance of realism to a fictional text in a way that is similar to the use of historical events in a work of fiction. The implication is that the person whose name is replaced by a blank is a real person. Using the blank protects the real person’s identity and to a degree separates and protects the speaker from that person.
SHORT TYPE QUESTIONS 2
1. Who is Celie writing to in the novel? How old is Celie the first time her father sexually assaults her?
2. How does Celie’s mother die? Who is the father of Celie’s baby?
She dies due to childbirth complications.
3. What is the name of Celie’s sister? What is the reason that Mr. gives Harpo for beating his wife?
Mr. says that he beats her because she is his wife and “she is stubborn.” 4. How old is Harpo when he falls in love, and how old is the girl with whom he falls in love? How does Celie know that Shug Avery is going to play at the Lucky Star?
Harpo is 17, and the girl he is in love with is 15.
Celie finds an advertisement for the club.
5. Why does Celie want to go to the club? Why does Celie follow back from the cotton fields? Mr.
Celie wants “to lay eyes on her.”
Celie thinks that Mr._ is sick, when he is still not over his weekend with Shug Avery.
6. In which US state is The Color Purple set?
It is set in the American South, California, where black people, especially women, were treated as second class citizens.
7. Describe Harpo’s recurring nightmare.
Harpo dreams that he is a witness to his mother’s murder, and ends up cradling his dead mother in his arms.
8. What does Sofia ask Celie for? Where do Sofia and Harpo eventually marry?
Sofia asks Celie for a glass of water.
Sofia and Harpo marry at Sofia’s sister’s house.
9. Why does Mr.____ start to pay Harpo wages for working? What does Mr._ mean when he says to Harpo, “I see now she is going to switch the traces on you”?
thinks that wages will encourage Harpo to work harder.
Mr. means that Sofia is treating Harpo like he is a workhorse. It also implies that Harpo is not acting like “a man” because he does what Sofia wants him to do. 10. What does Celie call her father? What bothers Celie about her father’s new wife?
She is physically affectionate.
11. What is Celie’s sister called? What is Shug’s surname? Nettie.
12. What does Celie’s father think she did church, leading to a terrible beating? What does Celie do to try to make herself sleep? Wink at a boy.
Celie tries to stay up as late as possible. Before she goes to bed, she takes a warm bath. Then, she puts a little witch hazel on her pillow and makes sure the room is completely dark. If that doesn’t work, she tries drinking a little milk, counting the fence posts, and reading the Bible to fall asleep.
13. Do Celie’s letters to God and her letters to Nettie have a different feel to them or do they seem the same? What do you think of Celie’s habit of ending her letters to Nettie with “Amen”?
In the letter’s to Nettie it seems that Celie has a new hope now that she has found her sister. I think she ends the letters with “Amen” because the letters to Nettie go out almost as prayers, she is not sure if they will reach her sister. 14. Describe Harpo’s wounds. What excuse does Harpo give for his wounds?
Harpo has a black eye and a cut lip. He also has a hurt hand and he is walking stiffly.
Harpo claims that he was kicked by an angry mule, and then walked into the crib door at home. Then, during the evening, he accidentally closed the window on his hand.
15. How much does Sofia pay Celie for use of her curtains? What will happen if Celie continues to advise Harpo?
Sofia tries to give Celie a dollar for the use of her curtains.
Sofia says that if Celie wants a dead son-in-law she should simply keep on advising him like she did before.
16. When did Celie and Nettie separate? Who helps Celie gain back her confidence?
Celie and Nettie separate when Nettie becomes a missionary and goes to Africa. Shug helps Celie gain her confidence after years of abuse from Albert and Fonso.
17. Why does Sofia feel sorry for Celie? How many children does Sofia’s father have?
Celie reminds Sofia of her own mother, who never stood up to her husband. Sofia’s father has 12 children-six boys and six girls.
18. What does Celie mean when she tells Sofia that sometimes she has to talk with Old Maker? What does Sofia think Celie should do with Mr. ? Celie means that she talks with God whenever Mr. begins to abuse her. Sofia thinks that Celie should kill Mr. now and think about heaven later.
19. What is Shug Avery’s nickname? How does the priest characterize Shug in his sermon?
She is known as the Queen Honeybee.
Shug is the nameless “strumpet in short skirts, smoking cigarettes, drinking gin.” 20. How many kids has Shug had with Mr. ? Where are Shug’s kids now?
Shug Avery has had three children with Mr._
Shug’s children are now staying with her mother.
21. Who strikes the mayor? What happens to the person? Sofia.
Sofia is jailed and beaten for punching the mayor.
22. Describe Mr._ ‘s father. What can Mr._
vouch for about
Old Mr.is “a little short shrunk up man with a bald head and gold spectacles.” He clears his throat “like everything he says needs an announcement.”
knows that all of Shug’s children have the same father.
23. What does Tobias bring for Shug? Why does Tobias wish his wife, Margaret, was a lot more like Celie?
Tobias brings a box of chocolate for Shug.
Tobias wishes that Margaret was “always busy” like Celie so that she could save [him] a bundle of money. ONUN
24. What reasons does Celie give for eating? What is clabber?
Celie says that some people eat because “food taste good,” while others “love to feel they mouth work.” Sometimes, it also “might be a case of being undernourished.” Clabber is the thick, sour milk that collects on a butter churn.
25. What is meant when Harpo is asked “When is it due?” Where does Harpo end up sleeping after his fight with Sofia?
Harpo has become so fat that he begins to look like he is pregnant. Harpo sleeps in a bed next to Shug’s room.
26. Why is Shug famous? In which love triangle she is involved?per Shug is a famous singer.
Shug 27. What does Sofia take when she leaves? What does Harpo pretend to do while Sofia packs up her things?
is involved in a love triangle with Albert and Celie.
Sofia takes the children and their clothes, as well as her own clothes. In addition she takes a mattress, a looking glass, and a rocking chair.
Harpo is pretending to make a fish net while he is waiting for Sofia to leave. 28. What is the name of Harpo’s new club? Why is Harpo puzzled by Shug?
Harpo’s new club is called “Harpo’s.”
Harpo is confused by Shug’s willingness to say whatever she feels. Harpo’s ideal woman would behave like Celie, and do whatever he wants her to do. Harpo still cannot handle an independent woman.
29. How does Shug act like a man? What does Harpo consider a scandal? Shug talks like a man; instead of talking about hair or health, she compliments another woman on her good looks. Celie becomes slightly aroused when she sees Shug walking around in the club.
Harpo thinks that it is “a scandless” that “a woman with five children (Sofia) [is] hanging out in a juke joint at night.” R
bus 30. What is Buster’s “job,” with regards to Sofia? How did Squeak get her nickname? 9.91 220b
Buster’s job is “to love (Sofia) and take her where she wants to go.” Harpo gave Squeak that nickname, presumably because of her voice.
31. What does “teenouncy” mean? Who is the Olinka? “Teenouncy” is a cross between tiny and bouncy, which accurately describes Squeak’s voice. 190907
The Olinka tribe are torn apart when developers build a road through their land. 32. How does Harpo mope? Tashi is a member of which African tribe? 350
Harpo is quiet and spends most of his time walking up and down the aisle in his club. He also totally ignores Squeak despite her best efforts to get him to say something. Olinka.
33. What does Miss Millie always do, according to her husband? What does Buster do while Sofia is getting beaten?
The mayor says that Miss Millie is “always going on over colored” children. Sofia keeps Buster from joining in the fight and tells him to look after the children. She knows that with six armed policemen around them, Buster would have been shot if he had tried to make any aggressive move.
34. How badly is Sofia injured from her beating by the police? Who takes care of Sofia’s children while Sofia is in jail?
Sofia’s skull and ribs are cracked, and one eye has been blinded. Her nose has also been torn, and her entire body is swollen.
Odessa and Squeak take care of Sofia’s children.
35. How often is Sofia visited by her friends? What is the warden’s justification for what he does to Squeak?
Sofia gets visitors two times a month for half an hour.
The warden says that if he is really Squeak’s uncle, what he is doing would be a sin, but “everybody guilty…of a little fornication.”
36. What is the name of Celie’s shop? What does it symbolize? Folkspants Unlimited.
Celie’s shop symbolises her emancipation.
37. What does Mary Agnes mean when she asks Harpo if he loves her or her color?
Squeak wants Harpo to know that she is a woman with a strong character, and that if he only loves her superficially, because of her appearance, then he can leave right now. Mary Agnes insists that Harpo respect the person on the inside.hard
38. Why does Nettie correct herself when she says that Corrine and Samuel have been “like family to me”? Why does Nettie still write to Celie after she realizes that Mr. won’t let her have these letters?
Nettie realizes that Samuel and Corrine have been kinder to her than her own family, so she says that they have been like her own family “might have been.”
Nettie is very lonely, and she remembers that Celie still writes letters to God whenever she feels the need to write. Nettie takes Celie for inspiration and continues to send letters because it makes her feel better thinking that her sister might one day read them.
39. What does Nettie want to tell Corrine and Samuel about thei children, who “were sent by God” to them? When does Nettie come into contact with American prejudice?
Nettie wants to tell them that “God has sent [Olivia and Adam] their sister an aunt.”
Nettie, along with the entire family, had to sit in the “sit-down” section of th train, without beds. They were not allowed to use the restaurant, and had to us different toilets. In addition to this, when they meet a white man in South Caroli who asks them where they are going, he turns and says to his wife, “Niggers goi to Africa, now I have seen everything.”
40. Who is “Mama” to Sofia’s children? What is the “welcome mat” th Celie is going to use to “enter Creation”?
Sofia’s younger children call Odessa “Mama” and Sofia “Miss Sofia.” Celie wants to use Mr. ‘s dead body symbolically to “enter Creation,” si leaving him would be the same to her as entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
41. To which country do Squeak and Grady emigrate to? What do they do there? Panama.
They settle in Panama where they grow ‘reefer’ in their garden.
42. What is the curse that Celie puts on Mr. ? Why does Shug give Celie a bedroom in the back of the house?
Celie tells Mr. that everything that he has done to her is “already done to” him, and everything that he plans to do will come back to haunt him.
Shug knows that Celie likes to wake up with the sun on her face.
43. What kind of pants does Mary Agnes pick out for herself? Describe how Celie designs a pair of pants for Jack.
She picks a pair that is “the color of sunset, orangish with a little grayish fleck.” Celie makes Jack’s pants with big pockets so that he can hold “little children’s things,” such as marbles and rocks. She decides to make narrow legs so that Jack will be able to run in case a child gets in trouble. She makes them “something he can lay back in when he holds Odessa in front of the fire.”
44. What does Shug feel about Celie’s speech? Why is Samuel pretty confident that his family will not get malaria, even though there is an epidemic in the village?
Shug says that Celie “can talk in sign language for all I care.”
Nettie, Samuel, Adam, and Olivia have all survived bouts with malaria.
45. What sort of church does Nettie and Samuel hope to found in America? Name some of the places that Shug and Germaine visit.
Nettie wants to start a church “in which each person’s spirit is encouraged to seek God directly.”
Celie receives letters from Shug in New York, California, Arizona, and Panama, where she and Germaine were visiting Grady and Squeak.
46. Who is made Miss Millie’s maid after serving time in jail? Why does she suffer?
Sofia suffers the humiliation of being made a white person’s maid.
47. Why do the Olinka have “shallow” relationships with the missionaries? What does Eleanor Jane do to Sofia that is more annoying than complaining about her problems?
The Olinka know that eventually the missionaries will leave, making a relationship pointless.
Eleanor Jane starts to bother Sofia whenever anything good happens, insisting that Sofia say nice things about her husband and son.
48. How does Sofia feel about little Reynolds Stanley Earl? How do the Olinka interpret the identity of the biblical Adam?
Sofia doesn’t really care about Eleanor Jane’s baby one way or the other, as long as he could keep quiet more often.
According to Olinka legend, every person that came before Adam was black. But then, women started to give birth to “colorless” babies, for some unknown reason. At first, these babies were killed, but they kept being born. Adam is the first white baby that wasn’t killed.
49. What drug does Grady enjoy? Who tries to convince the warden to release Sophia? Marijuana.
50. Empower-46Empower-46 The Color Purple a womanist novel? It can be described as womanist as it concerns female empowerment and solidarity and portrays men in a negative way.
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