The story tells of one lady who goes through all kinds of hardships, discovers the proficient, content, and proud woman hidden inside of a young shut-mouthed girl. The Color Purple, the third novel written by the Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, has been both respected and berated in numerous essays and reviews. Although the critics agree to disagree about many aspects of this novel one thing is clear, The Color Purple shows that “the survival and liberation of black women through the strengths and wisdom of others. (Draper, 1810)
In Walker’s personal view, the Black women’s history falls into three parts; the woman suspended, the artist confused and held back in her desires to create, living through two centuries when her main role was to be a used unvalued source of labor in the American society, and the modern woman. The feminist Alice Walker writes in a pattern. Her female characters move in a common cycle, first the woman were cruelly abused, and their spirits and bodies scarred, then the confused woman desires most to be a part of the American life, and lastly the modern woman shows the qualities of the developing an uprising model.
Before Celie who is the main character, makes her way into the cycle the story sets her as a child with energy of wanting to learn, love, and enjoy life. She and Nettie, her sister attend school on a regular basis, complete all of their chores, and still make time to talk to play, or to just spend time together. Then, just as Celie reaches womanhood, she finds her way into the first stage of the cycle; the rejected woman. The rejected woman plays the role of the brutal abuse with a corrupted spirit as well as body. Celie’s body is first desecrated through her stepfather’s sexual abuse.
Followed by this comes continuing sexual and physical abuse by her husband Mr. ______. Here, Celie slips into the second stage of the cycle; the woman who is held back. In this stage the character desires most to become a part of mainstream American society. In most cases, they are also victims of psychological abuse that separate them from their roots and real contact to the world. The profanity and abuse her body survives, not accepting that her spirit is broken when not only have her children been taken away from her by her stepfather, but Nettie is forced by Albert, to leave his and Celie’s house.
During this time of sorrow and loneliness, there is one unique sparkle in Celie that surfaces with the thought of a lady named Shug Avery. “Shug Avery was a woman. The most beautiful woman I ever saw. She more pretty then my mama. She bout ten times more prettier then me. I see her in furs. Her face rouge. Her hair like somethin tail. . . An all night long I stare at the picture. An now when I dream, I dream of Shug Avery. She be dressed to kill, whirling and laughing. ” (Walker 16) The final stage of the cycle; is the modern woman, one who realizes her strengths, her weakness and accepts them.
In this stage, the lady works with what she has. Celie approaches this stage only with the help of Shug Avery during her stay with Albert and Celie. As fate would have it, Shug becomes deathly ill after a performance in Celie’s hometown. All of Celie’s years of wondering about Shug Avery comes to an end here. In the story, Albert goes to see Shug sing and Celie wants to ask him so many questions. “What she wear? Is she still the same old Shug, like in my picture? How her hair is? What kind of lipstick? Wig? She stout? She skinny? She sound well?
Tired? Sick? Where her children at while she singing all over the place? Do she miss ’em? ” Shug and Celie start off on a bad foot, however, after Celie begins to take care of Shug and nurse her back to health they develop the only kind of friendship and love, that can snap Celie back to reality. Through Albert and Shug’s relationship, Celie finally hears from her sister Nettie. Thirty years has passed since they last spoke. Why? Well, Albert never let Celie go through the incoming mail. By doing this, he keeps her in a innocent unaware state.
Which anyways, thanks to Shug who takes the letter from the mailbox, she gives Celie a sense of hope for herself. In that letter Celie learns that Nettie is still alive and that her two children are with her. After searching the rest of the house, her and Shug find all of the letters that Nettie has sent to her for the past thirty years. Celie learns that her family is coming home. Eventually Celie leaves Albert, seriously only to become attached to Shug. Anyways, when Shug needs to have her “last fling” and leaves Celie, Celie realizes that she can do just fine by herself, like that completing the cycle.
This is one of those stories with a lot of self-help potential. Celie loses everything that matters to her, becomes a victim of unthinkable abuse both in her child life and adulthood. Then, she reunites with her sister. Nothing is impossible for a woman to accomplish in this world. After Celie leaves Albert, she starts her own business and runs it throughout the rest of her days. The novel really declares the truth behind the belief of “survival and liberation of black women through the wisdom and strength of others. (Draper, 1810) Celie’s survival through this story is due greatly to Shug, and even Albert. Her gratitude to Shug is the most definitely recognized, because if it was not for Shug ,Albert never would have stopped beating her, in addition to that her spirit would never have been renewed, and lastly she never would have heard from her sister again. Basically if it isn’t for Shug, Celie’s existence will have been a pointless one. If she hadn’t gone mad, she probably would have died from loneliness and despair. Like Shug, Albert is a character who significantly affects Celie’s life.
Albert represents Celie’s stepfather at the beginning of their marriage. He controls her and aparts her of everything she holds with love, but him, himself, is victim. He has a weak will and no initiative to accept responsibility for his actions. He shows her that he is just as lonely as she. Albert helps her to reach an understanding about her stepfather and about himself. Through a friendship, that develops after their marriage ends, she also forgives them. Celie’s stepfather, who she calls Pa, and Albert are two of the major male characters in the novel.
They share more similarities than what they differ. Celie’s stepfather, Pa, is a cheater . After Celie’s real father dies, this man who has received word that there is a new well-off, slightly out-of-sorts, widow in town, settles in and sweet-talks Celie’s mother right down the aisle. Celie is two years old at the time. Well, this man enjoys his new life and his new wife, but when she refuses to do as he says to him who does him turn to? Pa uses his power of authority to force Celie into a situation no barely fourteen year old girl should be in. Never had a kine word to say to me,” Celie says, “Just say You gonna do what your mammy wouldn’t. . . When penetration begins to hurt, I cry. He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it. But I don’t never git used to it. ” (Walker, 1) Even sadder is that after her mother dies, not only must she take care of the house and her sisters and brothers, but she has to willingly offer herself to Pa in order to spare Nettie. Pa is a true abstract of a tyrant, using his authority for low blows like this. Of course Albert begins the same way.
Albert marries Celie because first of all he can’t have Nettie and secondly he needs someone to watch his children. After his decision to marry Celie, him and Pa have a little chat. “Pa say, Your sister thinking bout marriage. Didn’t mean nothing to him. My brother pull my dresstail and ast can he have some blackberry jam out the safe. I say, Yeah. She good with children, Pa say, rattling his paper open more. Never heard her say a hard word to nary one of them. Just give ’em everything they ast for, is the only problem. Albert say, That cow still coming? No love materializes between these two and their marriage is one similar to one of arranged royal weddings. Of course when he reaches his house, him on a horseback, her on foot, a young Harpo “laid her head open with a rock. ” His punishment is a oral punishment. Albert is, like an uneasy child, running from his responsibilities and avoiding the consequences of his actions. Not to mention, Albert has a set free quality he, like Celie finds an understanding about himself and attempts to adjust for all that he has done in the past. He makes peace with Celie, and although he releases himself from his past.
Albert is truly the most compelling character in this novel, next to Celie. In looking at Albert and Pa we find many incite into the human psyche. As symbols, one represents an immense amount of bad will, the other represents the same but allows for change. The major symbol of the novel is the color purple. It has many meanings, positive and negative. Purple symbolizes love of truth, patience, humanity, and spirituality along with sublimination, martyrdom, and resignation. In connection with the novel, Celie is the symbol of patience and humanity.
She never asks for anything from anyone. When things don’t go her way, she waits. For example, she waits for Nettie’s letters for thirty years. On the other hand, Celie also shows a great bit of surrendor in her patience. Culturally, purple signifies virtue and faith just as Celie does. During her and Shug’s conversation about sex, Celie tells Shug she feels nothing during sexual intercourse with her husband. Shug understands this to mean she is still a virgin, but in reality Celie provides her body to Albert but not her spirit or her soul.
Another purple reference is to the Easter holiday. How coincidental that the color purple is associated with the resurrection of Jesus Christ and this novel, considering that Celie does have a “rebirth” of her own as she moves through Walker’s cycle. Overall, the color purple, as a prize, represents a winner over all classes, strangely coincidental isn’t it. The use of purple as a symbol is a virtue to this novel but also a fault. In the preparation of death, Roman soldiers carried amulets of purple amethyst. There are many virtues as well as faults in this novel.
One of the most obvious faults in the story is its likeness to a fairy tale. “Celie becomes the ugly duckling who will eventually be redeemed through suffering. This trait links her to all the heroines of fairy tales from Cinderella to Snow White. ” (Harris, 159) At the conclusion of the story not only does Celie find her sister but also both of her lost children. Another example of the novel’s surreal quality, the woman Celie fantasizes about for years, not only lands in her house but falls in love with her.
Likewise, let’s ask what The Color Purple, ultimately, predicates. “In true fairy-tale fashion, it affirms passivity; heroines that do little to help themselves,” says Trudier Harris in “The Color Purple Stereotypes and Silence. ” The entire novel contains a virtual acceptance of cruelty, violence, and violation. Some things about this novel are too good to be true. Others are too horrifying. In uncovering a novel’s differences and meaning, the story can become a vehicle of the social and political views of the author.
Being a feminist, there are a few strands of admiration to the feminist community in Celie. She is a woman that triumphs over impossible odds. The feminine relationship between Celie and Shug has been said to pay a debt to lesbians. “She pays homage to the lesbians by portraying a relationship between two women that reads like a schoolgirl fairy tale in its ultimate adherence to the convention of the happy resolution. ” (Harris, 160) Born-again feminists receive their dues in Albert and career-minded women are acknowledged in Shug.
The Color Purple, a story of one lady, named Celie, who triumphs through adversity to discover a proficient, content, and proud woman hidden inside of a young timid girl, is one that brings hope to any woman. A novel written by Alice Walker, it has been reviewed many times over, but even though the critics analyze and pull apart what very well could just be an enjoyable yet thought provoking story, they agree that one thing is clear, The Color Purple affirms the idea that the survival and liberation of the black woman can only come through learning from our past misfortunes and manipulating them to meet beneficial ends.