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Significance of color in “The Color Purple” Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 3 June 2017

Significance of color in “The Color Purple”

In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, many emotions are evoked within the story. Many themes and character qualities are suggested through the use of symbolism. One of the most prominent symbols utilized within this story is the allegory of color. Walker uses different colors to illustrate various moods and the personality themes of certain characters. One may find it interesting to discover that these colors are sentiments about the way people in the novel are represented. In the story, Celie finds consciousness in her own symbolism and what colors she may be representing.

She is particularly intrigued with the color red, which is a staple of the presence that is Shug Avery. Often identifying with the color black, which is represented as an undesirable trait of ugliness, Celie struggles with her own self-value. As the character of Celie develops, she finds solace in the color yellow, which is colorful symbol of friendship. Eventually, she finds the ultimate connection to her beauty in the color purple. Although often deemed as a color of power and authority, in The Color Purple, black is considered an undesirable trait of ugliness.

The book showcases the displeasure amongst black people for darker shades of skin. This lack of embrace of black being represents the complex that darker skin equals less beauty. For example, when Mr. ___’s sisters Kate and Carrie visit Celie, they tell her about Annie Julia, who was the woman that lived there before her. When Carrie says that she was “young and pretty,” Kate says that it was “just that head of hair. She too black. ” (Walker 26) One sister then replies, “Well, brother must like black. Shug Avery black as my shoe. Shug Avery, Shug Avery. I’m sick of her.

” (Walker 26) This suggests that her black skin is a clear correlation with their distaste for her. Another instance where this black skin is not glorified is when Mr. ’s father comes to visit him. He says, “Just what is it bout this Shug Avery anyway. She black as tar, she nappy headed. She got legs like baseball bats. ” (Walker 59) According to social psychologist David Johnson, the color “black implies submission. ” Also that, “a woman wearing black implies submission to men. ” (Johnson) This is very reminiscent of Celie’s experience under the dominion of Mr.

Contrarily, one character that is no companion to submission as a woman is Shug Avery. The most identifiable color for her personality is red. Red being “the most emotionally intense color,” (Johnson) is a symbol of bold independence, sassiness and strength. According to Rick Nauert’s article “The Color Red Attracts Men to Women,” Senior News Editor, “Although this aphrodisiacal effect of red may be a product of societal conditioning alone, the authors argue that men’s response to red more likely stems from deeper biological roots.

” (Nauert) Throughout the history of literature, it seems as though such heroines like “Bess” in George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess or the protagonist of Bizet’s Carmen, have been fashioned to wear red dresses as a central attraction for their characters. So, it is not surprising that Shug Avery is no stranger to this audacious color as a staple of her character. Celie recounts when she went to a clothing store with Mr.s sisters. “I think what color Shug Avery would wear. She like a queen to me so I say to Kate, Somethin purple, maybe little red in it too.

” One of the sisters rebuttals and says, “Naw, he won’t want to pay for red. Too happy lookin. ” (Walker 26) This example implies that this boldness is something that Celie desires, but is too risky to be accepted. Hence, upon this rejection, Celie chooses a blue dress. This choice is a reflection and symbol of her subservience. Celie also remembers her experiences witnessing Shug Avery wearing the color red. “And Mr. ___ looking at Shug’s bright black skin in her tight red dress, her feet in little sassy red shoes. Her hair shining in waves.

” (Walker 79) This dazzling experience Celie has makes her think of how the red is a symbol of Shug’s empowerment. The black skin is an example of Shug’s flaws and scarcity of beauty (in the eyes of others). This is a symbol that even the ugliness can be cloaked with a sensitive and bold sexiness. Celie is also inspired by Shug Avery’s relationship with Mr. ___. In a conversation she has with Harpo, she says, “Do Shug Avery mind Mr. ___? I ast. She the woman he wanted to marry. She call him Albert, tell him his drawers stink in a minute.

Little as he is, when she git her weight back she can sit on him if he try to bother her. ” (Walker 69) These inspirations make Shug Avery quite appealing to Celie in a bevy of ways. Throughout Celie’s journey of self-identity, she has grown not only as an individual, but also in her friendships with other people. Alice Walker illustrates this arrival with the color yellow. Celie recalled a time when her and Sofia were working on a quilt together. “Me and Sofia work on the quilt. Got it frame up on the porch. Shug Avery donate her old yellow dress for scrap and I work in a piece every chance I get.

It a nice pattern call Sister’s Choice. If the quilt turn out perfect, maybe I give it to her, if it not perfect, maybe I keep. I want it for myself, just for the little yellow pieces, look like stars, but not. ” (Walker 64) This instance indicates the friendship between Celie and Sophia. Moreover, it displays the affinity that Celie possesses for Shug. Seemingly, as Celie becomes more comfortable with herself, the color that is more identified with is yellow. “So me and Shug dress up in out new blue flower pants that match and big floppy Easter hats that match too, cept her roses red, mine yellow.

” (Walker 183) Alice Walker may have used this color as a descriptor of Celie’s development because yellow is considered to be the most positive and pleasant color in the spectrum. Spiritual Growth Expediter and author, Sherri Cortland explains that, “Yellow is thought to connect us to our mental self; and is thought to be associated with mental clarity, cheerfulness, optimism, self-esteem, wisdom, and inspiration. ” (Cortland) Although a gentle color, the color yellow still has the ability to grab the awareness of someone.

When Celie arrives on Pa’s land, she remembers the imagery clearly. “Then all along the rad there’s Easter lilies and jonquils and daffodils and all kinds of little early wildflowers. Then us notice all the birds singing they little cans off, all up and down the hedge, that itself is putting out little yellow flowers smell like Virginia creeper. ” (Walker 183) This is an illustration that even through all of the toils that Celie had been through, she was able to see the day where her life had reached an optimistic place.

Additionally, the color purple, in The Color Purple is often marveled as one of the most thought-provoking enigmas in American literature. Alice Walker’s perception of this color is a deep one, in the sense that it is used to represent the rarity of it’s form, royal beauty and ultimate awareness of self-worth. When Celie goes to the clothing store with Mr. ___’s sisters, “…us look an look and no purple. ” (Walker 26) This lack of availability shows the rareness of the color. The color purple is, “the color of royalty.

It connotes luxury, wealth and sophistication. It is also feminine and romantic. ” It is also noted that, “it is rare in nature. ” (Johnson) Although the mention of purple is even scarce in the story, it is understood that it is one of God’s most beautiful creations. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it,” Shug says. (Walker 202) “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.

” (King James Version, Luke 16-19) “And they clothed him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his [head]” (King James Version, Mark 15-17) “And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple from him, and put his own clothes on him, and led him out to crucify him. ” (King James Version, Mark 15-20) All of these examples in The Bible explain Alice Walkers influence and understanding of the color purple and her reasoning behind the usage. When Celie begins her business making pants, she makes a pair for Sofia. “I’m busy making pants for Sofia now.

One leg be purple, one leg be red. ” (Walker 223) This is perfect symbolism of how Celie respects Sofia as a hybrid of royalty and bold independence. At the conclusion of the movie version of The Color Purple, Celie is reunited with her sister Nettie. She is seen wearing a purple dress for the first time in the film. (Spielberg) At the end of the novel, Celie is reunited with Shug and she shows her what her room looks like. “Well, here it is, I say, standing in the door. Everything in my room purple and red cept the floor, that painted bright yellow.

” This is a seamless example of how Celie had come full circle in her self-identity. She had become the royal queen that she never knew she could be. She became sassy enough in her own right to demand her due respect and be independent enough to stand on her own two feet. All of these colors are representative of different emotions and character qualities. It is noteworthy to see how Celie’s colors have evolved over the course of her development. Annotated Bibliography Cortland, Sherri. “Interesting Facts About the Color Yellow. ” Examiner. com. Examiner, 29 June 2012. Web. 07 Mar. 2013.

The author’s main idea was to explain the mental symbolism of the color yellow. The author explains how it represents mental clarity, cheerfulness, optimism, self-esteem, wisdom, and inspiration. Walker, Alice. The Color Purple: A Novel. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982. 2. This is the novel in which the research paper is about. Nauert, Rick, Ph. D. “The Color Red Attracts Men to Women. ” Psych Central. com. N. p. , 29 Oct. 2008. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. 3. The author Rick Nauert wrote this article to explain how the color red mentally creates a stronger attraction to women by men.

He explains the how the color red has an aphrodisiacal effect. The Color Purple. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Prod. Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, and Quincy Jones. By Menno Meyjes. Perf. Danny Glover, Adolph Caesar, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey, Willard Pugh, Whoopi Goldberg, and Akosua Busia. Warner Bros. , 1985. 4. This movie depicts the novel accurately in the sense of color relationships. You can visibly see the different colors being used. At the end of the movie you can see Celie wearing a purple gown.

King James Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. 5. The Bible is in support of the main idea because this novel is primarily based on that religious faith. Alice Walker gets the idea of the color purple being a gift from God from the stories in the Bible. Johnson, David. “Color Psychology. ” Infoplease. Infoplease, 1 Jan. 2007. Web. 07 May 2013. 6. Psychologist David Johnson explains the emphasis that color have on the human mind. He explains how seeing colors affect you, and wearing certain colors are an indication of behavior.

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