The Color Purple

The Color Purple Wilson, 1 Katie Wilson Ms. Allen English 11, 3 10 June 2000 The Color Purple Change over time was a theory that was first realized by the Greeks and, only thousands of years later, accepted as fact. As time goes by, things change. And this change is never more evident than in human growth and development. But what is it that causes human metamorphosis to occur? Oftentimes, the change comes from within, simply the innate desire to improve oneself. Other times, the transformation is directly the result of outside influences; such as a significant event or inspiration from respected individuals and role models.

The latter is the case in Alice Walkers The Color Purple. In this novel, Walker uses the influence of other strong female characters to act as catalysts on Celies journey of self-discovery. Inspired by Sophia, Celie is able to establish her independence from her abusive husband. Celie knows she is controlled by Mr. and acknowledges this when she think bout how every time (she) jump when Mr. call (her) (Purple, 38).

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Celies weakness is justified, considering that male domination is a constant in her life. Passed from one chauvinistic man to another, women in subordinate roles is all she knows and can relate to. As put by critic Donna Wilson, 2 Winchell, At first fighting back does not even seem an option, survival seems the best she can hope for, in this world at least (86). However, witnessing the relationship between her son-in-law Harpo and his wife Sophia brings Celie to the realization that such abuse is not necessary and instills in her the desire to stand up for herself. This is evident in Celies envy of Sophias strength towards Harpo; I say it because Im jealous of you.

I say it because you do what I cant (Purple, 42). Celie longs for the courage she finds in Sophia. Years of abuse has made her feel that she cannot assert her own independence, and that she is powerless against her husbands controlling ways. This desire to improve, coupled with the encouragement of Sophia, moves Celie to assert herself. Sophia persuades Celie to stand up for herself; You ought to bash Mr.

head open, she say. Think about heaven later (Purple, 44). She emphasizes to Celie that she needs to start caring about the life she is presently living. Sophia tries to make her realize that she doesnt have to put up with the way Mr. treats her.

And, finally, Celie is able to find it within herself to leave Mr. ; You a lowdown dog is what is wrong, I say. Its time to leave you and enter creation. And your dead body is just the welcome mat I need (Purple, 207). The opposition Celie exhibits is the first time she directly stands up for herself. Her defiance shows that she realizes that Mr.

s treatment of her is inappropriate, and she is no longer willing to put up with such abuse. She finally Wilson, 3 finds the confidence and power to take the first step to break away from the restraints of her old life and start over on her own. Celies ability eventually to stand up and leave Mr. is also due in part to her discovering a definition of God that is large enough to encompass even the poor, ugly black woman that she feels herself to be (Winchell, 86). This growth is initiated by the arrival of Shug, (which) is the final turning point in Celies search for identity (Barret).

Love is noticeably absent from much of Celies life. The men in her life have never lost an opportunity to remind her that she is worthless; But what you got? You ugly. You skinny. You shape funny. You too scared to open your mouth to peopleYou not that good a cook either (Purple, 89). This kind of verbal abuse, attacks, not only on her physical appearance but also on her person, is an everyday part of Celies life, leaving her with a minimal sense of self-worth.

In addition, the only people that Celie has ever loved, her sister Nettie and her two children, are taken away from her. She is left only with her husband, who she feels little for except fear. Sex, usually meant as an expression of love, holds no pleasure for her with Albert, as she tells Shug; Mr. can tell you, I dont like it at all. What is it like? He git up on you heist your nightgown around your waist, plunge in.

Most times I pretend I aint there. He never know the difference. Never ast me how I feel, nothing. Just do his business, get off, go to sleep. Wilson, 4 She start to laugh.

Do his business, she say. Do his business. Why, Miss Celie. You make it sound like he going to the toilet on you. That what it feel like, I say (Purple, 81).

Celie views sex with her husband as a duty that she must perform to fulfill the selfish needs of a man who has no regard for her or her feelings, and uses her only as a tool to fulfill his needs. Celie is left with the feeling of objectification and with no love for herself. This changes, however, when Shug instills in Celie her view of God. Celies former view of God as white and male is rejected when she learns, with Shugs assistance, traumatizing information about her family. She is angered by all that God has allowed to happen to her; What God do for me? I ast. She say, Celie! Like she shock.

He give you life, good health, and a good woman that love you to death. Yeah, I say, and he give me a lynched daddy, a crazy mama, a lowdown dog of a step pa and a sister I probably wont ever see again. Anyhow, I say, the God I been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other mens I know. Trifling, forgitful and lowdown. Wilson, 5 She say, Miss Celie, You better hush.

God might hear you. Let im hear me, I say. If he ever listened to poor colored women the world would be a different place (Purple, 199-200). Celies view of God as masculine leads to her belief that God holds the same contempt for her as other males in her life have shown. Though she acknowledges the gifts He has given her, the hurt He has bestowed upon her is much greater.

The One she has always relied on, God has now lost her devotion and respect. Such a God cannot love a poor, black woman, and Celie is yet again alone in the world. However, unlike Celie, who derives her sense of self from the dominant white and male theology, Shug is a self-invented character whose sense of self is not male inscribed. Her theology allows a divine, self-authorized sense of self (Henderson, 16). Shug explains to Celie her genderless God; Here is the thing, says Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else.

You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside it It? I ast. Yeah, It. God aint a he or a she, but a It. But what do it look like? I ast.

Wilson, 6 Dont look like nothing, she say. It aint a picture show. It aint something you can look at apart from everything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, youve found It (Purple, 202-203). Shugs view of God as neither male or female allows Celie to realize that the trials she has faced do not stem from His contempt of her.

Rather, she is able to see God as one with all people, including herself. She can now look at herself, not as worthless, but as possessing some of His divine qualities. In addition to Shug offering Celie a sense of divinity, she also paints a God human enough to share her need for love and compassionate enough to rejoice with His people when they find it; Listen, God love everything you loveand a mess of stuff you dont. But more than anything else, God love admiration. You saying God vain? I ast. Naw, she say.

Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and dont notice it. What it do when it pissed off? I ast? Wilson 7 Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.

Yes, Celie, she say. Everything want to be loved (Purple, 91). Like Celie, Shugs God is always striving for acknowledgement and acceptance. He wants His people to appreciate life, He is not one to bestow pain upon them. He does love Celie, and wishes her to love in return. From these shared qualities, Celie is able to overthrow her big and old and tall and greybearded and white God and replace Him with a sense of spirit, commonality and moral goodness (Kaplan, 137), which in turn allows her to love herself for who she is.

As a result of the inspiration and encouragement Sophia provides, Celie is able to establish her independence and develop away from the constricting bonds of her previous life. From Shug, Celie learns to love herself again through redefining her concept of God. Celie gathers strength from (these) women, and their shared oppression is (her) chief agency of redemption (Smith, 63). Their influences and experiences allow Celie to develop from a passive victim to a proactive, confident woman. (She) goes herself to find the courage to change and grow (Winchell, 87), and from these changes comes the power to take control Wilson, 8 and designate her own course in life.

All it takes is a few good friends, the desire to change, and a little bit of time. Bibliography Wilson, 9 Works Cited Barret, Jennie. The Search for Identity in the works of Alice Walker. 28 February, 2000.

Henderson, Mae. The Color Purple: Revisions and Redefinitions. SAGE 2.1. Spring 1985. Kaplan, Carla.

The Erotics of Talk. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Smith, Dinitia. Alice Walker: Critical Perspectives Past and Present. New York: Amistad, 1993. Walker, Alice.

The Color Purple. New York: Pocket Books. 1982. Winchell, Donna Haisty. Alice Walker.

New York: Twayne Publishers. 1992. Book Reports.

The Color Purple

The Color Purple
The main theme this essay will be focusing
on is the distinction between the “real” outcome of economic achievement
as described in The Color Purple by the lynching of Celie’s father, and
its “alternative” economic view presented at the end of the novel depicting
Celie’s happiness and entrepreneurial success. We will attempt the task
at hand by relating the novel to two Models (Historical and Empirical Data,
Manners and Customs) of representation in the “real” and “alternative”
worlds of The Color Purple.

By focusing on the letters describing the
lynching of Celie’s father, and the letter describing Celie’s economic
stability and happiness (found in last letter), we will have established
a clear distinction between the real and alternative worlds in relation
to the economic situations presented throughout the novel.

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Manners and customs in the “real” generally
work to maintain order, decorum, and stability. Within the novel the reality
was that blacks had to work for whites on whatever terms were available.

When using manners and customs to depict the real world of the novel, it
is evident we are examining an external world based in a society where
the white oppressor governs the oppressed black populace. The economic
realities of white land ownership, near-monopoly of technical and business
skills and control of financial institutions was in fact the accepted norm
(Sowell 48).

When presenting the term fact – we must
account for the introduction of a second model, “historical and empirical
data” in representing the real world of The Color Purple.

As illustrated in the pages of American
history books, it is evident that American Negro slavery had a peculiar
combination of features. The key features of American slavery were that
it followed racial or color lines and that it was slavery in a democratic
country (Sowell 4). The fact that it existed in a democratic country meant
that it required some extraordinary rationale to reconcile it with the
prevailing values of the nation. Racism was an obvious response, whose
effects were still felt more than a century after its abolition (Sowell

The Models (Manners and Customs, Historical
and Empirical Data) of representation in the real world of The Color Purple
was made clear when we discover that Celie’s biological father was lynched
for being a prosperous storekeeper.

“And as he (the father) did so well farming
and everything he turned his hand to prospered, he decided to open a store,
and try his luck selling dry goods as well. Well, his store did so well
that he talked his two brothers into helping him run it. . . . Then the
white merchants began to get together and complain that his store was taking
all the black business away from them. . . . This would not do”(Walker

The store the black men owned took the
business away from the white men, who then interfered with the free market
(really the white market) by lynching their black competitors. Class relations,
in this instance, are shown to motivate lynching. Lynching was the act
of violence white men performed to invoke the context of black inferiority
and sub-humanity to the victim, exposing the reality of the economic bases
of racial oppression (Berlant 217). The black individual served as a figure
of racial “justice” for whites; the black individual was an economic appendage
reduced to the embodiment of his or her alienation (Berlant 224). “Color”
in the southern U.S. during the early 1900s was synonymous with inferiority.

When discussing the economic alternative
world illustrated in The Color Purple Celie situates herself firmly in
the family’s entrepreneurial tradition; she runs her business successfully.

Where her father and uncles were lynched for presuming the rights of full
American citizens, Celie is ironically rewarded for following in her family’s
entrepreneurial interests. Celie’s shift from underclass victim to capitalist
entrepreneur has only positive signification. Her progression from exploited
black woman, as woman, as sexual victim, is aided by her entrance into
the economy as property owner, manager of a small business, storekeeper
– in short capitalist entrepreneur.

The Models (Manners and Customs, Historical
and Empirical Data) of representation in the alternative world presented
at the end of the novel, leave us with the notion of a happy ending for
our heroine Celie. Here Historical and Empirical Data has completely been
suspended or erased form existence. There is no reminiscing on evidence
of any social mistreatment or racial abuse. Also the Manners and Customs
have been reversed, emphasizing that it is completely natural/normal for
a black woman to be running a successful business in the deep American
South (which in the real is unheard of, dictated by an extremely racist
and sexist society).

Celie’s closing sentence: “Matter of fact,
I think this the youngest us ever felt” (Walker 295) is deliberately replacing
her very first utterance, “I am fourteen years old,” (Walker 1) with an
assertion of victorious control over the context in which she speaks. Celie
commits herself to the production of a new age but ascribes no value to
the influence of her past history or on the culture (Berlant 232).

Such a model for the reformulation of black
culture threatens to lose certain historical events in the rush to create
the perfect relations of a perfect moment. That the text might use the
repression of certain kinds of memory as a strategy for representing its
new utopian mode of production, signaled in the narrative repression of
the class element in the lynching of Celie’s father. The profit motive
killed her father and, indirectly, her mother; it made Celie vulnerable
to her stepfather’s sexual imperialism and almost resulted in her disenfranchisement
from her property.

The Color Purple’s strategy of presenting
an alternative (Celie’s economic success) to the real, (lynching of Celie’s
father) had indeed aimed to critique the unjust practices of racism and
oppression that was present through out the novel.

In the novel’s own terms, American capitalism
thus has contradictory effects. On one hand, capitalism veils its operations
by employing racism, using the idea of race to reduce the economic competitor
to a sub-human object. On the other hand, the model of personal and national
identity with which the novel leaves us uses fairytale explanations of
social relations to represent an alternative world. This fairy tale embraces
America for providing the black nation with the right and the opportunity
to own land, to participate in the free market, and to profit from it.

Indeed The Color Purple is a fairytale;
a world in which sexual exploitation can easily be overcome; and a world
of unlimited access to material well being (Hooks 223). By emphasizing
on the letter dealing with the lynching of Celie’s father and the last
letter of the novel establishing Celie’s economic independence we have
illustrated the real and alternative worlds in relation to the economic
prosperity of the black individual. Thus creating an illusionary fantasy
world by combining or mediating between the novel’s social realism and
its alternative.


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