The Color Purple Extended Essay

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple deals with taboo topics that women go through such as rape, sexism, discrimination, etc. Set in the early 1900’s in rural Georgia The Color Purple deals with the life of women of color in a patriarchal society. This book is portrayed through the life of Celie in which she writes letters to God, some of the taboo topics she talks about is being raped by her father, her children being taken from her, and being forced to marry.

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Walker’s book “The color purple” demonstrates that the subjugation and abuse is women is very accurate and the effects can even be seen in the real world today. Celie, Nettie, squeak and Sophia all see or deal with these topics which teach them lessons throughout the book.

Celie was a fourteen year old girl when she started being abused emotionally and physically by Fonso who is Celie’s father. The text shows, “She went to visit her sister doctor over Macon. He never had a kine word to say to me. Just say you gonna do what your your mammy wouldn’t. First he put his thing up gainst my hip sort of wiggle it around. Then he grab hold my titties. Then he push his thing inside my pussy. When that hurt, I cry. He start to choke me, saying you better shut up and git used to it.” ( Walker, 1). Celie’s father, Fonso starts to rape Celie after her mother is unable to fulfill her father’s sexual needs because Celie’s mother had fallen ill. So, Fonso while raping Celie says “git used to it” implying that this would not be the only time that he would force her to have sex. Next, “She got sicker and sicker. Finally she ast where it is? I say god took it. He took it. He took it while I was sleeping. Kill this one too if he can.” (walker, 2). Celie tells her mother that god took her baby after her baby is gone. According to the text, “He act like he can’t stand me no more. Say I’m evil an always up to no good. He took my other little baby, a boy this time. But I don’t think he kilt it. I think he sold it to a man an his wife over Montecello”(Walker, 3). The evidence displays that Celie was raped again and had a second child. This time Celie’s baby was taken again from her but by Fonso this time and was sold to a couple. Celie does not know if her child is dead or alive but thinks that her child is alive and has been sold to a couple. Overall, celie has gone through rape and two child births in which both children have been taken from her and now is a mother but without either of her children.

Women were thought of as objects and not as human beings by men. They were married once they hit a certain age, had children, etc. For instance, “But I can let you have Celie. She the oldest anyway. She ought to marry first. She ain’t fresh tho, but I spent you know that. She spoiled. Twice.”(Walker, 7). Mr. ____ and Fonso are having a conversation about Celie and how Mr. ____ should take her instead of Nettie who is Celie’s sister because Nettie is too young to get married. They talk about Celie like she is food that has been spoiled or like she is meat. The text also says “Don’t let them run over you, Nettie say. You got to let them know who got the upper hand. They got it, I say. But she keep on, you got to fight. You got to fight. But I don’t know how to fight. All I know is how to stay alive. ”(Walker, 17). This shows that, Nettie is trying to encourage her sister to fight back and stand up for herself but Celie says that she cannot fight back because mr.____ who is a man has the upper hand. For example, “When a woman marry she spose to keep a decent house and a clean family”(Walker, 19). Celie is having a conversation with mr.’s sisters who came to visit him. The sisters are having a conversation with Celie where they explain how women are supposed to be clean. This connects to what society believed how women should be in the house cleaning and cooking for their families. For instance, “The Olinka do not believe girls should be educated. When I asked a mother why she thought this, she said: A girl is nothing to herself; only to her husband can she become something.”(Walker, 155). Nettie wrote a letter to Celie talking about how she is a missionary and that she traveled to Africa. In the letter Nettie says that she teaches the children of Olinka a tribe in Africa and that they aren’t any girls, Nettie decides to ask one of the Olinka mother’s why girls are not sent to school. The Olinka believe that women are worthless unless they are married then they are worth something. Overall, the women in society not only in the united states but also in Africa women were viewed only useful when they were married, had children, and were expected to cook and clean for their families.

Nettie writes letters to Celie about her life with the Olinka tribe in Africa. In the Olinka the women are not allowed to get an education because it is a stigma for women to not get married and get an educated. For instance “Our women are respected here, said the father. We would never let them tramp the world as American women do. There is always someone to look after the Olinka women. A father. An uncle. A brother or nephew. Do but be offended, sister Nettie, but our people pity women such as you who are cast out, we know not from where into world unknown to you, where you must struggle all alone, for yourself. So I am an object of pity and contempt, I thought, to men and women alike.” (Walker, 161). Tashi’s mother and father confront Nettie about what it is like to be an Olinka women. Tashi’s father tells Nettie that she is an “object of pity” because she has an education and has no man that she has married or anyone that is looking after her. Tashi’s father continues by saying that if she were an Olinka women or if there were an Olinka women like Nettie then she would have been cast out of the village. An example of this happening is “she is becoming someone else; her face is beginning to show the spirit of one of her aunt’s who was sold to the trader because she no longer fit into village life. This aunt refused to marry the man chosen for her. Refused to bow to the chief. Did nothing but lay up, crack cola nuts between her teeth and giggle.”(Walker, 160). Tashi’s father tells Nettie a story about one of tashi’s aunt’s who decided to break the expectations that the Olinka society had put on women which was to get married to whoever her parents chose for her to marry and therefore her consequence was that she was cast out of the village and sold to a trader. Nettie believes that women should be educated and be given a choice in what they want to do with their lives but the Olinka disagree which is also a patriarchal society in which women have no say and also have to be with a man weather it be cousin, nephew, father or brother.

Sofia is a woman who is not afraid to stand up to anyone weather it was her own husband or white folks. Sofia is a strong women and will defend her self physically even if she is living in a patriarchal world. For example, “Mayor wait too, stand back and tap his foot, watch her with a little smile. Now Millie, he say. Always going on finally look at Sofia and the prizefighter car. She eye Sofia wristwatch. She say to Sofia, all your children so clean, she say, would you like to work for me, be my maid. Sofia say hell no. She say, what you say? Sofia say, hell no. Mayor look at Sofia, push his wife out the way. Stick out his chest. Girl, what you say to miss Millie? Sofia say, I say hell no. He slap her… I say Sofia knock the man down. The polices come, start slinging the children off the mayor, bang they heads together. Sofia really start to fight. They drag her to the ground.”(Walker, 87). Sofia did not care about the consequences to her she did not want her children to work for the mayor and his wife so she boldly defended herself and her children. Even after the mayor came up to her and she punched him, she was not willing to give up without a fight. Earlier in the text Sofia tells Celie “all my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousin’s and my uncle’s. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. She let out her breath. I love Harpo, she say. God knows I do. But I’d kill him dead before I let him beat me.”( Walker, 40). Sofia’s strength and reason to keep fighting came from being abused by her family which was mostly men. She had to fight because she never liked being abused so she never let her husband beat her and same goes with other people. Lastly, Sofia shows that a woman can defend herself especially from the men who would abuse women.

Squeak also known as Mary Agnes has been abused and raped which because of that made her into a stronger woman and allowed her to stand up to her husband who is also Sofia’s husband. For example, “Poor little Squeak come home with a limp. Her dress rip. Her hat missing and one of the heels come off her shoe. What happen? Us ast. Harpo come up the steps from the car. My wife beat up, my woman rape, he say. I ought to go back there with guns, maybe set fire to the place, burn the crackers up. Shut up, Harpo, say Squeak. I’m telling it. And she do… he took my hat off, say Squeak. Told me to undo my dress. She drop her head, out her face in her hands. My God, say odessa, and he your uncle. He say if he was my uncle he wouldn’t do it to me. That be a sin. But this just a little fornication. Everybody guilty of that. She turn her face up to Harpo. Harpo, she say, do you really love me, or just my color? Harpo say, I love you, Squeak. He kneel down and try to put his arm round her waist. She stand up. My name Mary Agnes, she say.” (Walker, 97). Mary Agnes going through rape in that moment changed her quickly and taught her what her worth is, it showed her that she needed to stand up to Harpo and tell him to call her by her real name. Mary Agnes not only stood up to just Harpo but also Mr.____ Mary Agnes told Harpo and his dad “me, she say. I’m going north. You going what? Say Harpo. He so surprise. He begin to sputter, sputter, just like his daddy. Sound like I don’t know what. I want to sing, say Squeak. Sing! Say harpo. Yeah, say squeak. Sing. I ain’t sung in public since jolentha was born. Her name jolentha. They call her Suzie Q.” (Walker, 202). Mary Agnes told both Harpo and his father that she would be leaving with Shug and Celie. She wanted to pursue her dream instead of staying with Harpo she didn’t care about what society expected of her, she wanted to do what she believed in. She went from being quiet to looking within herself and finding her worth which allowed her to pursue her dream.

In conclusion, The Color Purple faces the topics of abuse and society’s expectations in a patriarchal world. Some women still face these problems to this day of sexual abuse, molestation, etc. Women are expected to do certain things at certain times like having children and getting married but these women were breaking the molds that were given to them by society. Overall, the subjugation and abuse of women in The Color Purple is very accurate.

Investigation & Analysis

My research has led me to believe that all of these women were all breaking barriers and talking about and doing things that were not common during that time period. For example, Celie and Shug Avery who was a female character in the book also had a sexual relationship with Celie despite having a husband. Shug Avery taught Celie about her body in showing her what her vagina and breasts looks like with a mirror which Celie had never paid attention to. Later on in the book Celie talks about how nobody loves her and Shug Avery says “I love you” followed by a kiss in which Celie kisses her back and later on it progresses into both women having sex. Also, mr.____ ends up finding out but does not do anything about Celie and Shug loving each other. The reader should also know that Shug, Celie, and squeak leave the south to go up North with Shug so Shug can pursue her dream of singing. Squeak wasn’t able to sing since she had a child but she always wanted to sing at clubs. She stands up to Harpo and tells him that she will be going up North with Shug and Celie.

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The color purple extended essay. (2019, Jun 08). Retrieved from