Themes in the Color Purple by Alice Walker
How it works
The Color Purple by Alice Walker details sisters Nettie and Celie as they are faced with challenges finding who they are in the world. Primarily focused on protagonist, Celie, the novel is structured through a series of letters that Celie has written to God. Being raised in the southern state of Georgia, Nettie, and Celie are faced with the difficulties of being a woman, African-American, and the fate of their father, Alphonos, desires. Growing up with an ill mother, who eventually dies, their father turns to Celie for sexual gratification since their mother is unable to satisfy his desires.
Impregnating Celie on multiple occasions, Alphonos does what he feels is necessary to the children (Adam and Olivia) when they are born, leaving Celie in a dark depression.
Eventually she is lead to a marriage full of abuse and rape. Nettie, the younger of the two sisters was partially to blame for her sister’s marriage to Mister because she was too young to marry him herself. Due to her poor relationship with men, Celie, developed a fear of them and begins favoring women, because they stand up for her in a way no man ever has. Left with their father, Nettie becomes subject to the same sexual desires Celie used to face. Instead of marrying off to “escape” them, she runs away to visit Celie and Mister until she is forced off their land because she fought back when her brother-in-law tried to subject her to his sexual desires. Separated from the only person they were ever able to trust, Celie turns to God for answers, often in the forms of letter writing. Celie reassures her sister that she will be okay, but reveals in the letter’s that she never heard from her again.
As Celie begins to build relationships with strong African-American woman she meets Sofia, who marry Albert’s son Harpo after she became pregnant. Unable to control her, Harpo seeks advice, and Celie suggests that he beat Sofia. However, when Harpo strikes her, Sofia fights back. After learning that Celie encouraged Harpo’s abuse, she confronts a guilty Celie, who admits to being jealous of Sofia’s refusal to back down, and the two women become friends. Despite everything, Celie falls in love with an unexpected person, a woman by the name of Shug Avery. Through Shug, Celie is able to find the self identity she had always longed for. She was no longer confined to the marriage with Mister, but had hope for the future. Although they are both still married to their husbands, Shug and Celie have a sexual relationship. Their relationship leads Celie to discover that the sister she presumed was dead, was indeed alive and had been writing to her. Mister had been hiding the letters to limit communication between the two. Despite the difficulties seen throughout the entirety of the novel, there is a happy ending for most. Celie and Mister are able to begin to genuinely love one another for who they are, Nettie returns to America after an extended period in Africa with her husband Samuel and children, Adam and Olivia, who are actually her niece and nephew, and despite the years that have passed, and the challenged they have faced Celie and Nellie are better than ever.