"The Color Purple" by Alice Walker: Critical Analysis

In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Celie leads a life filled with abuse at the hands of the most important men in her life. As result of the women who surround and help her, Celie becomes stronger and overcomes the abuse she experienced. The three most influential women in Celie’s life are here sister Nettie, her daughter-in-law Sofia and the singer Shug Avery. These are the women who lead Celie out of her shell and help her turn from and shy, withdrawn woman to someone who was free to speak her mind and lead her own independent life.

Celie is inspired by her sister’s independence, determination and perseverance in Africa among foreign people whom Nettie cares about deeply. Celie saw the impact that a woman could have on others and felt empowered to overcome the abuse she experiences. Nettie is someone that Celie tries to shelter from the physical and sexual abuse of their father. It is also Nettie who Celie looks to for education when her father pulls her out of school, and for support when she moves in with Mr. ____ where she was abused by him and his children. When Nettie runs away, Mr. ____ hides the letters sent to Celie thereby cutting off the sister’s communication, which left them heartbroken. “I sit here in this big empty house by myself trying to sew, but what good is sewing gon do? What good is anything? Being seem like a awful strain.” [sic] (Walker 262). Upon discovering Nettie’s letters, Celie finds a new desire to live because her sister was alive. Nettie also serves as Celie’s only link to her children. Nettie gives Celie pride in her children who were intelligent and prosperous in Africa, which gives Celie newfound confidence. All her life, Nettie was the one who always supported and loved Celie but when Celie wasn’t receiving her letters, she looked to Sophia for inspiration.

Sophia is a strong woman who at first intimidated Celie but after getting to know each other they become friends and are there support each other in the course of the abuse they each suffer through. Sophia’s size and attitude came as a shock to Celie when Mr. ____’s son Harpo brings her to the house for his father to meet. She does not let Harpo’s father talk down to her, and talking back was something Celie thought she could never bring herself to do. “ I say it cause I’m a fool, I say. I say it cause I’m jealous of you. I say it cause you do what I can’t. What that? she say. Fight. I say.” [sic] (42). When Sophia would not listen to Harpo’s request, after Celie’s and Mr. ____’s suggestion he tries to beat her like his father does to Celie but Sophia fought back. When Sophia comes and confronts Celie about what she had suggested to Harpo, Sophia reveals that she pitied Celie and tells her she should fight back too. It is after that conversation that Celie and Sophia support each other and become friends. After a time, when Sophia is seen by the mayor and his wife in town, they comment on how cute their children looked. The mayor’s wife asks Sophia if she would like to work for her as her maid, which upsets Sophia. When Sophia refuses, the mayor slaps her and in return she knocks him down. As a result, Sophia is beaten to near death and put in prison. Through all this, Sophia stays as strong as she can and still does not let anyone tell her what to do. When Sophia is let out of prison she is sent to work for the mayor’s wife as punishment. She is not allowed to see her family or any men but she still does not concede. Celie still goes to visit her through this experience and their bond stays strong. Sophia is a strong woman who Celie looked to for strength. Sophia and Nettie are family to Celie and were there to support and inspire her but the woman who leads her to act on her inspiration and become independent was Shug Avery.

Shug Avery is someone Celie admired from a young age. Shug’s exuberance and charm with people are qualities Celie never dreamed of having herself until Shug walks into her life and Celie does more with her life by actually overcoming the abuse and becomes someone more. “I ast her to give me the picture. An all night long I stare at it. An now when I dream, I dream of Shug Avery.” [sic] (7). Shug comes into Celie’s life as her husband’s mistress who was very ill but not lacking in character. She treats Celie with disrespect at first, but after living with her for some time and being nursed back to health by her Shug gains a respect for her. She teaches Celie how to speak for herself and to defend herself against Mr. ____. Shug is the one who helps Celie escape by taking her on her tour where Celie learns how to expertly sew pants. This is another major step towards independence because Celie is no longer financially dependent on anyone but herself because she creates a successful business by making pants. Upon her return to her home, she inherits her father’s home thereby completely separating her from the men who held control over her. She can now receive her sister’s letters and make her own money. The people who love her surround her and her personality develops unhindered by abuse. Celie’s idol came through to set her free and now idolizes her to an extent.

After Celie’s new independence, her relationships prosper and her and Mr. ____ develop a new relationship as friends, where there is no abusiveness but only respect. Celie is able to cultivate her individualism through experience of mistreatment and rise above it because of the aid from three influential women in her life, Nettie, Sophia and Shug. All of these women play roles of importance throughout different stages of Celie’s life and while Celie could have survived on her own, these women taught Celie not only how to survive, but how to really live. Conquering adversity in order to live life to the fullest is something everyone can do and Celie serves as and inspiration for everyone to do their utmost to accomplish this.





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24 June 2014