THE COLOR PURPLE PDF
and her. The Colo talent a. America. This ebo from the. Alice Walker. PDF. Fantastic Fic "The Color Purple is an American novel of permanent importance. THE COLOR PURPLE ALICE WALKER PUBLISHED BY POCKET BOOKS NEW YORK i POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. The Color Purple - flliee Walker r TL Pulitzer Prize Winner Ik F TL Authors: Alice Walker Formats: PDF Ids: Fantastic Fiction, Barnes & Noble, Goodteacls,Skoob.
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Title of document: Feminism in Late 20th Century American Literature: Black Feminism in Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Name of course: Bachelor Thesis. For Celie's speech pattern in The Color Purple, Celie's words reveal not only an intelligence that transforms illiterate speech into something that is, at times, very. In her award-winning novel The Color Purple, Alice Walker () tells the story of The themes presented in The Color Purple are very advanced, and the.
Celie learns that Pa has died. She also finds out that the house that Pa lived in actually has belonged to Celie and Nettie since their mother passed away. So now Celie owns a home, which she prepares for Netties arrival. Now an independent woman, Celie remains close friends with Shug, although Shug is not faithful or constant in their romantic relationship. Celie also gains a new friend. After she left Mr.
Hes reformed and is now a pretty decent guy. Although Celie isnt remotely romantically interested in him, they now enjoy each others company. After several decades abroad in Africa, Nettie returns with Samuel, who is now her husband, and with Celies two children.
The sisters have a blissful reunion, and although theyre now old women, we get the sense that theyve just begun the best years of their lives. Book Summary Alice Walker's The Color Purple weaves an intricate mosaic of women joined by their love for each other, the men who abuse them, and the children they care for.
In the first few letters, Celie tells God that she has been raped by her father and that she is pregnant for the second time with his child. Celie's mother is quite ill and after cursing Celie, dies, leaving Celie alone to face her father. Celie then turns her attention to protecting her sister, Nettie, from her father's sexual advances.
Celie soon marries Mr. Celie becomes fixated on Shug Avery, a glamorous blues singer who is her husband's mistress. Several years later, Celie eagerly accepts the responsibility of nursing Shug back to health, thus beginning a lifetime of friendship and love between the two women. The oldest of Celie's stepchildren, Harpo, marries an independent young women, Sofia, and soon after, Celie encourages Harpo to beat her into submission, just as all men have beaten Celie.
Sofia later confronts Celie about this betrayal, but that confrontation leads to a deep and enduring sisterhood, and Sofia remains an independent, strong woman throughout the novel.
The two women create a "Sister's Choice" quilt togetherthe symbolism of quilts permeates much of the novel. Just as scraps of cloth come together to form a new, strong, useful product, so, too, can black women come together to forge a similar strong and useful bond.
Sofia later punches the town's white mayor, an act that lands her in prison and snatches the independence she so values. By this time, she and Harpo have split up and taken other lovers, so the women in Sofia's life take on the responsibility of releasing her from jail. When trying to help Sofia, Squeak is raped by her uncle, the prison warden, but in telling her friends about the rape, she becomes stronger, insisting that she will no longer be called by her nickname and beginning to compose her own blues music.
Sofia is able to leave prison, but she finds herself caged nonetheless, working as a maid in a white household. Meanwhile, Nettie has become a missionary in Africa and has written countless letters to Celie, all of which Albert has hidden.
Nettie, in spite of her upbringing, is a self-confident, strong, faith-filled woman. When Celie discovers Nettie's letters, she not only catches up on her sister's life, she also discovers that her own two children are alive and living with a missionary couple with whom Nettie works.
Nettie's letters about their shared African heritage are a tonic to Celie, who becomes stronger and more self-assured every day. That confidence soon turns to furyover her rapes, her beatings, and the love and affection the men in her life have kept from her. Her opening lines concern violence: "I spend my wedding day running from the oldest boy.
Celie bandages her head and begins to function automatically, revealing that she accepts the fact that this chaos and violence will probably be a pattern throughout the rest of her life. It will be a pattern which she will simply have to cope with. There is nothing "special" about Celie's wedding day until nighttime, when she is dutifully lying beneath Mr. Then, she unselfishly and lovingly thinks of Nettie's welfare. Now that Nettie and Celie are separated, they can no longer try to protect one another.
Celie's thoughts are of Nettie, even in this wretched, perhaps hopeless situation. Celie does not dwell on self-pity. Then Celie thinks of Shug, and Shug seems closer than ever to Celie because Celie realizes that she and Shug share the same man. Celie, "that one" who Fonso said was ugly, is sharing her husband with the exotic and wondrous Shug Avery. Logically, Celie reasons that this act of sex with Mr. Letter 10 Celie's trip into town with Mr.
Some be dress too. They drive into town in wagons, and we don't see them buying readymade clothes; they buy material and thread. And their attitudes are certainly not educated ones. Likewise, the whites in town are not sophisticated either.
Specifically, the clerk's demeaning treatment of Olivia's mother and Celie reflects his contradictory and self-defeating behavior: he needs their business, but he clearly hates blacks, for his words to them are rude and pushy: "You want that cloth or not? We got other customers sides you. To him, the woman has no judgment. She offers her friendship and a kind word, and she generously offers them to this woman who is holding Olivia, the baby who Celie feels is her own baby.
In addition, Celie offers the woman a seat in Mr. In turn, Olivia's mother offers Celie a joke about Celie's "horsepitality. She laughs until her face feels ready to split, "laughing like a fool," Mr.
She laughs because she feels almost certain that she has found her baby. Olivia's mother also laughs, which is a relief for us after we have seen her overly submissive behavior earlier. But the woman acts so passively in this scene because she knows that she has no choice. In a confrontation with a white man, the black man, or woman, must act passively. Their survival depends upon not angering whites. In fact, the woman's over-politeness is proof of this point, as is the fact that she allows the clerk to humiliate her and take her money.
She compliments her on the fabric. But Celie is too curious about the baby to be quiet for too long. She asks about the baby's father and learns that he is a Reverend.
Celie doesn't tell God his name; she leaves him nameless. Walker first employed this technique in Letter 4 to express a lack of personal identity. Celie again repeats the notion that a man's name is not worth knowing--because "mens look pretty much alike to me. Celie's second question to the woman reveals her intuitive nature even more clearly. She asks her, "How long you had your little girl? The verb "had" carries the idea that the baby was gotten from somewhere besides the womb of the woman who holds her.
In addition, there is the matter of the baby's name being Olivia or Pauline. The name "Olivia" is a secret, private name that both women have for the baby. Celie, of course, embroidered Olivia's name in her underwear, which went with her when Fonso sold her. Olivia's mother has no real answer as to why she calls the baby Olivia; rather embarrassed, she says that the baby simply "look like a Olivia.
Yet, she feels that the baby is hers. She tells God, "My heart say she mine. Letter 11 Nettie's running away from home to Mr. Nettie is able to help her overworked sister with the household chores and, more important, with her schooling. Nettie deeply wants to teach, and Celie is deeply appreciative of Nettie's patience and belief in her: "No matter what happen, Nettie steady try to teach me what go on in the world.
Most days, she tells God, she's too tired even to think. In keeping with the basic selflessness in their relationship, the sisters continue to worry about each other's welfare. Nettie regrets having to leave Celie, saying that it's like seeing her buried. Even Nettie's idealism is tested severely in this scene. Celie, however, draws on her faith to provide her daily resurrection.
She states firmly that as long as she can "spell G-o-d I got somebody along. Accordingly, she begins the following letter, Letter 12, not with her customary Dear God, but with G-o-d spelled out.
Nettie, then, is largely responsible for Celie's being able to write these letters to God. Learning is synonymous with strength to Nettie, and she continually urges Celie to learn to be strong, to fight--and not to succumb to the "taken-for-granted" burdens of the black woman's role. Nettie promises to write, but Celie ends this letter by saying that Nettie never wrote. This matter will be addressed in Letter Celie is not aware of the irony in this final, short sentence. Celie won't read any of the letters that Nettie wrote to her for a very long time, but when she does, they will structure the second half of this novel.
They are inflexibly rigid about a "woman's role. She has their approval--as a good housekeeper, as a person who is good with children, and as a good cook.
And note how Walker slips a memory of Nettie into Celie's thoughts. Kate says that her brother couldn't have done better in getting himself a wife "if he'd tried. The two sisters' presence, however, is more than comic relief in this scene. These sisters are going to offer more information about this magical creature called Shug Avery.
They don't think much of Shug because, according to them, Shug can't sing, she's a homebreaker, and, according to Kate, Shug is "black as my shoe. Because of miscegenation, skin tone among black Americans varies from milky to ebony.
Some black people have attached status to being lighter and have avoided darker members of the race. The roots for this colorist distinction come from slavery. Lighter persons who were frequently the offspring of white masters and black women slaves were given the easier work--usually the housework. The rest of the slaves, the darker ones, were given the fieldwork to do. Carrie's sharp-tongued observation about Shug--"She too black"--means that Shug's skin tone is probably close to ebony.
However, all this prejudice refuses to take root in Celie's consciousness; she is more intrigued than ever by the illusive Shug Avery. In fact, now that Shug is the personification of adventure and magic and beauty, Celie associates a shopping trip with the glamorous Shug.
It also seems that Celie knows that purple is associated with royalty; that's why she says "purple" aloud when she and Kate are discussing the color of Celie's new dress. Celie is thinking of Shug and simply utters the color that is synonymous with Shug: purple. But just as there is no Shug Avery in Celie's life--not yet--there is no color purple in the dress store.
Not yet. For the present, Celie has to make do with blue. But Kate utters one of the central ideas in this novel that becomes a part of Celie's soul. She tells Celie that she deserves "more than this. I think. She tells Celie to "fight them for yourself. For the present, simply not giving up is enough for her. At least she is alive. Nettie, she fears, is dead. But Kate's words have been spoken, and Celie will hear other women tell her the same thing throughout the novel--to "fight them for yourself"-because Celie is worth it.
Slowly, Celie will begin to realize the truth of this statement.
Letter 13 About five years have passed. Harpo was twelve when he gashed Celie's head on her wedding day; now he is seventeen. Celie is about twenty-five, and Mr.
She, however, has no alternative, seemingly, than accepting her "role" as a black woman: she is merely a black man's "property"; accordingly, she is an available target for all the abuse that her husband has boiling inside himself. And, of course, he suffers frustration because he is a black man, a man of little value in the white man's world. Celie feels humiliated because she is treated worse than even his children. But Mr. He says, self-righteously, that Celie is "stubborn.
Celie only knows that, as she said at the end of Letter 12, "I don't fight. She imagines that she is as strong and as unmoving as a tree.
Celie, you a tree. He thinks that he's ready to get married, but he is as ignorant about love and sexuality and courtship as Celie was when she first began writing her letters to God. Harpo is seventeen, but he seems much younger because he is so certain that he loves a girl whom he has never even spoken to; indeed, it is his very certainty that makes him seem all the more immature.
The two young people, as we pointed out, have never even spoken; they have merely exchanged a wink and returned a scared, shy look. Yet, to Harpo, this is "love," and he is sure that he's ready to be a husband. But with Harpo's having a fierce father for a role model as a husband, we can be fairly certain that Harpo will probably become another womanizer and a wife beater.
Another cycle of brutality, it seems, is innocently and ignorantly being set in motion. Nevertheless, Celie aches just to see, "just to lay eyes on" this beautiful creature from seemingly another world another star in the universe.
Symbolically, note that Shug will be singing at the Lucky Star club; Shug will eventually be Celie's "lucky star. To him, Celie is more a slave than a wife.
But Celie doesn't mind this time because she wants Mr. She has been living vicariously through Mr. In Letter 6, Celie saw Shug in a single snapshot. Now, Celie sees that Mr. Magic reigns, and the queen of this magic is the Queen Honeybee--Shug Avery. Her name is the first syllable of the word "sugar," and the word "honeybee" carries the idea of hot and stinging sweetness.
Shug is a blues singer, and no doubt she was referred to as a "sugar babe," a common and affectionate term for a black woman blues singer.
Letter 15 Celie's earthy wisdom, in contrast to her child-like innocence, underscores every line of this short note to God. Celie has a tragically small amount of self-worth. To Celie, all worth lies in Shug Avery. Celie knows so little about the true, objective worth of herself that she accepts the fact that her husband has so much sex with Shug that he's totally exhausted and almost sick when he returns home.
Celie is grateful for crumbs; so long as she can share her husband with the fantastic Shug Avery, she can cope with life. In the meantime, while her husband has been with Shug, Celie has worked like a mule in the fields, and she's done so for one reason only: she knows that she's expected to--"it bees that way.
Celie even knows that Shug and Mr. Celie and Shug have the relationship of picture and viewer, book and reader, and performer and audience. In fact, to Celie, Shug seems like a character in a familiar fairy tale: "Is she still the same old Shug, like in my picture? Celie talks about all the hard fieldwork that she and Harpo have done since Mr.
Celie is sensitive to the fact that Harpo is nearly as big and strong as his daddy, yet, contradictorily, "weak in will. Part of Harpo's sadness, of course, comes from his being in love, but a good part of it comes as a result of his being a black man, toiling until exhausted in the fields.
Also, in Letter 17, we learn that Mr. In Harpo's nightmare of his mother, Annie Julia is torn between Harpo and her lover, symbols of responsibility versus desire. Fatally, she chooses to be a responsible mother. Harpo's response is to cry out against the injustice of his mother's death. His mother was not to blame, and yet everyone in the community did blame her--because she let her desires seek gratification.
And at this point, Harpo's cry of injustice reverberates in echoes, recalling all of the injustices that have been mentioned in all of Celie's letters to God--particularly all of the multiple injustices that have stunted Celie's Harpo's stepmother's rightful sense of herself.
Celie's selflessness here, thinking only of Harpo, is almost saint-like. She realizes now that she can never replace Annie Julia, Harpo's mother, just as she herself knew so well, long ago, that Fonso's new wife could never replace Celie's own mother. As a stepmother herself now, Celie knows for a certainty that she doesn't love Mr.
This contradiction in not loving but acting lovingly, as well as the many contradictions of justice and injustice that Celie witnesses every day, coalesce finally in Celie's thoughts about the contradictory nature of Harpo's unwed, pregnant girlfriend, Sofia. Sofia, Celie says, is gentle, yet strong--pregnant and unwed, yet not troubled about the fact.
To Celie, Sofia's headstrong, contradictory independence is simply one more fact to be reckoned with. But to Harpo and Mr. But once they are settled, Celie studies this strange black woman who is unlike any woman whom Celie has ever known. Celie's word for Sofia is "solid. Seemingly, Celie wants to see if Sofia will break. Sofia, of course, doesn't break--but Celie has never been broken either--except in Celie's case, everyone assumes that her will has already been broken, if indeed it ever existed.
Celie may act submissively, however, but she has always reacted to beatings, without knowing it, in much the same way that Sofia does.
Objectively, one can see that Sofia is "solid. In her own words, she says stoically, "I don't fight. Consider Sofia and the theoretical mule. Sofia and a mule are not too different. Both must do fieldwork and both are stubborn. Also, a mule is as much a female as it is a male. And Sofia is as much a woman as she is a man. She is both a mother and a fighter.
Year after year, Harpo continues to try and tame Sofia, and yearly, he loses--bruised but stubbornly determined to make his woman a slave to him. Finally, Celie witnesses Harpo's bruises one time too many, and deep guilt festers within her Christian soul; she knows that it was she, along with Mr. Letter 21, then, is a key letter; it contains one of the most significant scenes in the novel: Sofia confronts Celie.
Sofia has learned that Celie told Harpo to beat her, and she reveals how terribly betrayed she feels. It is one thing to have a man try to beat you; it is quite another thing to have a woman betray another woman.
Sofia trusted Celie because Celie seemed like a kind woman. Sofia believed that there was a special bond between them, as women, and now she has learned that a woman urged a man to do her harm. A woman should know better; as Sofia says, "A girl child ain't safe in a family of men. Sofia is a fighter--loudly independent and sharply decisive. Celie is a timid shadow--quietly anguished as she admits to having been a fool.
Sofia cannot understand Celie's motivation; both women were reared in similar domestic situations, but Sofia has always been filled with angry aggressiveness, diametrically unlike the passive, mother-like, spiritual Celie.
Sofia's advice to Celie is loud and clear: "You ought to bash Mr. Think about heaven later. A quilt, after all, is a collection of many colors and fabrics sewn by a single thread, and the new union between Celie and Sofia will be sewn with a new, strong thread of love and trust.
Letters Finally, after years of hearing about, thinking about, and dreaming about the fantastic Shug Avery, Celie is at last going to meet Shug. Walker has classically constructed an "entrance scene" for Shug--that is, novelists and playwrights often like to create intense interest and curiosity about a major character before the reader or viewer "sees" that character.
In this case, we are fascinated by this Queen Honeybee, this high-stepping, blues moaning, good looking, sensuous jazz singer who is, to Mr. We have grown fond of Celie and have identified with her mistreatment and her loneliness; now we are at last going to meet a person who has hypnotically fascinated both Celie and Mr.
How, we wonder, can this magnetic woman hold such emotional power over two people so diametrically dissimilar as Celie and Mr. First off, in analyzing Shug Avery, we should note that Shug may be the Queen Honeybee in the jazz club where she sings, but obviously she reigns only while she sings.
In this scene, she is ill, but no one offers to take care of her.
The Color Purple
On her own turf, she may be a queen of sorts, but her turf is a land of booze-and-blues, sort of an unreal after-hours Never-Never-Land, where the queen isn't supposed to get sick like real folks do. Shug's audience only loves her when she sings, and her lovers only enjoy her while they are in bed with her.
In the bright light of day, the Queen Honeybee's outspoken individualism, as well as her "bad," cigarette-smoking, gin-drinking reputation, repels people, and her sickness only intensifies that feeling of repulsion. People gossip about Shug "slut, hussy, heifer" and turn their backs on her and her "nasty woman disease.
Five days after Mr. We realize that Mr.
Shug is "family" to him; he and Shug have three children together. He and Celie have none. In fact, note that Mr. As for Shug, the first thing we read about the Queen Honeybee's arrival is Celie's sight of "one of her foots. This is clearly not the entrance of a "queen. In contrast, as we read Celie's description of Shug, we get a completely different picture of her. She seems to be something that has already passed over to the next world and returned.
She staggers toward Celie with a caked, yellowed, powdered black face smeared with red rouge, her chest heaving with black beads, chicken hawk feathers curving down one cheek, and clutching a snakeskin bag. To Celie, Shug may be ill, but she still seems to be a beautiful creature, "so stylish it like the trees all round the house draw themself up tall for a better look.
Shug's body may be sick, but we soon see that her spirit is clearly intact; in fact, her first words to Celie are loud, cackling, and cruel--particularly when we consider how much Celie reveres this woman. She remembers that Fonso called her ugly, but here, Shug proclaims that Celie sure is ugly. The pain of hearing Shug confirm Celie's ugliness, however, isn't as painful to Celie as is the fact that Celie can't tell Shug to come in; she doesn't feel free to offer to take care of Shug.
Celie doesn't feel that she has the right to offer help--"It not my house. Now that Shug sees Celie, she is ready to agree with Mr. First, realize how Celie loves Shug--she loves her as one human being might love another, and she loves her as a Christian might love another human being. When Mr. Instead, it is a source of pleasure and excitement. Celie innocently looks at Shug and confesses to God that she thought she had been turned "into a man.
At the same time, in a spiritual sense, Celie feels as though she is performing a sacred rite when she is bathing Shug's naked body. This two-edged feeling is in keeping with Celie's attitude toward Shug and toward herself--both with Celie's idea of herself as a lowly servant waiting on Shug the queen , while in a spiritual sense, Celie feels as though she is performing God's work.
By her own admission, she says that when she is washing Shug, "It feel like I'm praying. Shug yells and shouts and curses and is "more evil than [Celie's] mother," but Celie is not repulsed. She remains fixated on the worldly, wicked, and wondrous Shug Avery.
Later, when Shug seems to be recovering, she begins to hum a tune while Celie is tending to her. The tune is a blues song, and Celie is none too happy to hear her humming a blues song, but Shug's humming this song is a sign for us that Shug is coming to life again. Shug, too, realizes what is happening, and she gives all the credit to Celie.
Celie may not be pleased to hear the "low down dirty" blues song, but she must feel deeply satisfied when Shug tells her that the music is something that Celie "scratched out" of Shug's head. This acknowledgment is the first appreciative remark that Shug has shared with Celie. In fact, Shug's brusque veneer begins to dissolve the more she is around Celie. She even asks Celie not to call her "Ma'm"; Shug realizes that they not only share Mr.
The absence of their children and the absence of Mr. As further proof that Celie continues to have a deep affection for Shug, despite Shug's vicious tongue and her loose ways, note that Celie hopes someday to fasten some of Shug's hair into her own hair, much as she was anxious earlier to sew a quilt together with Sofia's help Letter Celie thinks that every inch of Shug is precious.
Her caring for Shug is much like taking care of the babies whom she never had a chance to rear. Remember, too, that with Mr. Like Celie, Albert adores Shug. Even Celie is aware of this. She knows that Mr. Shug knows Mr. It is an altogether different set-up than what Albert shares with Celie. However, Albert is not as mean to Celie now that the softening element of Shug is in the house.
For the first time, he shows a tiny bit of concern for Celie's feelings--something he has never done before. Celie is stunned at his concern for her, Celie, and she is more than a little puzzled at the depth of his concern for Shug. She sees his eyes mist over as he tells Celie that "Nobody fight for Shug. But not enough. Albert doesn't realize that no one fights for Celie.
Secretly, Celie spits into the man's glass of water and tells God that "This is the closest us [she and Albert] ever felt. Even Albert's brother Tobias comes to assess the situation. In these scenes, you should be aware that neither Albert's father nor Tobias came to "inspect" Celie, Albert's legal wife. Instead, Albert's sisters, Kate and Carrie, came to inspect Celie's housekeeping. The sexual division, the sexist dimension of this society, is distinct. Women come to evaluate a wife and her work.
Men come to question another man's judgment, particularly when a "trifling" love relationship might socially and financially destroy a man. The narrow sexist dimensions of the status quo society of Albert, his family, and Celie stand in stark contrast to the brassy, liberated world of the recovering Shug Avery.
Letters For the most part, these letters concern Harpo's aching unhappiness because of the fact that the only role model he has for being a husband and a man is that of his indolent father, Albert. Unfortunately, Harpo thinks that he himself is a failure--simply because he can't beat Sofia, like Albert beats Celie.
Harpo doesn't realize that his role model is wrong--not Harpo himself--and as long as Harpo is married to Sofia, he will never be able to treat her as Albert treats Celie. Sofia is a strong woman; she won't stand for it. For that reason, then, Harpo tries unconsciously to be big--big and strong and powerful--like Sofia. But that too fails; all he gets is fat. He becomes the butt of many jokes and gets such a pot belly that he looks pregnant.
Yet, in his case, he is not pregnant with anything positive; he is bloated with confusion and resentment and self-pity. Harpo doesn't realize that he is far luckier than his father. He and Sofia truly love one another--despite their constant fighting. Between Albert and Celie, there is no emotion. Therefore, in a marriage like Harpo and Sofia's, where there is love, there is also room for variation in roles, which is why Harpo and Sofia are able to divide the cooking and the cleaning.
In a loveless marriage, such as Albert and Celie have, there is no room for variation. Celie must do what she is told, and Albert does whatever he wants. Celie tries to explain to Harpo that Albert and Shug are in love and that their relationship works because of their love for one another, but Celie points out that they are not married.
A wife and a mistress always have different duties. Harpo still doesn't understand. Sofia realizes that life with Harpo is a dead-end situation; she needs a vacation. Old indolent Albert, on the other hand, doesn't have to go away to restore his soul because Shug is with him. Because Shug is his mistress and because he loves her, he can allow himself the freedom to "reach over and pick something out her hair. Harpo is crying as Sofia leaves, wiping his eyes with a baby diaper.
Sofia's sisters have rescued her. Harpo has no brothers to rescue him. Celie, remember, once tried to rescue Nettie when Nettie fled from Fonso and came to live with Celie. But eventually, Nettie had to flee from Albert's lust and brutality. At present, Nettie is only a precious, painful memory to Celie. Neither one of them can rescue the other. In childhood, each had been a haven for the other.
No longer. And perhaps that is why Celie gives Sofia the quilt that they made together, the "Sister's Choice" quilt. It is Celie's choice to give it to Sofia. Rarely does Celie have a choice about anything. Once, she planned to give the quilt to Shug if it were perfect, or keep it herself if it were imperfect.
At the critical moment of choice, however, neither perfect nor imperfect makes any difference.
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple: Summary & Analysis
What makes the difference is that Celie chooses to make Sofia even more of a sister and so, spontaneously, she gives her the quilt out of love and sisterhood. Letters These letters are primarily concerned with Celie's emotional, physical, and geographical isolation and now--because of Shug Avery--these letters focus on Celie's "awakening" from her isolation.
This awakening first begins in Harpo's jukejoint. Shug is so grateful that Celie has nursed her back to health that she sings "Miss Celie's Song" to her, and Celie's heart immediately begins to cramp. In other words, Celie's heart begins to come to life again.
No one has ever done anything so special for Celie since years ago, when Celie and Nettie were children. Since then, Celie has been isolated from the external world. The word "plantation" on Harpo's handbills appears for the first time in the novel; Celie has been living on a plantation all her life and doesn't even know it. Likewise, she has never heard of the diva of the blues, Bessie Smith. There is no radio or record player in Albert's house, and he doesn't allow Celie to go out to nightclubs.
There is irony in the fact that Harpo sought to isolate himself even farther from the police by "secluding" his jukejoint off the road, because it is in this calculated seclusion that Celie begins to discover that she is of value--to herself and to Shug Avery.
Shug's song affirms that Celie has worth, and this truth is almost more than Celie can believe. One might think that Shug would dedicate her song to Mr. Shug is an intense, soulful woman full of fire and candor, and she knows whom to appreciate. Once more, Harpo is puzzled. He realizes that Shug does what she wants to do and that she "forgit about polite. This transformation takes some time because a good deal of time has elapsed, and Shug's hair is considerably longer, and pressing her hair is done by using a very hot iron comb.
This process is also called "straightening" because it removes the kinky curls from black hair. Besides Shug's awakening to new life, there is also, as we mentioned earlier, Celie's awakening to a sense of herself.
This is the first time since Nettie left that Celie has felt "special" and loved, and she has Shug to thank for it. Shug is the source of Celie's happiness. It is significant that Shug waits until she is onstage to thank Celie. She wants everyone to know.
She values Celie that much. Shug has recovered, but she stays on at Albert's in order to protect Celie from Albert's beatings, and she vows not to leave "until I know Albert won't even think about beating you. In order for Celie to grow as a woman, it is necessary for her to learn who she is--emotionally and physically. And it is at this point that some readers flinch as they read about Shug's showing Celie how to masturbate--a clinical verb with ugly connotations.
What Shug is really doing, however, is not ugly; it is beautiful. Shug is teaching Celie how to give herself pleasure, how to make herself feel good.
One can never love another person or another body until one has learned to love oneself and one's own body. Celie has had two children, but she knows little about her own body. Shug's response to Celie's ignorance is precisely on-target: "Why Miss Celie you still a virgin. Sex, to Shug, is synonymous with delicious pleasure, and if Celie is ignorant of that pleasure, then she is still a virgin to the world of sexuality.
Celie, of course, doesn't know anything about her button of a clitoris and is very naturally confused when she feels shivering, hot pulsing waves of sexual excitement crashing within herself. She is so used to pain that pain seems "normal. Shug, remember, is still sleeping with Albert. Celie is sleeping alone.
Certainly, Celie could masturbate and bring pleasure to herself, but for the present, she cannot. Celie would like to tell Shug to stop sleeping with Albert, but because she cannot, she masturbates, as Shug has taught her to, but with no pleasure. She cries herself to sleep.
Letters One of the ways to approach this particular series of letters lies in the idea of "strength"--that is, what does "strong" mean? Does it mean physical might? The evidence in this novel seems to indicate that black men use physical might in order to keep their wives in their place--just as white men have used physical might to keep the black man in his place.
Certainly, Sofia tends to solve all her problems with physical violence. She learned a long time ago that you have to fight: "All my life I had to fight," she told Celie in Letter However, in these letters, we see something emerging that is even stronger than physical might. It is the strength of bonding between black blood-sisters and black friend-sisters. Bonding joins these different black women together just as scraps of cloth are joined together to form a new, strong whole creation--a quilt, a central metaphor in Letter 40 and throughout the novel.
To begin with, we are introduced to a man who looks like a professional "strong man. Prizefighter's name is Henry "Buster" Broadax; he is Sofia's new man. Unlike Harpo, Buster feels no need to beat Sofia into submission since he won her admiration by fighting in the ring. This recognized strong man is not a violent man, however, except professionally. Privately, Buster is a gentleman, explaining that his job is "to love [Sofia] and take her where she want to go.
Violence is the only weapon that Sofia has against black men and white society. In fact, Letter 36 is proof that Sofia is not above slugging two teeth out of a black sister if that woman is dumb enough to strike out and slap Sofia. Harpo's mistress, Squeak, ventures into the world of violence for the first time and tangles with the wrong woman. Normally, Squeak is passive--"Like me," Celie says, and we realize that Squeak did not strike out stupidly at Sofia.
Squeak was trying to defend her place in Harpo's life and her place in Harpo's home, especially after she heard Harpo tell Sofia that his house, the jukejoint, was still Sofia's house. In an almost parallel situation, Sofia slugs the white mayor, who is trying to patronize Sofia and take her out of her own home in an effort to try and put her in his wife's kitchen.
Sofia, like Squeak, is not going to passively allow another woman to take her away from territory that is hers. But in the case of the mayor, Sofia's violence encounters even a stronger violence than Sofia's--that is, the violence of the white police.
Ironically, Sofia's strongman boyfriend, "Buster," cannot save the woman he loves from a force more powerful even than violence--that is, he cannot save Sofia from the iron fist of racism. Had Sofia not fought back at the whites, however, she still would have been punished because she cursed the mayor's wife, and had she not fought back, she would have always wished she had.
There is no way that Sofia can keep her dignity and not offend the mayor and his wife. Ultimately, the whites give Sofia no choice. We realize anew that there is no justice for blacks in the white system of "law and justice," and yet, despite those odds, Squeak, Shug, Celie, and Odessa Sofia's sister make plans to try and defy "the system.
These women have witnessed and suffered great pain through years of degrading injustice in their own lives, but they have been able, somehow, to cope with it, and now they realize that Sofia can no longer cope by herself.
Celie says, "When I see Sofia, I don't know why she still alive. It is almost miracle-like that she manages to stay alive.
Touchingly, and yet humorously, Sofia tells Celie that the only way that she survives is by acting "like I'm you.
I jump right up and do just what they say. She has become a non-entity in order to survive. It is totally unexpected that Squeak--Little Miss Mouse--is chosen to be the strongest link in the sisterhood of strength and defiance. Squeak is chosen to be the mediator between the black woman Sofia and the white man who represents Prison.
For that reason, perhaps, Walker chooses to have Squeak described as "yellowish. Moreover, Squeak admits reluctantly that she is related to the white prison warden.In fact, note that Mr. Celie has endured and learned to fight, and she has won her battles. Twice" that is, Celie has had two children.
The Color Purple
She good with children. She too young. I know right then the next thing I hear, she be big.
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