Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
The Power of Narrative and Voice
Walker emphasizes throughout the novel that the ability to express one’s thoughts and feelings is crucial to developing a sense of self. Initially, Celie is completely unable to resist those who abuse her. Remembering Alphonso’s warning that she “better not never tell nobody but God” about his abuse of her, Celie feels that the only way to persevere is to remain silent and invisible. Celie is essentially an object, an entirely passive party who has no power to assert herself through action or words. Her letters to God, in which she begins to pour out her story, become her only outlet. However, because she is so unaccustomed to articulating her experience, her narrative is initially muddled despite her best efforts at transparency.
In Shug and Sofia, Celie finds sympathetic ears and learns lessons that enable her to find her voice. In renaming Celie a “virgin,” Shug shows Celie that she can create her own narrative, a new interpretation of herself and her history that counters the interpretations forced upon her. Gradually Celie begins to flesh out more of her story by telling it to Shug. However, it is not until Celie and Shug discover Nettie’s letters that Celie finally has enough knowledge of herself to form her own powerful narrative. Celie’s forceful assertion of this newfound power, her cursing of Mr. ______ for his years of abuse, is the novel’s climax. Celie’s story dumbfounds and eventually humbles Mr. ______, causing him to reassess and change his own life.
Though Walker clearly wishes to emphasize the power of narrative and speech to assert selfhood and resist oppression, the novel acknowledges that such resistance can be risky. Sofia’s forceful outburst in response to Miss Millie’s invitation to be her maid costs her twelve years of her life. Sofia regains her freedom eventually, so she is not totally defeated, but she pays a high price for her words.
The Power of Strong Female Relationships
Throughout The Color Purple, Walker portrays female friendships as a means for women to summon the courage to tell stories. In turn, these stories allow women to resist oppression and dominance. Relationships among women form a refuge, providing reciprocal love in a world filled with male violence.
Female ties take many forms: some are motherly or sisterly, some are in the form of mentor and pupil, some are sexual, and some are simply friendships. Sofia claims that her ability to fight comes from her strong relationships with her sisters. Nettie’s relationship with Celie anchors her through years of living in the unfamiliar culture of Africa. Samuel notes that the strong relationships among Olinka women are the only thing that makes polygamy bearable for them. Most important, Celie’s ties to Shug bring about Celie’s gradual redemption and her attainment of a sense of self.
The Cyclical Nature of Racism and Sexism
Almost none of the abusers in Walker’s novel are stereotypical, one-dimensional monsters whom we can dismiss as purely evil. Those who perpetuate violence are themselves victims, often of sexism, racism, or paternalism. Harpo, for example, beats Sofia only after his father implies that Sofia’s resistance makes Harpo less of a man. Mr. ______ is violent and mistreats his family much like his own tyrantlike father treated him. Celie advises Harpo to beat Sofia because she is jealous of Sofia’s strength and assertiveness.
More main ideas from The Color Purple
Celie's Transformation in Alice Walker's Color Purple Essay
1053 Words5 Pages
Celie's Transformation in The Color Purple
Celie is not a typical protagonist. In Alice Walker's The Color Purple, the main character Celie is an ugly, poor girl who is severely lacking in self-confidence. However, Celie transforms throughout the course of the novel and manages to realize herself as a colorful, beautiful, and proud human being. Celie becomes a powerful individual.
The Color Purple follows Celie's transformation from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. What is remarkable is the fact that this transformation does not merely compose the plot of the novel, it also dominates the layout of the pages. The book's chapters are not written in a typical fashion as each chapter is a letter written from…show more content…
____. The way Celie's stepfather and Mr. ____ bargain over her is well described in the book and we can truly understand how Celie is being treated; "The women he [Mr. ____] had helping him done quit. His mammy done said No More. He say, Let me see her again. Pa call me. Celie, he say. Like it wasn't nothing. Mr. ____ want another look at you"1. Mr. ____ treats her just as bad as her stepfather once did; she is in the house only to take care of the household, the children and to fulfil Mr. ____'s sexual desires.
Celie's transformation from Mr. ____'s slave into an independent women is successful thanks to two strong women that become role models for Celie in her everyday life; Shug Avery and Sofia. Sofia is a role model in a more unconscious way for Celie then Shug is. Sofia's whole appearance and behaviour is proud, she lets no one sit on her and Celie is, at first, jealous of Sofia's self-confidence and tries to destroy it by giving her husband Harpo the advice to beat her to make her obedient; "I think about this when Harpo ast me what he ought to do to make her mind. [---] I think bout how every time I jump when Mr. _____ call me, she [Sofia] look surprise. And like she pity me. Beat her. I say"2. When this does not work, Celie realises that Sofia is someone to become more alike, not someone to destroy.
Shug Avery, on the other hand, is the women who is not only a theoretical role model, like