The Color Purple

by: Alice Walker

Celie

She good with children, Pa say, rattling his paper open more. Never heard her say a hard word to nary one of them. Just give ’em everything they ask for, is the only problem.

Early in the novel, Alphonso describes Celie to Mr. ____ to try to marry her off. He touts Celie’s better qualities, avoiding mention of her looks, which suffer in comparison to his other daughter, Nettie’s. Mr. ____ has just lost a woman he hired and asks Alphonso for Nettie to take the woman’s place, but Alphonso says no. Readers may note from this exchange how the men view women as servants or objects, certainly not people with feelings or rights. Hoping Mr. _____ will reconsider, Alphonso asks Celie to come out on the porch so that Mr. ____ can look at her again. In the end, Mr. _____ takes Celie instead of Nettie.

I sure hate to leave you here with these rotten children, she say. Not to mention with Mr. _____. It’s like seeing you buried, she say. It’s worse than that, I think. If I was buried, I wouldn’t have to work.

Mr. _____ has decided that Nettie has to leave. His attraction for her makes life hard for him. Before she goes, Nettie confides to Celie that she worries about her. She feels like she’s leaving her in a terrible situation. Celie admits she doesn’t feel as concerned as Nettie, she simply wishes she didn’t have to work so hard.

I don't care if you sleep with him, I say . . . But when I hear them together all I can do is pull the quilt over my head and finger my little button and titties and cry.

After Shug helps Celie observe and touch her own sexual body parts, she asks Celie’s permission to sleep with Mr. _____. Here, Celie responds that she doesn’t mind, but readers note from her reaction to hearing them having sex that Celie was not completely truthful. However, readers might also infer that Celie cries because she longs to be with Shug, not with her husband.

Nettie in Africa, I say. A missionary. She wrote me that you ain’t our real Pa. Well, he say, now you know.

Celie learns from Nettie that Alphonso is not her real father. This revelation that her rapist was not her blood relative frees her from the shame of incest. When Shug takes Celie to visit Alphonso, whom she has not seen in many years, he confirms the truth of Nettie’s words. Readers learn that Celie’s real father had been lynched and her mother had gone mad. Alphonso married Celie’s mother and then took her money, property, and land.

Anyhow, I say, the God I been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other mens I know. Trifling, forgetful and lowdown.

Celie and Shug have been discussing God, a conversation that explicitly reveals the theme of spirituality of the novel. Here, Celie shows that her vision of God represents a traditional view of a bearded white man who doesn’t listen to the prayers of people like her. Shug then shares her own belief that God dwells within each and every person, a view that Celie takes to heart.

Until you do right by me, I say, everything you even dream about will fail. I give it to him straight, just like it come to me. And it seem to come from the trees.

Just before Celie leaves Mr. _____ for Memphis, she curses him. She claims that he will suffer twice for every time he hit her. She says that he will live in the jail he planned for her life. These curses come naturally to her, as natural as the wind in the trees. Celie has finally claimed her own voice and speaks against the man who has made her suffer.

I sit in the dining room making pants after pants. I got pants now in every color and size under the sun. Since us started making pants down home, I aint been able to stop . . . I make so many pants Shug tease me.

Celie reveals the effect sewing pants has had upon her. Not only has Celie found the power and strength to leave Mr. _____, she’s found a way to make her own living in the world: She sews and sells pants. In Memphis, Shug supports her enough that Celie must hire others to help her sew. A needle and cloth represent her tickets out of poverty and dependence. With her own hands and heart, Celie fashions her own destiny and her own freedom.

My God, I say to Shug. Me and Nettie own a drygood store. What us gon sell? How bout pants? she say.

Celie reacts to life-altering news she learns from Daisy, the young wife of her stepfather, Alphonso. While in Memphis, Celie receives a call from Daisy, who informs her that Alphonso has died. Daisy also tells her that she and Nettie now own the house and the store and the land because they had belonged to her mother. Now Celie has her independence, a way to make a living, a house, and a store. After she wonders what she could sell in her store, Shug suggests pants, an idea that sparks a turning point in Celie’s inner journey.

Oh, Nettie, us have a house! A house big enough for us and our children, for your husband and Shug. Now you can come home cause you have a home to come to!

Celie joyfully responds to the news that all of the people she loves can reunite under the roof of the home she now owns. After hearing the news of Alphonso’s death, Shug and Celie return to the family home. When Daisy hands her the keys to the house, Celie runs joyfully from room to room. She and Shug smudge the house with cedar sticks to chase out the evil that has dwelled there for so long.

By the time she finish talking about his neat little dancing feet and git back up to his honey brown curly hair, I feel like shit . . . Well, I say, if words could kill, I’d be in the ambulance.

When Celie returns to Memphis, she admits to herself that she feels very upset to discover that Shug has fallen for a nineteen-year-old young man named Germaine. He plays the blues flute in a band. When Shug asks Celie why she wasn’t this upset when Shug married Grady, Celie replies that Grady never put a sparkle in Shug’s eye the way Germaine does. Celie’s heart feels hurt and jealous.