Shug act more manly than most men . . . he say. You know Shug will fight, he say. Just like Sofia. She bound to live her life and be herself no matter what.
Mr. ______ think all this is stuff men do. But Harpo not like this, I tell him. You not like this. What Shug got is womanly it seem like to me. Specially since she and Sofia the ones got it.
Celie recounts this conversation she has with Mr. ______ near the end of the novel, in her eighty-seventh letter. Their words of reconciliation concern the acceptance of differences—in gender roles, talents, and sexual orientation. The Color Purple concerns a universe in which traditionally masculine traits such as assertiveness, sexual gratification, and physical strength are present in female as well as male characters. Sofia’s assertiveness and strength are virtually unsurpassed by any of the male characters, whereas the nurturing and care that Harpo displays toward Mr. ______ could be considered feminine.
By the end of the novel, a sort of mixing has occurred, as some characters’ masculine traits have rubbed off onto more feminine characters, and vice versa. Shug, for instance, learns from and reciprocates Celie’s gentleness and care, while Celie picks up some of Shug’s sexual assertiveness and follows Shug’s suggestion that she become owner of a business, a traditionally male role. Mr. ______ and Harpo, conversely, become somewhat feminized. Mr. ______ learns to sew and to be a good listener, and Harpo cooks, changes his baby’s diaper, and kisses his children. By the end of the novel, it is clear that Walker sees fixed gender roles as meaningless and impractical.