The Color Purple

by: Alice Walker

Female Relationships

1

I don’t even look at mens. That’s the truth. I look at women, tho, cause I’m not scared of them.

Early in the novel, Celie admits that she feels much more comfortable with women than she does with men—with good reason. She feels particularly close to her younger sister, Nettie, but she also trusted her mother and she loves the look of Shug Avery in her photograph. The women Celie meets throughout the novel—never the men— help Celie mature, reclaim her identity, stand up for herself, and bloom into a woman.

2

She hum a little more. Something come to me, she say. Something I made up. Something you help scratch out my head.

As Celie nurses Shug back to health, she washes and combs her hair. At first, Shug seems impatient with this chore, but soon she melts into the routine, enjoys the care shown to her, and begins to hum a new tune, inspired by Celie. Celie’s love helps Shug tap into a deep, creative part of herself. Later, she’ll sing this song—which she names “Miss Celie’s Song”—for the crowd at Harpo’s juke-joint. The gesture touches Celie profoundly.

3

Before I know it, tears meet under my chin. And I’m confuse. He love looking at Shug. I love looking at Shug. But Shug don’t love looking at but one of us. Him.

As Celie watches Shug sing in Harpo’s juke-joint, she stares at Shug’s skin, her tight red dress, and her shiny wavy hair. Celie feels confused by her emotional and physical response and drops her head to avoid being noticed. She aches with the knowledge that Shug has eyes for someone other than herself. Right after this, Shug sings a song that she calls “Miss Celie’s Song,” the song Celie inspired while caring for Shug, and the moment lifts Celie into a happiness and pride that she never experienced before.

4

What he beat you for? She ast. For being me and not you. Oh, Miss Celie, she say, and put her arms around me. Us sit like that for maybe half an hour. Then she kiss me on the fleshy part of my shoulder and stand up.

When it’s time for Shug to get ready to go, Celie admits to her that Mr. _____ beats her and offers this reason as to why. Shug becomes overcome with sympathy for her friend and the two embrace in one of the novel’s tenderest moments. Without words, Shug reveals that Celie is worth more than the treatment she received from Mr. _____ would suggest. The women in the novel teach Celie about love and compassion. At the same time, the women, including Celie, teach Shug about justice and friendship.

5

Finally Shug really seem to notice me. She come over and hug me a long time. Us two married ladies now, she say. Two married ladies.

Shug has been gone for some time and returns for Christmas with a surprise: a husband named Grady. Upon hearing the news, Mr. _____ seems disappointed, of course, and so does Celie, who feels abandoned by her friend. However, Celie and Shug’s friendship remains strong in part because of what they now have in common: male partners.

6

Um, she say, like she surprise. I kiss her back, say um, too. Us kiss and kiss till us can’t hardly kiss no more. Then us touch each other.

On the night that Shug and Celie first sleep together while their husbands are away, Celie tearfully confesses to Shug that her own father was the father of her babies. Shug tells Celie that she loves her, and her comfort soon turns physical. The two women allow their friendship to become sensual. Readers may hope that Celie, feeling safe and loved and honored by Shug, finally experiences the joy of sexual contact.

7

Nettie, I am making some pants for you to beat the heat in Africa. Soft, white, thin. Drawstring waist. You won’t ever have to feel too hot and overdress again. I plan to make them by hand. Every stitch I sew will be a kiss.

Celie describes the pants she is making for Nettie. These pants symbolize not only Celie’s independence, but also the connection between the two sisters. Nettie has written often about the intense African heat, and the hand-made pants represent Celie’s way of helping and supporting her sister’s needs. Celie truly puts love into every stitch of these pants.