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.
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 Celia 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.