The Color Purple

by: Alice Walker

Letters 70–82

Summary Letters 70–82

Shug’s concept of God, on the other hand, is much more personalized and empowering. Unlike Celie, Shug does not ascribe a race or gender to God. Instead, Shug believes that each individual manifests God in his or her own way. Celie’s recognition that she has control over her concept of God and does not have to blindly accept the religious viewpoints that are handed to her is an important step in her quest for autonomy and self-respect.

Celie’s assertion of herself comes forcefully in this section. Her defining moment, the speech she gives to Mr. ______, contrasts sharply with her former silence. Celie’s assault on Mr. ______ releases years of pent-up emotion and hurt that had been silenced. Mr. ______ tries to counter by stripping Celie of her sense of self, as he has throughout the novel. He tells her that as a poor, black, and ugly woman, she is “nothing at all.” But Celie’s sense of self is strong enough that she is no longer a helpless object, so she resists Mr. ______’s proclamation, reinterpreting his words in a defiant context: “I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook. . . . But I’m here.” The fact that Celie’s speech inspires Mr. ______ to reassess and rebuild his life shows that Celie’s attainment of self-respect has truly broken a cycle, not only liberating Celie, but others as well.

An equally important component of Celie’s empowerment is her newfound economic independence. Celie’s clothing design is a form of creative self-expression, but it is also a form of entrepreneurship and a means to self-sufficiency. Celie has taken sewing, traditionally a domestic chore, and turned it into an instrument of independence. Walker implies that such economic independence is crucial for women to free themselves from oppressive situations. When she inherits her family’s old property, Celie completes her independence, becoming a fully autonomous woman, with her own money, business, story, and circle of friends.