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The Color Purple: Themes

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Hanneke Moors

on 31 January 2014

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Transcript of The Color Purple: Themes

Color is used throughout the novel to signify realization or rebirth
“[Mr. ______] still live in the same little house...He keep it painted now though. Fresh and white.”
After Celie finally leaves Mr. ______ he goes into a state of depression. After he rebuilds himself, he paints his house “fresh and white”, which symbolizes his rebirth as a better man.
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it...Well, us talk and talk about God, but I’m still adrift. Trying to chase that old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?)”
In the book, purple is used to represent all of the simple serendipities in life. In this quote, Celie finally appreciates things like the color purple and thus learns to enjoy life rather than to just live emotionlessly.

Overall, The Color Purple is a work of literary merit because of the way the characters transform due to the themes, motifs, and symbols throughout the book. It effectively uses those literary devices to convey deeper meaning into real life conflicts.
The entire novel is written in the structure of letters addressed to either God or one of the two main characters, Celie and Nettie, as they write back and forth to eachother.
These letters stress the importance of communication.
For most of the novel, Celie writes letters to God because she has no one else to confide in because she has always been abused.
"Never mine, never mine, long as I can spell G-o-d I got somebody along"
Similarly, Nettie writes letters to Celie constantly even though she never gets a reply because the letters are a way to express her honest feelings.
"For over a month I have trouble sleeping...What is it? I ast myself...Way late one night it came to me. Sofia. I sin against Sofia spirit...Let's make quilt pieces out of these messed up curtains [Sofia] say...I sleeps like a baby now."
The quilt in this portion of the book symbolizes unity and harmony. Celie and Sofia are two very different people and because of that they fought, yet they soon made up by deciding to piece a quilt together. The patchwork quilt they make is made out of many different pieces, yet they are all sewn together into one piece much like how Celie and the diverse arrangement of people around her are eventually connected into one family unit, bonded by friendship.
God is Celie's only real listener in the beginning of the book. However, she pictures God as an old white man, and because of her abusive past with men and societal prejudice against blacks from whites, Celie grows increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of God. The book follows her indecision about who/what "God" really is until her good friend Shug Avery pushes her to reimagine her standard idea of a white male God. Celie then regains faith and strength, as seen in the second quote. This theme shows how Celie grows to become an independent woman.
"I believe God is everything, say Shug...My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people...it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything"
"Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear everything. Dear God."
The Color Purple
- Love -
Not only romantic love, but love that exists within a family as well. Celie loves her sister Nettie and shows her love by means of selfless sacrifices for her sister's wellbeing.
Celie doesn't receive love from the men in her life. Both her father and her husband are anything but loving to her.
The first time Celie experiences romantic love is with another woman, Shug Avery
Love is not about gender or marriage, but about respect, sacrifice and unconditional care
"Anyhow... they don't love me neither, no matter how good I is."
Hard not to love Shug, I say. She know how to love somebody back."

- Women and Femininity -
In the novel, most women constantly have to fight against men, or are submissive all the time in order to prevent themselves being trampled over.
Only women with independent economic security are able to stand up for themselves without severe consequences.
However, women's situations can improve when they band together and support each other.
"He laugh. Who do you think you is? He say. You can't curse nobody. Look at you. You black, you pore, you ugly, you a woman. Goddam, he say, you nothing at all."
"[Mr. _____] say to tell the truth, Shug act more manly than most men. I mean she upright, honest. Speak her mind...You know Shug will fight...she bound to live her life and be herself no matter what"
- Race -
At the beginning of the novel, Celie is not proud of her race. She is a poor, uneducated black woman living in the pre-Civil Rights South.
However, in the course of the novel, when she hears about Nettie's stories about Africa and its inhabitants, she becomes more proud of her heritage.
"That’s the problem, she say. Have you ever seen a white person and a colored lady sitting side by side in a car, when one of ‘em wasn’t showing the other one how to drive it or clean it?"
"Think what it means that Ethiopia is Africa! All the Ethiopians in the bible were colored. It had never occurred to me, though when you read the bible it is perfectly plain if you pay attention only to the words. It is the pictures in the bible that fool you. The pictures that illustrate the words. All of the people are white and so you just think all the people from the bible were white too. But really white people lived somewhere else during those times."
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