Alice Walker's The Color Purple

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The Color Purple: Analysis and Themes

The Color Purple by Alice Walker focuses on the life of Celie, an African American woman who fights her way through abusive life in the hands of men. The events of the story took place in Georgia and address the position of women in African American culture. In this case, the character build up of Celia showed how African American women were victims of violence. Primarily, Celie used to write letters to God reporting things she was going through in her life. The presentation of the story is under Celie's control because Walker wanted the audience to break down the order of events in her point of view. Thus, the author uses Celie to reveal themes of violence, religion, friendship plus women and femininity.


Violence is one of the primary themes depicted in the novel. Violence in the Color Purple was portrayed in both family and societal levels. Violence was one of the major depictions of the low status of women in the African American Culture. In this case, men who are antagonists in the novel are evil to the point that the audience cannot dispute the fact that they are monsters. Celie who is the chief protagonist goes through abusive relationships in the hands of his father and husbands. Further, despite the fact that Celia is the primary victim of violence in the narration almost every black woman suffers different forms of physical and emotional abuse (Walker, 10).

Ideally, Celie's father and husbands depict violent behaviors such as sexism, paternalism and even physical abuse. For instance, Celie's father beats her and rapes her regularly. Celie's father wanted her to submit to him a thing that drowned Celie emotionally. Furthermore, Celie's father forced her to marry a man who was equally abusive. For example, Celie's husband impregnated her and abducted the babies immediately after they were born (Walker 17). In short, the character build up of Celie show men exerted power on women through physical and emotional abuse. Primarily, Walker used Celie to show how men used violence to demand submissiveness from women.


Religion is also another important theme that was reflected in the narration. The narration was in the form of letters that were directed to God. In this case, Celie narrated her ordeals in life through a series of letters she addressed to God. The letters were a depiction of how God played a significant role in Celie life. Primarily, Celie trusted God to the point that she could confine her feelings and struggles to him. For instance, in the first letter, Celie told God that she was a fourteen-year-old girl who has always been good (Walker 4-7). She went ahead to request God to give her a sign on what was happening to her.

Additionally, throughout the story, Celie struggled with the images of God. At first, Celie thought that God was a white old man. Also, at one point Celie felt that God will always be there for her as long as she continues to believe in him. However, with time Celie's perception of God started to change; she started contemplating writing to God because he does not listen (Walker, 145). Furthermore, Celie's perception of God continued to change in the buildup of the story whereby she realized that her interpretations of God were wrong. These perspectives, perception, and challenges depicted in Celie's relationship with God show the general view of God in the African American society. In addition to that, the theme of religion and spirituality is evident in most of Celie's letters. The reflection of religion and spirituality in letters showed the importance of religion in African American Culture. Furthermore, through Celie's relationship with God, the audience can understand different things that were happening in her life.


In the Color Purple, the author reflects on the role of female friendships in resisting oppression from men. In this case, according to Walker, women had to stick together to fight oppression from men. Celie's relationship with other women offered her refuge from the consistent abuse she was facing from the men in her life. According to Walker, there was strength in unity because women were weak when acting in isolation. In other words, women in Celie's life reciprocated love, a thing that she did not experience in her relationship with men. For instance, Celie's relationship with Shug helps her go through the process of self-discovery. Shug made Celie discover herself and the role of God in her life. Celie, on the hand, nursed Shug when she was sick and even commended her songwriting skills.

Principally, Shug and Celie loved each other because their relationship brought about a new dimension from what they experienced with men. Celie and Shug's relationship created a ground for each party to thrive, and by the end of the narration, both parties were no longer powerless (Walker 140-143). The importance of women's relationships is also depicted when Celie betrayed Sofia. Celie told Harpo to beat Sofia because she was jealous of her strong will. The betrayal of her fellow woman was something that Celie could not bear (Walker 28). Therefore, the author used Celia to portray how relationships among women were important in countering the unbalanced society created by men. For that reason, the stepping stone towards reaching freedom was sticking together as women.

Women and Femininity

Women and femininity were also other themes that were reflected in the Color Purple. Men in the story objectified women and denied them their feminine identity. In this case, the buildup of the story was dominated by chauvinistic men who made women feel worthless and inferior. For example, Celie's father made her worthless by continuously raping her. Most female characters in the story depicted continuous struggles with their female identity. Celie, the main protagonist, was faced with tough choices of fighting for her identity or subscribing to the one created by men (Walker 143). In other words, Celie was faced with a dilemma of either submitting to man in her life or fighting for her space and identity. The character build up of Celie showed how African American women struggled with finding their societal space in the African American culture.


In consideration of the above accounts, we can conclude that Alice Walker uses Celie to address the position of women in African American culture. The character build up of Celie enables Walker to reflect themes that showed struggles of women in the African American culture. These themes include violence, religion, friendship plus women and femininity. For example, the character build up of Celie shows men exerted power on women through physical and emotional abuse. Through Celie, Walker was able to show men use violence to make women submit to their power. Furthermore, the author used Celie to show how friendship among women was important in fighting oppression.

Works Cited

Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Open Road Media, 2011.

August 21, 2023




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