Jan 25, 2018 in Analysis

The Color Purple

Who is Celie and why is she such a compelling character in the book?

The novel opens up and closes down to her intimate letter to God and then to sister Nettie. At the beginning of the novel, what does she represent? And how does her character undergoes a dramatic change over the course of the story? Celie asserts narrative control all throughout the story, yet to a large extent of the novel she has no authentic voice or established agency in her associations. How does Celie grow as a person with greater strength, intricacy, and influence over the course of the story? What events, incidents, and persons help change Celie into the individual she becomes by the novel’s finale?           

Celie is the main protagonist in the book “The Color Purple” written by Alice Walker

She is an African-American woman who grew up in an unhealthy, deprived and oppressed environment in the rural part of Georgia. At the start of the novel, Celie is exploited, accepts maltreatment and ignorant. But as the novel progresses, she learns to fight for herself and her rights. Eventually, she achieves independence, emotionally and financially, from her oppressors. In the end, she becomes a woman with confidence and sees the world as a happy place despite the injustices.  Celie as a character gives actual perspective on the abuse of black women in America and in Africa and their struggle to gain respect as individuals who deserve fair and identical treatment. As a young black girl, Celie experiences abuse from the men all her life- her father, the husband, and the people around her. She is raped as a teenager by her father (who turned out to be her step father) and subsequently gives birth to two babies (a boy and a girl) that are taken away without permission. Her father marries Celie to a much-older man and the mistreatment continues in their home. As a wife, her job is to follow the orders of her husband. Even her step children do not pay her proper respect because she is not their real mother. When her husband houses his mistress, Celie does not show any sign of resistance. She accepts every curse, beating and mistreatment from her husband. In a male dominated society, women are projected to be the weak gender, and should behave the way their husbands want them to be. The author used the character of Celie to show the readers the harsh injustices and oppression received by black people, specifically women. Because of their color, blacks are seen as an inferior race compare to the whites. The black people live on a different zone and the children go to a school where the whites are not present. The real father of Celie is a businessman but has gotten killed by white men because of his success. It is thought, at that time, that black people are not allowed to be equal with the whites. In the novel, Celie is looked down and not valued because she is poor, uneducated, and most importantly black.

With the help of the other women in the novel, particular Shug, Sofia and Nettie, Celie transforms into a confident and independent woman. Thus, the traditional soft, weak role of the African-American females has taken a shift into a stronger, more aggressive character. As the novel progresses, Celie begins to see that black women do not have to conduct themselves the way they are expected to act. That confidence, strength and self-esteem can be possessed by women and are found within the self. Together with Shrug, Celie moves to Tennessee and gains freedom from her cold and abusive husband. It is in there that she achieves complete liberation as she starts her own pants-making business. The pants are a crucial symbol of freedom from male oppression and racism in the novel. Pants are supposed to be worn by men. But Celie makes unisex pants so women can also wear trousers, thus implying that men and women can be equal. The success of Celie’s pant-making business puts the African-American women into the pedestal, not just in their homes but also in the industrialized society where whites dominate.

Celie’s character transformation is not possible without her improved relationship towards God

In the beginning, all of her letters are addressed to God and believes that God is a white old man as portrayed in the Bible. Her faith undergoes a series of alterations as the novel moves forward. Celie realizes that the God she thinks is not the God she really needs. She was influenced by the religious beliefs of Shug that God is “Not as a she a he but a It.”  This idea rejects the stiff and conventional representation of God in the Christian way. This notion helps Celie to widen her perspective on religion, compared to her former traditional and stiff view of faith. She begins to understand, appreciate and eventually enjoy life even more.

Celie remains affectionate, fiercely loyal and caring all throughout the novel

Despite the exploitation and mistreatments she received from her step father and husband, she remains kindhearted and attributes her strength in her experiences with the men mentioned. Celie’s integrity keeps her faith sturdy despite all the injustices she experienced. In the end of the novel, she manages to take full control of her life, beliefs and emotions. The character of Celie undergoes a series of oppressions and injustices but it does not prevent her from achieving emancipation. Though gender and color have become major factors for prejudice in the novel, Celie shows that both elements do not have the power to dictate how she is going to view and live her life. 


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