The intensively descriptive novel, The Color Purple is about Celie, a woman born in the early 1900’s, unselfishly surviving the social injustices of those times. As the novel unfolds, Celie experiences so much sorrow, that she is forced to grow up quickly and learn to appreciate the little that life has to offer her. As new people enter her life, she is encouraged to look at life differently and she discovers that she too can have a chance to laugh and love. The themes Alice Walker tries to convey are the reoccuring themes of learning, love and happiness.
Understanding the themes allowed me to find the novel fulfilling, well thought out and suitable for young adults, for throughout Celie’s life, she connected with several people who touched heart and showed her the meaning of joy. During her life, she had three strong teachers: Nettie, Sophia and Shug Avery. Celie’s first joy was definitely Nettie, her younger sister. From early childhood, they shared the same fears and hope. Nettie taught Celie how to hope from a very young age.
This was Celie’s first step to happiness. One instance was Nettie’s persistance in teaching Celie how to read. Nettie constantly pushed her to keep trying and always left her with a positive attitude. “Celie, you smart too. ”, Nettie would tell her, and slowly but surely, Celie did learn to read. Nettie shared her intelligence but could not improve Celie’s soft-spoken and weak personality. Sofia, Celie’s step daughter in law, on the other hand was a very strong woman, both physically and mentally.
She had a naturally overbearing personality from the first time her character was introduced. Her self-confidence and certainty not only helped her improve the sexist ways of her time, but made Celie realize that she too, could gain control and change the horrible way she was treated by her husband. A prime example of a time where she inspired Celie was when Celie was in the field and Harpo, her step-son, had asked her how he could change his relationship with Sophia so that he could order her around.
Celie’s only response was “beat her” because that was the only thing that happened in her relationship with her husband. When Sophia found out that Celie had told him to do that, she approached Celie and told her that she had worked all her life for respect and that when she finally had it, Celie had to try and turn things around. This was when Celie discovered that she could help change the sexist ways of her husband, but once again, her weak personality kept her from doing so.
The person who impacted Celie’s life the most was the eccentric Shug Avery. She was a famous singer who happened to appear in Celie’s life at the perfect time. Shug helped Celie tie all her learned lessons together to complete the circle. Shug taught Celie that she shouldn’t let life happen to her, but that she should make life happen. Celie loved Shug’s freedom and wanted independence of her own. Shug helped Celie take charge of her own destiny.
Shug had a very positive influence on Celie and her influence made Celie turn her entire life around. Celie left her husband and started a brand new life full of happiness. The Color Purple is a spirited novel full of well-learned lessons. It holds the keys to the happiness of a black woman of the early 1900’s. Celie was taught to hope, to have self respect, and to control her life. This book gives us a better understanding of our perception of life and love by first showing us misery, and then happiness.