“You’d bet not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy” (Walker 1). These are the first words written in the novel which embody the struggle that the main character, Celie, withholds throughout the novel in trying to differentiate her surroundings as good or evil. At this instance, Celie had been raped by her own father and is being told by him to never tell anyone but God, especially her mother.
From this point on, Celie begins to write letters only to God, pouring her soul into this only form of communication she feels comfortable with, thus letting the reader easily look into the roots of Celie’s thoughts through this first person point of view. Living in a time where Celie, an African American woman, is being abused by not only her family but as well as society, it is easy to see that her journey relates to those of heroes.
In studying Alice Walker’s usage of colloquial language, descriptive imagery, and spiritual symbols, the novel’s importance becomes magnified as these devices help show Celie’s fascinating ability to persevere and become a hero, transcending the societal norms and enduring the constant suffering that she experiences. One of the main reasons answering the questions as to why The Color Purple has such great popularity and importance in the hearts of readers is due to Walker’s elaborate descriptions of the lifestyles relating to the oppressed black women living in the pages of the novel.
Walker makes numerous references to the racial segregation Celie and her family experience from white dominance as well as the historical connections that are made regarding the story’s time period. It is evident in the book that almost all colored characters have experienced racial judgement in one form or another. During one point of the book, Sofia, the wife of Celie’s stepson, fights against the normal Southern black and white relations as she shows defiance to the white mayor’s wife who onsults her. She is victimized and she is arrested and given a stiff jail sentence for her actions (Averbach, 1).
INSERT QUOTE IF POSSIBLE. Along with racial judgment shown from white citizens, it is evident in the book that black women had received what is called “double oppression” as they were oppressed by male figures in their own families as well. Within the white culture described in the novel, the men carried the torch of control over their family members and had dominance over female figures.
Likewise, this attitude was shown to influence black culture, causing African American women to experience greater oppression as their male relations would turn their anger sparked from racial humiliation towards them. Thus, these black women would be placed at the bottom of the hierarchy, receiving abuse and unfairness outside the house and also at home. In referencing Celie’s stance as a person, Celie was a victim of abuse from her father, Alfonso, who impregnated her on two occurrences and forced the selling of her babies into the hands of another.
With this white culture, black women were expected to play the role solely as a wife and mother. Celie showed a love for school yet was deprived from it due to her father’s decisions and was left in the dust to live in an environment filled with hate and frustration from Mr. , Celie’s husband and owner, and his children: “I spend my wedding day running from the oldest boy. He twelve. His mama died in his arms and he don’t want to hear nothing bout no new one. He pick up a rock and laid my head open… They only six and eight and they cry. They scream.
They cuse me of murder” (Walker 12) This passage not only shows the reader Celie’s great strength in enduring such events, but this passage reflects the way Celie uniquely describes events. All throughout the novel, Celie uses colloquial language when telling stories, giving the piece of writing a blunt and simplistic tone. As Kopperman says, this type of “Black Folk English” pushes the reader to understand better and correlate with the qualities and rhythms of life that Celie’s character experiences, making the story seem more raw and real(1).
Especially towards the beginning of her journey, Celie only touched on events superficially, much like the passage above. She very little explains her feelings of the matter, showing her considerate mindset as she lives in a world that forces her to stay quiet. This informal kind of language also digs deeper into the personality of Celie. With the lack of punctuation and correct formation of sentences, Alice Walker emphasizes on the fact that Celie was not fortunate enough to stay in school, which was one of her only desires as a human being.
Celie also never acknowledges her husband’s real name and only refers to him as Mr. By doing this, the reader can infer that this is Celie’s attempt of clinging onto what minimal amount of control she has. She avoids giving him the power by citing his name and further tries to hide and forget about the reality that surrounds her. However, as she continues to transform and accept all that brings negativity upon her, she starts writing in lyrical verses. In describing heaven and her pravers that Sofia would be let out of prison, Celie writes “Angels strike they cymbals, one of them blow his horn, God blow out a big breath of fire and suddenly Sofia free” (Walker, 102).
Along with this sense of imagery that Celie gives, Celie is able to easily portray her thoughts on God and spiritualism. “I see ’em all clear as day. Angels all in white, white hair and white eyes, look like albinos,” Celie says. “God all white too, looking like some stout white man work at the bank” (Walker 80). She scrambles in finding comfort in her spirituality, questioning whether her dependency on God is true as she starts believing that God may be a man who is just as filthy as any other male figure in her life.
INSERT QUOTE IF POSSIBLE“You must be sleep” (Walker 183). By the end of the novel, it is clear to see that Celie has transformed into an independent woman, prideful of her strength and resilience and happy with the turnout of events. Although the novel is not a cookie cutter example of a heroic journey, the story does follow the structure of a general epic. For example, in studying Beowulf, the readers can see that he comes across many thresholds, forming allies and enemies, and later, goes through transformations, making him a character free to live in any way he desires.
Although the story of Beowulf seems to have more comparison to that of a superhero that regularly fights battles on a day-to-day basis, Celie can connect with this as well as she changes all things in her life, including her personality, spirituality, and connections with others At first impression, Celie only communicated when needed and told everything else to God but begins to communicate to the allies she created such as with her sister, Nettie and also Shug Avery.
She initially is so immersed in oppression that she begins to obey the social norms, such as when she advises Harpo, her son-in-law to beat his wife, Sofia, agreeing with her oppressor in the idea that a woman should only obey, work, and be silent. Celie shows her first transformation such as when Shug comes into Celie’s life. Celie is. “… No words are spoken, Celie cannot face language communication (the order forbids it) but even in silence, she communicates….
And Shug does what men did not do: She thanks Celie” (Averbach 1). From then on, Shug acts as an ally to Celie. Shug acts as her rock and mentor, supporting Celie’s silent little rebellions against Mr. , yet also teaching her the basics of life, even including friendship and love. Celie begins to feel the need to repay Shug and feels a new form of justice is need to be put into action when Shug is mistreated. “Talk about slut, hissy, heifer, and streetcleaner…
Somebody got to stand up for Shug” (Walker 146). “[Celie] even begins to see Mr. in a new light, When Mr. ‘s father comes to the house and attacks Shug, Mr. and Celie feel united for the first time…. Celie is beginning to communicate and combine nonlinguistic communication with words” (Averbach 1). In this second period of her life, Celie discovers the truth about everything; her father is not her real father and her sister, Nettie, has been writing to her all this time. Now that my eyes opening, I feel like a fool” (Walker 204) “Until you do right by me, everything you touch will crumble” (Walker 213). “I don’t write to God no more, I write to you” (Walker 206). “You” refers to Nettie. “You” is a real person, who will answer her. The God she was writing to before was a man, and a white man, she realizes suddenly. He was the oppressor. “The God I been praying and writing to is a man. And act just like all the other mens I know.
Trifling, forgitful, and lowdown” (Walker 246) After all Celie had experienced, Celie had left the readers with a happy ending, showing great transformations so different from her initial personality. Celie is beginning to see things that have been hidden from her such as the beautiful colors of the purple plains or the little wildflowers of nature. She is establishing a sense of self pride and inner strength as shown in the difference of writing styles shown throughout the novel. Celie is fighting against the norm of her time period, and with that, Celie can be regarded as a hero.