Color Purple Essay, Research Paper
Celie s character highlights the detrimental effect of silence on black women.
Individuals are silenced when they are denied agency in shaping their own experiences.
Agency is the concept that individuals make choices that shape their own lives and that
they are solely the product of their environment. The character of Celie emphasizes the
silencing of African American woman as experienced through male family members, in
particularly fathers and husbands. Surprisingly enough, woman within the African
American community also serve as vehicles that perpetuate silencing. Celie s stepfather
is able to silence Celie through abuse and isolation. The beginning of the novel offers the
reader an intimate view of Celie s oppression by her stepfather. The many obstacles that
Celie must overcome in her life are, the abuse and silencing from her stepfather, the
further abuse and silencing from her husband, and Celie s breaking of silence.
The reader quickly discovers that Celie s stepfather has impregnated her
twice. First he put his thing up gainst my hip and sort of wiggle it around. Then he grap
hold my titties. Then he push his thing up inside my pussy. When that hurt, I cry. He
start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it. (Walker 1) Rape, as a
form of abuse, has conquered Celie s desires under her stepfather s authority, thereby
psychologically training her mind to accept submission and silence. Celie s stepfather
continues to silence her by exploiting the notion of love. By denying Celie the love that a
father and daughter should share, the stepfather trains her mind to accept herself as an
expandable being. An instance of such deprivation occurred when Albert came to ask
permission to marry Nettie but convinces him to take Celie. She ugly. He say. But she
ain t no stanger to hard work. And she clean. (9) He say s this as if the two daughters
could be interchangeable. Albert accepts the offer and is seen riding a horse with Celie
walking behind him. This is symbolic because it appears that an analogy can be drawn
between Celie and a mule. The symbol of black woman as mules not only means that
they were beasts of burden; but also that they were given as little thought and
consideration as dumb animals. This transaction between Albert and the stepfather is
similar to men trading cows, thereby dehumanizing Celie.
The stepfather also assumed that if Celie believed herself to be unloved then she
would naturally deem her own desires unimportant because others did not care about her.
Similarly, if Celie had people to love, such as her children, then her kids would most
likely respond to this love. By denying Celie any form of love, the stepfather isolates
Celie and increases her dependence on him. Walker s use of Celie s letters to God
highlights Celie s feelings of isolation. She ast me bout the first one Whose it is? I say
God s. I don t know no other man or what else to say. (3) The very idea that Celie is
talking to God signifies that perhaps she does not have many people to confide in.
In Celie s relationship with Albert, her husband, domination is also perpetuated.
One external sign of this authority is how she addresses Albert. Celie calls him Mr.___
as seen many times in the novel. The term Mr._____ indicates emotional distance and
is similar to how slaves addressed their owners as Master . Furthermore, if Celie is
given the opportunity to express her own opinions, Albert sees it as a direct challenge to
his authority. For instance, when Albert demands that Celie quiets his daughter while
brushing her hair, she immediately responds that she is unable to do so. As a result,
Albert slaps her as a warning that disobedience to his orders is unacceptable.
Albert along with her stepfather isolates her from those she loves. One example
that demonstrate this statement is Albert s deliberate act of separating Nettie from Celie.
Nettie was a source of comfort and love for Celie. Nettie is the one who teaches Celie
how to spell and read. Nettie is aware that literacy empowers individuals to move
upwards in stratified society. I know I m not as pretty or as smart as Nettie, but she say
I ain t dumb. (10) Thus, Alberts removal of Nettie from Celie s life is strategically
intelligent because he has removed the source of Celie s strength and ability to validate
herself. The only piece of mail Mr.______ ever put directly in my hand is a telegram
that comes from the United States Department of Defense. (262) The letter read that
Nettie and the family had been sunk on the boat to Africa by German subs.
The novel not only depicts the silence of woman, but the breaking of silence.
Shug, Albert s mistress, actually becomes Celie s voice in protesting the injustices
committed against her. He beat me when you not here, I say. I wont leave, Shug say,
until I know Albert won t even think about beating you. (78-79) Shug acknowledges
Celie s struggles through many avenues, the first being music. One caption of the novel
highlights Shug s explicit support of Celie is at Harpo s juke joint. Shug s song, Miss
Celie s Blues emphasizes and gives voice to Celie. Shug also advocates Celie s
independence by announcing that she will take Celie with her when returning to
Tennessee. Thus, she becomes Celie s voice until Celie finds her own, near the end of
Another significant event that strengthens Celie s ability to demand independence
from Albert is the discovery of Nettie s letters. Nettie s letters are the method that reveal
Celie s children to their mother. These letters encourage Celie that she may one day see
her family again. This hope empowers Celie to break away from Albert, as read in the
dinner scene near the end of the novel. Celie is able to reverse her silence to such an
extent that she has authority over Albert. In Albert s effort to show that Celie can do
nothing without him, he insinuates that she has no talent and or worth through his
comment, You black, you poor, you ugly, you a woman. (213) Yet, Celie is unable to
be silenced as seen through her remark, Until you do right by me, I say, everything you
even dream about will fail. (213)
The Color Purple concludes with the effects of Albert s decision to help Celie s
family immigrate to the United States. This conscious choice reflects the strong
influence of Celie s last remark on Albert, which is an indication that Celie has not only
broken out of submission and silence, but found her own voice. The final scene is
compelling since Celie, now independent, has joined with the very person, whom from
childhood, has encouraged the growth of a confident and vocal Celie. Celie has
overcome obstacles in her life such as abuse, rape, and silence as an African American
woman in a society that condones all blacks, especially women. The Color Purple
reveals the inner strength of it s main character, celie.