The Theme of Empowerment, Violence, and Cruelty in The Color Purple

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From the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, African Americans faced hardship through inequality and racism. Around the 1980s, Alice Walker illustrated the history of racial and gender oppression that black women had faced throughout history. Walker’s The Color Purple revolves around how women joined together to fight against the patriarchal tyranny they faced from the men who abused them and the children that they cared for. Throughout the novel, Celie, the main character, was repeatedly raped by her father, her children were taken away from her, and she was sold into marriage to a man who wanted more of a servant than a wife. In the novel, themes of God and empowerment and significant moments of violence and cruelty are embellished within to solidify the author’s purpose that one must believe in themselves to make a change no matter how barbarous their situation may be. By learning from one another, Celie was able to stand against the abuse that she faced in her life.

Themes of God and empowerment are centralized throughout the novel. Celie’s view of God shifts towards the climax of the novel from being the traditional white man with a white beard to a genderless, figureless, and more universal being. Celie explains that she no longer writes to God but to Nettie instead because he has never been there to help her through her situation. Celie realizes that God would never listen to a poor black woman, more so because he never has throughout her adulterated and traumatic life. In the novel, Celie articulates, “… he give me a lynched daddy, a crazy mama, a lowdown dog of a step pa and a sister I probably won’t ever see again… the God I been praying and writing to is a man… Trifling, forgetful and lowdown” (pg. 192). This quote is significant for it portrays Celie’s shift in belief.

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At the beginning of the novel, Celie confides in God, attends church, and prays but as the novel progresses, it is understood that Celie is skeptical about the whole idea of “God” and so begins to write to Nettie. In addition, empowerment is another eminent theme in the novel. Celie lived her life on practically the worst side of the spectrum; however, because of Shug’s presence in her life, Celie was able to better herself and come to a better approach to her life. As recorded in the novel, “… have you ever found God in church? I never did… Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me… They come to church to share God, not find God” (pg.193). This quote is significant for it represents the impact Shug had on Celie. Shug changed Celie’s way of thinking and ultimately provided a gateway for her to be happy. The two fundamental themes in The Color Purple are God which is understood through Celie’s life and empowerment which is seen through Shug’s influence on Celie.

Violence and cruelty were other key aspects of the novel. From childhood to long after marriage, Celie was faced with sickening situations that negatively impacted her psychological as well as physical health. In the novel, Celie suffers repeated violence from her father without reason. For instance, as Celie wrote, “He beat me today cause he says I winked at a boy in church. I may have got something in my eye but I didn’t wink. I don’t even look at men. That’s the truth. I look at women, tho, cause I’m not scared of them” (pg. 5). This quote is vital because it displays the ill pitifulness of Celie’s situation while living with her Pa. Not only has her father raped her but he practically beats her for blinking. In addition, Celie writes, “Harpo ast his daddy why he beat me. Mr. says, Cause she my wife. Plus, she stubborn. All women good for…” (pg. 22). This quote is paramount for it depicts how there was a presence of violence even after marriage, Celie is beaten and disrespected throughout her life. Furthermore, cruelty is another significant moment embedded in the novel. Not only is Celie treated as a slave, but she also had been stripped of her one thing in her world that she lives for; Nettie. It seems that out of rage and anger, Mr. hides all the letters that Nettie had sent to Celie leaving Celie to believe that her sister very well may be in harm’s way or even dead. As recorded, Shug says, “Cause I don’t know the Albert that don’t dance, can’t laugh, never talk bout nothing, beat you and hid your sister Nettie’s letters. Who he?” (pg.123). This quote is vital because it sketches the cruelty of her husband, Mr. This is something even Celie was not expecting, even from him, “He been keeping your letters, say Shug, Naw, I say. Mr. means sometimes, but he, not that mean… He knows Nettie mean everything in the world to me” (pg. 119). This quote is dire because it represents the lies and betrayal that Mr. had enacted towards her. Celie wanted nothing more than just to know that her sister was okay and now that she’s discovered these letters, it is as though she has a piece of Nettie with her. The two significant moments in The Color Purple are the violence and cruelty that the two most important men in her life ironically make her suffer from. The author’s purpose for writing The Color Purple was to illustrate the hardships that African American females had to undergo, one must never give up no matter how difficult a situation may be, and should stand up for themselves.

Throughout the story, Celie is mistreated and if it were not for Shug Avery, she probably would have never discovered her sister’s letters and end up fighting for what is right. The Color Purple depicts the destitution that an African American female had to suffer from. From being raped, abused, and tormented by her father she was sold like a piece of meat to a man more interested in a slave than a wife. Though it took a long time, Celie was able to break free from the oppression and stood up against Mr. The Color Purple is an interesting accompaniment of God, empowerment, violence, and cruelty intertwined to teach readers to never give up and confront issues for the better.

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