Character Analysis of Celie, the Color Purple

Topics: Erikson's stages of psychosocial development, Developmental psychology, Erik Erikson Pages: 7 (2674 words) Published: February 10, 2013
Being a black female in the south during the early 1900’s, at a time when white and blacks were socially segregated and women were absolutely inferior to men, was one of the many challenges Celie would be faced with in her lifetime. Born in 1895, Celie was raised on a farm in a small town in Georgia where formal education took a back seat to physical labor and household maintenance, and the Church was the main focal point of socialization among local town members. We are first introduced to Celie in 1909, when she is 14 years old, running and frolicking through the fields with her sister Nettie, then giving birth to her second child by her step-father. Soon after the newborn was taken out of her arms, an emotionless and questioning Celie is found internally talking to God while walking behind her mother’s casket, who was said to have died from a broken heart. Raised in an authoritarian style by her father and permissive style by her submissive mother, she is repeatedly chastised and shamed by her step-father, which is evident during his introduction of Celie to “Mister” when questions arise about marriage. Shamed and overruled, Celie is given to “Mister,” thus beginning her new journey of marriage at the tender age of 14. Overtime Celie becomes increasingly submissive, reserved, and shy as “Mister” provides a similar reign of terror and tyranny over her that her step-father once held, only this time she doesn’t have the love and trust of her sister Nettie. Though we know very little about Celie prior to the birth of her second child, we can assume she has met the first two stages of her life in accordance to Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development by her love and trust of her sister Nettie, Shug and Sophia which come later in her life. Her “will” is viewed early on when she is learning to read and become educated with Nettie’s help. Though her hope and will are inhibited on countless occasions as Celie travels through life, the general capacity to have them is there. During her early adolescence, Celie has become a mother, a wife, the caretaker of another woman’s children, and essentially the house hold maid, otherwise known as the “mammy.” Nettie, the one person who she loves, trusts, and in turn who loves her back, has been replaced (not by choice) by Mister, who dictates her roles and responsibilities, as first noticed during a scene when Celie is combing a young girls hair and Mister stands up, slaps her across the face dictating that she will do what he says when he says it . This first act of control over her life and her being leads to a future of emotional, verbal, and physical abuse and degradation. Her individual identity has been stripped from her and any chance of fidelity was lost once she was handed over to Mister. Repudiation develops as role confusion increases. Her perception of herself is ugly, worthless, and not equal to the woman Mister was intended to marry, as he made clear on countless occasions. It wouldn’t be until later in life that fidelity and individual identity would be developed, as a kinship between Shug and Celie develops, and Celie leaves Mister, acquires her childhood home and creates a business. Hope arrives months later in the form of Nettie. Mister allows Nettie to stay at the farm with them, rekindling life, love and hope within Celie, leading us to believe that Celie’s infancy provided her with enough love and care to allow her to develop hope. Frolicking in the fields, playing games like school children, and learning to read and write with Nettie allowed Celie to develop the beginning stages of Competence. She begins to read words and understand meanings, practicing her skill and intelligence by reading Oliver Twist and developing an elaborate kitchen system for storing pots and pans. Though her school age years developed late, they matured as time passed and as Celie’s will to learn and become educated increased. Hope had been restored with...
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