“Who do you think you is? he say... Look at you. You black, you pore, you ugly, you a woman. Goddam, he say, you nothing at all.” (187)
Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, focuses on the struggles of a poor and uneducated African American girl, who is verbally, physically and sexually abused by several men in her life. She feels worthless and becomes completely submissive. Her only way to express her feelings is through private letters to God. An emphasized theme in this work is that expressing one’s thoughts and emotions is essential in order to develop an inner sense of self.
In the beginning of this novel, Celie is a young and naive adolescent. She is victimized by her step-father who rapes and impregnates her repeatedly. Her letters to God are her only escape. She hides inside herself. Scared, she writes, “I am fourteen years old. I am I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me.” (1) She looks to God for support. “...long as I can spell G-o-d I got somebody along.” (26) A few years later, Celie is forced to marry a vicious man who beats her, forces her to have sex, and treats her like a slave. She is completely powerless and passive to those who abuse her. As her life progresses, she goes through a radical change. Her husband, whom she calls Mr. ___, intentionally keeps Celie separated from the only person that she loves, her sister Nettie. When Celie discovers that he has been hiding letters from Nettie for several years, she wakes up and wants to kill him. This gives Celie the ability to express her anger. “I curse you... Until you do right by me, everything you touch will crumble... Everything you even dream about will fail... Every lick you hit me you will suffer twice, I say.” (187) She finally becomes expressive. A recurring theme in the novel is that finding a voice is essential when building one’s own identity. After many years of being a victim of violence, Celie ultimately finds her inner sense of self. She achieves independence and becomes a confident woman who can stand up for herself. When she leaves Mr. ___, Celie affirms her empowerment over her cruel husband, “I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook... But I’m here.” (187)
Two significant questions that arise from the text are: Why does Celie let the men in her life dominate her and why doesn’t she stand up for herself? After reading the novel, the response to this question is still not clear. Celie is an object of violence. She becomes pregnant by her step-father at the young age of fourteen and has to deal with her mother’s sudden death. Celie is brought up with the notion that women are inferior to men. She is repeatedly exposed to sexist views of society. “Wives is like children. You have to let ‘em know who got the upper hand. Nothing can do that better than a good sound beating.” (42) Celie is heavily abused from a young age. Suppressed and censored, she has no one to tell her feelings to. She cannot express herself because she is scared. Most of the people in her life are men who constantly degrade and disrespect her. For example, her step-father thinks very lowly of her when fixing her up for marriage. “I got to git rid of her... She a bad influence on my other girls... She ugly... She ain’t smart either, and I’ll just be fair, you have to watch her or she’ll give away everything you own... And another thing - She tell lies.” (18) Celie’s self-esteem is nearly non-existent. This affects her greatly. She cannot stand up for herself. Celie feels that she deserves the treatment that is imposed on her because she is black and a woman. Until she is influenced and triggered by other women to fight back, Celie is ultimately powerless. Her story can also be compared to Melinda Sordino’s in the book Speak. Melinda is a victim of rape and has trouble coming to terms with...