“…You Walk by the Color Purple in a Field Somewhere…”(198): the Effect of Symbolism to Portray Thematic Concepts in Alice Walker's Novel, the Color Purple

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A symbol of freedom and liberty, individuality yet togetherness; the American Flag has presented an image of America for decades. Ever since Francis Scott Key wrote his poem about the “broad stripes and bright stars,” the United States of America has been marked with this simple, yet lucid icon of peace and sovereignty. Symbolism in literature plays a bigger part, one that relates an object or ideology to stress a connection to a more discrete or unclear picture. Alice Walker, a novelist, utilizes many symbols to depict the struggle of young African American women to find and rid themselves from captivity. Through many images, Walker allows for recognition between specific symbolic portrayals and the main ideas of the novel. In her novel, The Color Purple, Alice Walker uses symbolism to express the transformation of oppressed women in a segregated society from total constraint to self-empowerment and newfound identities.

Through the neglected character of Celie, Walker depicts a reconstruction from weakness to authoritative behavior using symbolism. Because she is a woman, Celie is very under-appreciated and not expected to become anything substantial in society. At the beginning of the novel, Celie allows this image of being a “mule” to control her life. She describes how she is “another piece of wood”(30) to numb herself from the painful life she lives. However, later in the novel, Shug Avery, a singer whom Celie becomes very close with, tells her to live with freedom and independence, as well as love and passion. Eventually, this guidance turns her to sewing, a symbol introduced to describe Celie’s sense of pride, accomplishment, and individuality. When Mr. _________, Celie’s husband, comes to visit her while she is sewing, he asks “what was so special bout [her] pants”(276). She says that “anybody can wear them”(276), except Mr. ________ replies that “men suppose to wear the pants”(276). New to her personality, Celie snaps back and says, “So”(276)? Before...
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