24 April 2007
Awakening of an Abused Woman
“The Color Purple” is set in the rural south and told through a series of letters written by the protagonist, Celie, chronicling her journey from pain and humiliation to triumph and rebirth. Throughout most of her life she has been treated as a servant. Her only worth as a woman is for cooking, cleaning, taking care of the family and fulfilling men’s desires. She has never been taught how to love or be loved and throughout most of the novel Celie is abused and very unhappy but she thinks that this is the way women are supposed to live. It is not until she lets women into her life, which lead Celie to her epiphany, that she realizes that she deserves more out of her life and that she is worthy of respect. Through sharing relationships with them, Celie sees how women should be treated from another perspective than what she has been taught by her family.
Celie’s life is one of struggle and despair. The first line of the story is what her step father told her when she was only fourteen years old, after raping and impregnating her. This statement is so profound that it explains why she is so scared of men her whole life and emotionless to the things that are done to her. The line states, “You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy.” (Walker, 1). It is then that she starts writing to God. She can not tell anybody what has happened to her, not even her sister, Nettie, whom she is closest to at the time. Nettie wouldn’t even understand, she thinks, because she is younger then Celie and Celie doesn’t even understand what is going on. Celie feels the only way to go through life is to remain silent and persevere. Her only outlet is through her letters to God.
Celie’s stepfather, Fonso, then marries Celie off to a widower who needs a mother for his children and someone to do the housework. The widower, Mr.___, originally came for Nettie’s hand in marriage but Fonzo refused. Fonso gives Celie to Mr.____ instead, telling him “She ain’t fresh…She spoiled. Twice.”, then he goes on to say, “She ugly. But she ain’t no stranger to hard work.” (Walker, 8). This is where Celie’s self worth is really shown to her. She feels that all she is good for is the hard work she accomplishes inside the home. The way the people closest to her talk about her in combination with all the bad things that has happened to Celie makes her feel worthless. She has very little self-worth and self-esteem. She is a product of excessive physical and mental abuse. The oppressive brutality of her life continues when she marries Mr.___, who beats her and subjects her to a life of domestic servitude. Nettie later decides to run away from Fonso’s house because of the constant abuse towards her and decides to move in with Celie and Mr.___. Nettie sees that life is not that much better at Celie’s house and after Mr.____ tries to rape her she decides that she must leave there, also. Consequently, Fonso tells Celie that he will make sure her and Nettie never speak again. For many years after Nettie left she writes Celie letters, but Fonzo hides them before Nettie gets them. Fonso tries to break the only bond Celie had that brought her any happiness. It is not until Celie lets women into her life, once again, that her thinking starts to change. The first woman she becomes close to is her daughter- in- law, Sofia. Sofia is very strong and fierce, the total opposite of Celie, and she was not to be ruled over by her husband or anyone else. Sofia fights back when her husband, Harpo (Mr.’s Son), tries to rule her with an iron fist. Sofia refuses to be oppressed despite the prejudiced society of the 1930s south in which they all live. Sofia instills in Celie a newfound strength. “Celie is so immersed in oppression, she accepts the point of view of Mr.: she advises Harpo to beat Sofia. Thus, she agrees with her oppressor in the idea that a woman should only obey, work and be...
Cited: Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2003.
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