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Different Shades of Purple in Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple
Shug and Celie amidst the Purple flowers in a field
Why the title as 'The Color Purple' ?
In an interview with Amy Goodman for the channel Democracy Now, Alice talks about why she chose the the title 'The Color Purple' and how it relates to the theme of oppression against women. She says, " When i was writing the novel i lived away in the country in Booneville, California, and i went walking through the redwoods and swimming in the river and noticed that in nature the purple color is everywhere and it is interesting because we tend to think that we would find more red, yellow, white and all those colors! But actually the purple is right there!
And in that sense, its like the people in the novel. You think they are unusual, that , what's happening to them is unusual but actually its happening somewhere on your block almost every minute. All the trouble, all the trials and tribulations of Celie are happening to people all over the planet this minute, right now! "
Thus Alice made a very deliberate and conscious choice while deciding the title of her novel. When i read the novel as a part of my English literature studies, i thought that as Celie makes her journey of self realization, she comes across shades of the color purple; from purple bruises and pain to the vibrant purple of flowers in the fields, in her heart and even in the purple curtains of her bedroom!
In the beginning Celie writes to God , she is in pain and struggling to just stay alive and later when she feels that God too has abandoned her she writes to Nettie, her sister. Shug Avery shows her the beauty of the purple color in nature. To quote Shug , " God's not vain, just wanting to show a good thing. I think it pisses off God if you walk by the color purple in the field and don't notice it! " Shug makes Celie believe that we all are God's creations and he made them wonderful and amazing just like purple flowers, and that we must find the divinity in ourselves. This is Celie's rebirth and the purple becomes a shade vibrant than before!
Celie's journey of self realization : Shades of Purple
The first time this colour is mentioned by Celie is when she goes with Kate, Mr. __'s sister, to buy some clothes for herself. She wants to buy purple cloth because she wants to look like a queen, but they don't have any and she settles for blue! She has aspirations and hope and that's what purple conveys here.
Later purple becomes the color of her bruises and is continually equated with pain and suffering. Sofia's swollen beaten face is described as the color of an 'eggplant' and Celie's private parts, where she is violated by her husband Mr. __ and her step father are also purple! Celie accepts all the pain, attacks on her sexuality and self worth with a sense of resignation. She is just trying to stay alive. She writes to God when she is in intense pain but feels that God too has abandoned her.. then she writes to Nettie , her sister.
Shug Avery changes the meaning of the color purple for Celie. She teaches Celie to enjoy the beauty created by God, and it is a way of expressing our love for Him. As Celie learns to love life , the color purple comes into her life in all its beautiful and vibrant forms. She decorates the bedroom of her own home with purple curtains. She also discovers her own sexuality as Shug's breasts and nipples remind her of ripe plums, and later in her relationship with Shug , she finds the joy of being a woman and starts loving herself as a person and a woman!
Later in the novel, Celie forgets and forgives her past oppressors and in that completes her journey of finding herself. In a letter to Nettie she writes, " I'm busy making pants for Sofia now, one leg be purple, one leg be red. I dream Sofia, wearing these pants, one day she was jumping over the moon."
Celie's room is all purple and there is a purple frog sitting on the mantlepiece, which Albert, (not Mr. ___ ), has carved for her. She uses her husband's name for the first time!
Celie is now calm and happy from within! Alice Walker describes her book as a theological work examining the journey from the religious back to the spiritual. It is also an inspiration to all women across the globe and gives them courage to discover their inner beauty and Divinity!