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Different Shades of Purple in Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple

Updated on December 20, 2015

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!


The author

The movie and its cast

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    • deepaliawasare profile image
      Author

      Deepali Awasare 2 years ago from Vadodara

      Thanks jsk ..... yes the book is a 'must read'

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      jsk 2 years ago

      Very nice artical.must read the book

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      js kalamkar 2 years ago

      Your choice of books for comments is very good. In her novel 'color purple' celie tells to find salvation in nature

    • deepaliawasare profile image
      Author

      Deepali Awasare 2 years ago from Vadodara

      Thanks Amit .... the book is great ... a must read ... also check out the movie ... very powerful performances .... you will love it

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      Amit2070 2 years ago

      Wow, I need to read this book. Falling behind am I. Very well written essay. Thanks.

    • deepaliawasare profile image
      Author

      Deepali Awasare 2 years ago from Vadodara

      Thanks Prashant .... its a great novel ...a must read ...

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      Prashant Gore 2 years ago

      Nicely written......thumbs up

    • deepaliawasare profile image
      Author

      Deepali Awasare 2 years ago from Vadodara

      Thank you Apurva Deshmukh for reading my article ...

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      Apurva Deshmukh 2 years ago

      Excellent.... Very well written

    • deepaliawasare profile image
      Author

      Deepali Awasare 2 years ago from Vadodara

      Thanks Nitin ....

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      Nitin F 2 years ago

      Well written..

    • deepaliawasare profile image
      Author

      Deepali Awasare 2 years ago from Vadodara

      Thanks Jodah.... I read the novel recently as part of my studies .... loved it ..... could relate it with the women issues in India .... I guess that's what a classic is .... timeless

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Deepali, I enjoyed this hub immensely. It is a long time since I saw the movie but it is a very powerful story. I didn't realise the full significance of "the color purple" at the time, but I do now thanks to this article. Very well written. Thank you for sharing.

    • deepaliawasare profile image
      Author

      Deepali Awasare 2 years ago from Vadodara

      Thanks ... its a remarkable book... I have a copy in case you want to read

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      Varsha Huilgol 2 years ago

      Interesting

    • deepaliawasare profile image
      Author

      Deepali Awasare 2 years ago from Vadodara

      Thanks Bhushan and Anima .... some more articles coming up ..hope you enjoy them too ...

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      Anima 2 years ago

      Well written...

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      Bhushan 2 years ago

      Nice article...Had read the book before & was intrigued by it...The article is also equally interesting..Wonderfully written...Looking forward to more of the same from the hub author...

    • deepaliawasare profile image
      Author

      Deepali Awasare 2 years ago from Vadodara

      hope you like this article. this was one of the best books i read when i was doing my masters in English Literature. I found it very universal; breaking through boundaries of countries and continents because as an Indian woman i can easily empathize with Celie , Sofia, Nettie, Squeak and Shug of the novel. The movie too is fantastic!!

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