The Color Purple is written by the famous Afro-American female writer Alice Walker. She won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1983.The novel was adapted for film in 1984 by Spielberg and this film brought her a world wide fame and popularity. The film presents the struggle of the main character, Celie, a poor uneducated black woman who finds her identity and independence as a black woman despite her hardships. In the film, there are several symbolic features denoting certain meanings, which are the color purple, God, letters, pants, etc. Each of them symbolizes a specific period of Celie’s life that reflects her sufferings and survivals. In this paper, I mainly discuss the symbolic significance of the color purple.
Key words: symbolic significance, the color purple, Alice Walker
Colors can express emotions and feelings, so that writers tend to use color to modeling features of the characters. So is Alice Walker. She uses different colors to express different emotions of the main character Celie in the book The Color Purple. For example, blue, red, black and the most important one the color purple, these colors all have special meanings. In the following I will mainly talk about that.
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The title of the film is an important symbol. In the western, Purple symbolizes elegance, authority and dignity. At the beginning of the story, Celie does not wear purple clothes, which suggests that she has not got independence and self- identity. With Shug’s help, Celie begins to make a living by herself, gets independence on economy. She sets up Folks Pants Unlimited Company, and then makes pants for one of her sisters, Sofia. She chooses red and purple in the pants, which shows that Celie begins to get dignity. At the end of the story, decorated with red and purple, she possesses her own house and gets anything she likes to adorn her room. The changing of colors indicates that, faced with the future, she becomes optimistic towards life. Albert, the husband of Celie, has carved a purple frog to her as a gift. It denotes the recognition for Celie, the equality of black men and women, and the respect that the black women regain.
Meanwhile, purple stands for homosexuality. When black women are oppressed and have no right to make resistance, homosexuality is a way for them to develop their own life style. Influenced by the tradition, it is also the cultural extension of black women. In order to get rid of men’ s control, women should join together, caring themselves, and loving each other. Only in this way can they become strong and independence, which contributes to gaining their self- identity.
In the story, it is Shug’s love that helps Celie to reconstruct herself physically and emotionally. Before she comes, Celie lives for her distant sister pessimistically. All the changes take place when she meets Shug, a kindhearted girl full of confidence. Shug has a reputation as a woman of dubious morals who dresses scantily, has some sort of “nasty woman disease,” and is abandoned by her parents. However, Celie gradually gets something more in Shug. When she looks at Shug’s photos, she is attracted by Shug’ s unique appearance which calls up the memory of her mother. With their relationship developing, Shug takes the roles of mother, sister, lover, and friend. She enlightens Celie to realize the mystery of body and sexuality. Giving her a sense of belonging, Shug encourages her to fight for independence and freedom. The most important is, it is Shug who frees Celie from old ideas. Influenced by Shug, Celie gets a fresh understanding of God. She believes that God means spirit, and he stands for human’s identity. From then on, Celie begins to strive for independence, equality and dignity of being a woman. After several years for making efforts, Celie comes into the property that is rightfully hers and becomes independent. She achieves rebirth. All the time she prospers, Alert, her husband, goes down slope. He loses his will to life, becomes an alcoholic, and almost dies. He survives, becomes friends with Celie, and helps her with her sewing. It turns out that he has for years kept Nettie’s letters to Celie. The moment Celie is informed; she extremely bursts out killing her husband. Under the guide of Shug, she gives up revenging and begins to feel happy for knowing that Nettie has been fine all the years, married to the missionary after his wife dies. Celie reads Nettie’s letters and starts to writes to her. Then she learns that the missionary’s two children are adopted, and are in fact Celie’ s blood and flesh. They come back from Africa and reunite with Celie. Eventually, being a happy and independent woman, Celie gets a purple dress symbolizing elegance and dignity.
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Throughout The Color Purple, there is no sexuality between Celie and Shug. In turn, filled with warmth, they take care of each other and gradually grow self- awareness. As for Walker, though he does not speak highly of homosexuality, it is the female relationship that help Celie get rid of the miserable condition. Celie, who has been enslaved by her husband for several years, is thirsty for the pure relationship between black women. Fortunately, it is essential for her to pursue an independent life. At the end of the story, with Mr._ continuously taking care of Celie, her tendency of homosexuality has gradually decreased. From then on, Celie believes that she can also be happy without Shug. Eventually, she builds a harmony relation with her husband and leads a happy life.
Apparently, under the dominance of men, women have to join together to fight against men’s oppression. Walker portrays female homosexuality as a means for women to summon the courage to tell stories. These stories allow them to fight against oppression and men’s dominance. Relationships among women form a refuge, providing reciprocal love in a world filled with male violence.
Putting The Color Purple as the title, Walker aims to establishing the social status of black women, even encourages them to gain the dignity of emperor. As for the denotation of purple itself, it symbolizes black women’s independence and dignity. Once Celie gets self- identity, she could have the right to enjoy the purple, her most favoring color.
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