The Characters (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
Celie is a very likable heroine. Grounded in the folk life of African Americans living in the Deep South, Celie is simple yet good, withdrawn yet able to emerge from her self-preserving stoicism.
Throughout her early life, Celie is sustained by her belief in God, which has been the only consistent, safe, and hopeful element in her life. Married to Mr.——, Celie becomes resigned to degradation and denial. Celie, though sad, is never disappointed, since she has never expected her life to be happy. Less attractive in every way than her sister Nettie, Celie is accustomed to feeling inferior.
Female relationships in the novel serve to support Celie in her loneliness and in her effort to become comfortable with herself. Sofia’s pity for Celie for complying so readily with Albert’s commands points up Celie’s weakness and Sofia’s boldness. Shug’s popularity and physical attractiveness enchant Celie, while Shug’s faithlessness dismays her. Nettie’s voice, projected in her letters, is proper, intelligent, educated, and refined. In contrast, Celie’s native tongue is a thick, black dialect that is humorous in its fresh descriptions, original metaphors, and realistic dialogue.
Celie develops her identity in large measure by coming to know her similarities with and differences from the other women in the story, by accepting herself as she is, and by learning to blossom—like the purple flowers found growing unchecked in...
(The entire section is 554 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Celie, a survivor of sexual and physical abuse who writes intimate letters to God and to her sister Nettie. She is the owner of Celie Folkpants, Unlimited. Described as black, poor, and ugly, she is fourteen years old at the beginning of the story. Celie is a terrorized and passive girl with little belief in herself who undergoes a major transformation in attitude and becomes an outrageous, audacious, courageous, and willful woman who enjoys her lesbian sexuality. She gives birth to two children, conceived while she is being raped repeatedly by Alphonso, whom she believes to be her father. Both children are quickly taken from her by him. Celie is married off to Albert but falls in love with Shug Avery, a former lover of her husband. After Celie nurses Shug through an illness, they become lovers; later, they move to Memphis, where Celie starts a pants company. Celie returns to Georgia when she inherits her parents’ house.
Nettie, Celie’s younger sister, a missionary in Africa. Considered to be very pretty and very clever, Nettie loves Celie and remains devoted to her throughout her life. During a separation of some twenty years, she writes to Celie regularly, telling Celie of her experiences in Africa. Nettie helps take care of and watches over Celie’s two children, who have been adopted by the missionary couple whom Nettie accompanied to Africa. Nettie eventually reunites the family.
Albert, a poor farmer. Abusive and dissatisfied with himself and his life, Albert is in love with Shug, but, because he is incapable of disobeying his father, he married another woman. He beats Celie, his second wife, because she is not Shug. He conceals all the letters that Nettie sends to Celie. Albert thinks little of treating Celie as less than human until she stands up to him and then leaves, at which point he becomes physically and spiritually ill, recovers, begins to lead a moral life, and becomes friends with Celie.
Shug Avery, whose real name is Lillie and who also is called The Queen...
(The entire section is 865 words.)