Explain the significance of quilt metaphor in The Colour Purple.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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A very important symbol in this excellent novel is that of sewing and quilting. The way in which women are shown to embark on this passtime together seems to suggest that this activity symbolises the kind of power that women can gain from finding a suitable and productive outlet for their creative forces. For example, consider what happens after Celie and Sofia have an argument about the counsel Celie has offered to Harpo. Sofia suggests they join together to make a quilt, thereby indicating a kind of truce. The pattern of this quilt is very interesting, as it is made up of very different patterns sewn together, symbolising different people standing together in unity.

In the same way, the community that Celie is a part of at the end of the novel is shown to consist of both men and women who are linked together by friendship and family, but who are all very different in terms of gender, orientation and giftings. This is notably compared to a quilt. In addition, as regards sewing, think of the way in which Celie starts a successful pants-sewing business with Shug's support. Celie is able to challenge the accepted belief that sewing is an unimportant skill done only by women, and she transforms it into an empowering and rewarding form of economic independence for her.