Discuss the relationship between Shug and Celie in The Color Purple.-stress on the womanist angle

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teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The relationship between Shug and Celie in Alice Walker's The Color Purple is arguably the strongest in the novel.  Based on Walker's theory of "womanism" (similar to black feminist theory), this relationship provides the foundation upon which Celie reconstructs her identity.  For years, she is told by the men in her life that she is ugly and worthless.  Once she is married to Albert, she lives under the shadow of Shug Avery and Albert's everlasting love for her.  When Shug arrives, the two women form a bond during the mirror scene.  Shug makes Celie look into the mirror at her own smile and encourages Celie to see her own beauty.  She also teaches her to take pleasure in her own body because Celie has never had a positive sexual encounter with Albert.  Once Celie learns to accept her own body, she begins to develop her strength and personality. 

From Celie, Shug learns humility and tries to mend the breaks from her past.  She reunites with her father before moving on to a new life.  So through their relationship, the two women are able to become stronger.