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The Color Purple

by Alice Walker

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What is the main message of The Color Purple?

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The main message of The Color Purple is that it is possible for a person to transcend even the worst possible start in life to find joy and fulfillment.

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For a novel with a very grim beginning, The Color Purple has a redemptive message, leaving readers with the hope that it is possible to transcend a traumatic start in life and find fulfillment. This message is especially aimed at women, showing Celie able to throw off patriarchy and thrive with the support of other women.

It is difficult to imagine a rougher start than Celie's as a young, Black, poor adolescent in a racist and sexist society. She is routinely raped by her stepfather and twice impregnated by him, loses track of her two children by him, is married off to a man who wants a wife, and is treated abusively by both him and his children. A reader might expect such a person to be utterly broken. Yet while scarred and traumatized, Celie has the resilience and courage to bounce back from a terrible early life to find joy and fulfillment.

Celie has the capacity to hear the wisdom of role models such as Sofia and Shug, who encourage her to value herself and leave her abusive past behind. She has the courage to get involved in a love relationship with Shug and the strength and grace to let her go. Celie, in fact, experiences a remarkable degree of healing and transformative growth by the novel's end, leaving readers with the message that one's past does not have to determine the trajectory of one's future.

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What is The Color Purple about?

The Color Purple is about the life of a woman named Celie, focusing on her development from a relatively powerless child to an empowered and self-possessed woman. As a child, Celie is raped repeatedly by the man she believes to be her biological father, and he takes the two children she bears by him away and sells them to a couple who cannot have children. He tells Celie, however, that he's killed the babies. When a local man comes to inquire about marrying Celie's younger sister, Nettie, to whom she is extremely close, their stepfather will not allow this man, Albert, to marry Nettie and convinces him to marry Celie instead.

Albert's children from his first marriage are horrible to Celie at first, and Albert beats and rapes her too. One day, Albert brings a woman called Shug Avery, his lover, to stay at his house, and while Celie takes care of Shug, she falls in love with her. Through this relationship, as well as the relationship with her sister, Celie begins to learn about herself, about God, and about what life can be like for her. Eventually, she leaves Albert and starts her own business with Shug's help, and she learns that her own happiness is important.

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