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The Color Purple

by Alice Walker

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Why is Alice Walker's novel entitled The Color Purple, and what does it have to do with beauty?

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The title of Alice Walker's novel is taken from a line in the text. Shug tells Celie that she thinks it irritates God if people walk past "the color purple in a field somewhere" and don't pause to look at it. What Shug is saying is that the world around us is full of beautiful things—in this case, this is symbolized by purple flowers, which are unusual and particularly delicate, appearing in the midst of a field. Most flowers found growing in the wild are yellow, pink or white; a purple flower is something significant and special, and she believes God has placed these flowers in the world as examples of independence and outstanding beauty.

An independent person, then, should be like a purple flower. Purple has historically been a color associated with royalty; it is a dye that was hard to find and therefore worn only by the wealthy, exactly because purple flowers are not very frequently found. But these flowers do exist, and we should pause to recognize that and appreciate the beauty in the world around us, even when things seem grim.

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In addition to all of those connotations, purple also calls to mind bruises, and the protagonist of this novel suffers many, both literally and figuratively. It is the relationship between the bruise and the hope, the suffering and the rich nature of her life, that comprise the meanings of the title.

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Purple stands for hope, and one of the great miracles of this book is that anyone who lived through it (like Celie) could find any hope at all.

 It is the beauty of the rare, the miraculous, the unlooked for. (Traditionally, purple was also associated with royalty and riches.)

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