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The Color Purple

by Alice Walker

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What are the main types of conflict in The Color Purple?

Quick answer:

The primary conflict in Alice Walker's The Color Purple is an internal one. Celie's journey throughout the novel exemplifies Character vs. Self conflict. After years of being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by the men in her life, Celie develops a self-loathing view. She feels voiceless, powerless, and believes herself to be stupid, ugly, and unworthy of happiness.

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There are several examples of conflict in Alice Walker's The Color Purple. The primary conflict in the novel is a type of literary conflict known as Character vs. Self. This is an internal conflict and it is best exemplified by the protagonist, Celie.

Celie is a victim of emotional, verbal, sexual, and physical abuse. She is told she is unattractive. As a young girl, she is raped by her stepfather. She does not attempt to fight back and passively accepts her stepfather's cruel and abusive treatment of her. As an adult, she reacts similarly when she is beaten by her husband. As a coping mechanism to deal with the abuse she suffers, Celie remains quiet, compliant, and obedient. In a sense, she is trying to make herself invisible to her abusers: if they cannot see her, they cannot hurt her. Celie's abuse is an example of external Character vs. Character conflict, but the conflict that results from her abuse is internal.

Celie internalizes her trauma and develops a sense of self-loathing. She constantly compares herself to others and feels inferior to those around her. She feels stupid in comparison to Nettie and ugly in comparison to Shug. After years of being told she is ugly and undeserving of good things, she believes these sentiments to be true. She believes she is unworthy of happiness, love, and kindness.

Celie's traumatic experiences leave her voiceless and powerless. She passively accepts whatever horrors life sends her way because she does not feel she deserves to be happy, loved, or respected. Throughout the novel, Celie struggles to find her voice and learn to love herself in spite of the abuse she has suffered.

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