The Color Purple is an epistolary novel made up of letters written by the heroine, Celie, to God, and letters exchanged between Celie and her sister Nettie. The correspondence tells the life story of Celie, beginning at age fourteen, when she is raped by a man “us knowed as Pa” and ending three decades later, when Celie has overcome shame and low self-esteem.
Letter writing for Celie begins when her rapist stepfather tells her, “You’d better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy.” Soon thereafter, Celie’s mother dies, and the mother’s husband marries Celie off to Albert, a widower with four children, whom Celie can only bring herself to call “Mr.——.” As stepmother to Albert’s four unruly and disrespectful children, as housekeeper, homemaker, and sexual object, Celie enters into a life of drudgery and abuse. When Albert’s son Harpo comes to Celie with marital problems, Celie gives him the only advice she knows, which is to beat his wife Sofia. Later, realizing the injustice of physical violence, Celie asks God to forgive her for sinning against Sofia’s spirit.
Ironically, it is the entrance of Albert’s lover Shug Avery into Albert and Celie’s household that initiates the changes that lead to Celie’s freedom. Without compunction, Albert brings Shug, who is sick with “some kind of nasty woman disease,” home for Celie to nurse to health. Noisy and lively Shug, who arrives decked out in furs and beads, is a dramatic contrast to Celie, who tells herself, “It all I can do not to cry. I make myself wood. I say to myself, Celie, you a tree.”
At first, Celie is mesmerized by Shug’s glamour and flirtatiousness. In her customary...
(The entire section is 706 words.)