The Color of Purple


During the early 1900s in America, women struggled to be recognized as worthy members of society. Some were able to overcome this prejudice and even ignore it. Others however, crumbled beneath the pressure. In “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker shows the effects of sexual oppression on several different women who are attempting to liberate themselves in a male dominated society.


Through the character, Shug Avery, Walker exemplifies a woman who uses the discrimination directed towards her as fuel to become successful, independent women. Shug is described as a character that lives out the dream of the other character to live a life “…of freedom to be ones own self…” (Matuz, 405). Shug is a successful blues singer who travels around the country picking up whenever she tires of the town or men, whichever comes first. Shug enters the story when she comes to stay with Celie and her husband, an old friend of Shug’s. As Celie cares for Shug they form a very loving relationship. Celie admires Shug for her capabilities to stand up to an abusive man such as her husband, Albert. In fact “It is Shug who forces Albert to stop brutalizing Celie…” (Stine, 450). Eventually Shug leads to a discovery that completely alters Celie’s life and for the first time gives her a reason to have a life, not just live. Walker portrays this boundary between women as the most powerful defense against oppression.


Had it not been for Shugs strength, Celie would have continued to live her life behind the shadows of men. This story is told through the letters of Celie who “…tells her life as only she has known it: a girl, merely a child, raped by her stepfather whom she believes is her natural father…bearing his two children only to have them stolen by him and told they are dead; the denial and suppression of that girls actual background and history as well as her letters form her sister,” (Matuz, 406).