Alice Walker’s Pulitzer winning novel ‘The Color Purple’ is one of the best novels that exposes the reality of post slavery American society. The novel pictures the physical, economical, social and political environment that is faced by the Blacks even after Slavery was abolished from The States. All of these experiences are illustrated by the author through a series of letters penned down by the novel’s protagonist Celie. Celie first writes these letters to God, and letter to her sister Nettie, where she shares her suppressed feelings and emotions, that she otherwise cannot express.
The title of the novel might be confusing in the first glance. But as we dig deeper into the pages, we will find the significance of the purple color in the lives of these characters. Colors present a variety of emotions. Writers portray several feelings and emotions of their characters with the use of different colors. Alice Walker mainly makes use of the color purple to highlight the character development of her protagonist Celie. Celie is a Black, uneducated girl who is oppressed under the patriarchal Black society. She never stands up against the oppression she suffers from her father and her husband. Different colors like black, red, blue and purple have significant meanings in this novel. Purple is symbolically used in the novel to represent dignity, elegance and authority. Celie doesn’t wear purple colored clothes in the beginning of the story. It is because Celie didn’t have authority of her own life, as she was suppressed by the male figures in her life. She doesn’t have independence, at most. Shug Avery comes into her life and teaches her to be an independent, confident woman. Celie slowly starts realising her self worth and gains self identity by standing up against her atrocious husband. She gains financial independence when she starts her own company that makes pants. She creates purple pants for Sophia, as she starts gaining dignity. After she had established a self-identity, Albert, her husband gifts her a carved frog painted in the color purple. This is an important significance here, as it denotes Celie’s establishment and authority in her life. She has finally received the respect from her husband that she deserved.
The purple color also signifies bruishes. When Sofia is beaten up by the Mayor, her face is badly bruised and Celie compares it to an eggplant. The color of an eggplant is also purple. Also, the facial scarring ritual practiced by the Olinkas leave purple bruises on the faces of the women, Thus, the color purple also resembles the pain and suffering that a women has to go through. Another symbolic use of the color purple is to represent homosexuality. Black women are often suppressed by the men, both Black and White. They have no one to express their pains to, except other women. Women come closer to other women to fight against the oppression, just like Celie and Shug Avery. To stand against men, all the women must come together and love each other. The women love each other and fulfill the void created by their loveless marriages. This is the only way that the women can grow strongand independent. Shug’s encouragement and love for Celie helps her retain her identity. She enlightens Celie about her sexuality, and gives her a completely new perspective of God. After several years of abuse and oppression, Celie finally stands for herself. She becomes a happy woman and starts thinking for herself. She buys a new purple dress for herself, symbolizing dignity and elegance.
Thus the title of the novel has a very important significance. The color purple is an amazing symbol used by Alice Walker to depict the emotional state of her characters.