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Symbols in The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Symbols are great ways to depict multiple meanings through a single object. Symbolism is used by writers to show their mastery by putting hidden meaning on the objects. In The color Purple also we see different symbols used to denote multiple meanings-

  • Purple – The color purple is the most important symbol that is used in this novel. Walker uses the color to denote different things at different times of the novel. Most importantly, the purple color represents elegance, dignity etc. Celie starts dressing up in purple clothes as she begins to grow confidence on herself. Her husband gifts her a purple carved frog, which signifies the respect in their marriage that was earlier absent. Celie didn’t wear purple clothes while she was an oppressed girl without a voice of her own. However, with the help of Shug Avery, she begins to take agency in her life. The purple color also represents homosexuality, which can be witnessed through the intimate bond shared by Celie and Shug Avery. Women need to love each other and come together to stand firmly against male domination. The bruises on the faces of both Sofia and the Olinka women are purple, as they symbolize women’s pain and suffering of violence at the hands of men.

  • Letters – The letters are the most important tool in the novel. We, as readers, come to know about the incidents through the letters written by both Celie and Nettie. When Celie suffered abuse during her younger years, she began writing letters to God, to express all her thoughts and feelings about life. Celie had no one to whom she can talk about her painful life experiences. Therefore, she began writing letters addressed to God in the first part of the book. She wrote down about all her experiences, from her father’s rape to her husband’s atrocities. It is through these letters that we come to understand her painful life better. Thus, letters symbolise self-expression. Nettie’s letters are also important in the novel, as it is when Celie finds Nettie’s letters that she becomes angry over her husband. Nettie expresses all her experiences in Africa through her letters. Thus, letters the the symbol of self-expression.

  • Sewing Quilt – Through different parts of the novel, the characters can be seen sewing a quilt. Sewing symbolizes creativity. After Sofia confronts Celie about her advice to beat Sofia, the women start sewing a quilt to rebuild their bond. The quilt has diverse patterns on it, which symbolizes different people coming together in unity. Celie is good in no work but sewing. She establishes her sewing business and makes herself financially stable. Thus, by transforming her hobby into her business, Celie gains self identity. Throughout the end of the novel, it is seen that Albert joins Celie in sewing a dress. This symbolizes dignity and friendship in their marriage.

  • God – God acts an important symbol in the novel. Celie has no one but God. God is her listener. He listens to all her woes while she writes letters to Him. Celie is of the view that God is a white man who is powerful. Buut when Celie learns about Nettie’s letters, she loses all her faith upon God. Shug Avery then teaches her a completely new idea to imagine God. She tells her that God isn’t a He, but ‘it’. God doesn’t necessarily need to be a bearded, white man. It can be anything and everything- from feelings, person to nature. Celie’s new belief of God is a symbol of her recognizing her self-worth. In her last letter she addresses God as ‘everything’.

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