The Color Purple

The Color Purple

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Sofia Character Analysis

A strong-minded and physically strong woman, and first wife of Harpo. She does not brook any discrimination from white people or physical or other efforts to control her by men, Sofia is sent to prison for fighting the (white) mayor and his wife. She later serves as maid in the mayor's house for almost twelve years, helping to raise his children. Sofia then returns to Celie's home, where her own children with Harpo no longer recognize her.

Sofia Quotes in The Color Purple

The The Color Purple quotes below are all either spoken by Sofia or refer to Sofia. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Pocket Books edition of The Color Purple published in 1985.
Letter 18 Quotes

Sofia look half her size. But she still a big strong girl. Arms got muscle. Legs, too. . . . She got a little pot on her now and give you the feeling she all there. Solid. Like if she sit down on something, it be mash.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Sofia
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Celie is struck by Sofia's strength and independence. In the beginning of her marriage to Mr. ____, Celie had trouble keeping his children in line - they did not appear to want to listen to her, and occasionally, even despite her best efforts, they would fight back, or resist her even modest attempts at discipline.

Sofia, like Shug, represents for Celie a way of behaving, a way of asserting oneself in the world, that is at odds with the modes of feminine behavior in which Celie has been brought up by Pa. Mr. ____, for his part, reinforces Pa's treatment of Celie - Pa himself believed that he took Celie "off his hands" - and so Harp and Sofia's relationship, with a different arrangement of power between man and woman, seems all the stranger to Celie for that. Celie will continue to wonder how she might assert herself in interactions with men as the novel progresses. 

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Letter 20 Quotes

They fight. He try to slap her. What he do that for? She reach down and grab a piece of stove wood and whack him cross the eyes . . . She throw him over her back. He fall bam up gainst the stove.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Sofia, Harpo
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a continuation of the description Celie provides, in the previous quote, regarding Harpo's relationship with Sofia. As above, here Celie is taken aback by Sofia's resistance to Harpo's commands. Indeed, Sofia is the one who takes physical charge - she is unafraid of threatening Harpo physically, or indeed of hitting him, when she does not get her way. This inverts the paradigm of male violence committed against women in the novel. Although it is still violence, and Celie is still frightened by it, Harpo's and Sofia's interaction nevertheless makes plain to Celie that other women in the community are standing up to, and fighting with, figures of authority.

Celie, too, is a passionate and quiet observer of the lives around her. This is evident from the start of the novel - which is, after all, her journal. In this scene, Celie is walking by Sofia and Harpo's home - she has not been invited inside, and she does her observing from a remove. There are other instances in the novel when Celie observes her friends and relatives in precisely this detached, generally objective manner.

Letter 30 Quotes

I don't know, say Sofia. Maybe I won't go. Deep down I still love Harpo, but—he just makes me real tired. She yawn. Laugh. I need a vacation, she say.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Sofia, Harpo
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Sofia and Harpo's marriage forms a counterpoint both to Celie's marriage to Mr. ____ and to Celie's burgeoning relationship with Shug. Sofia controls Harpo physically, often berating him and beating him - and this causes Harpo to want to retaliate, to eat so much that he grows in size. Sofia, understanding that Harpo merely wants to control her, does what she can to imagine a world where she does not rely on any man - just as Celie imagines this world for herself.

The idea of a "vacation" from anything in the novel is, for the characters involved, an inherently humorous wish - as most characters do not have the resources to take a break at all from their working lives. Celie's imaginative life is rich, and she longs, deep down, to live with Shug, and to throw off the burden of caring for Mr. ____, just as Sofia longs to be rid of Harpo. But at this point in the text, these can only be wishes and fantasies - not transferable into reality. 

Letter 32 Quotes

What Sofia gon say bout what you doing to her house? I ast. Spose she and the children come back. Where they gon sleep.

They ain't coming back, say Harpo, nailing together planks for a counter.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Harpo (speaker), Sofia
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

Harpo and Sofia undergo their own period of self-realization, as Celie watches and inquires as to what they're doing. Sofia takes the children away, feeling that they are better off apart from Harpo, whose rage has, at this point, become difficult to handle. Harpo decides that he'd like to run a bar, or "juke joint," in order to host singers - and, more importantly for him, to "assert himself" as a man in the community. 

Celie realizes that Harpo has long been worried he is not man enough, or that only Sofia might love him or desire him sexually. Harpo's construction of the juke joint is, therefore, in part an announcement of his own masculinity, and his attempt to present himself as desirable to the women of the community. Celie intuits this, even as she marvels at the fact that a married couple can dissolve in this way, with mother and children going in one direction, and father going in another. 

Letter 43 Quotes

Sofia say to me today, I just can't understand it.
What that? I ast.
Why we ain't already kill them off.

Too many to kill off, I say. Us outnumbered from the start.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Sofia (speaker)
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

Sofia's tone here is very interesting. Sofia does not mean seriously to suggest that African Americans ought to kill the white families that oppress them. But she does wonder if that is the only solution that would structurally "solve" the problem of racism in the South. In other words, Sofia seems to understand that only a very, very profound change in the nature of black and white interaction in the South would upend many centuries of prejudice and active discrimination against African Americans.

Celie, however, recognizes something else - that, at this point, American society has been structured around white experience, making it extraordinarily hard to imagine a world in which those advantages are not taken into account. African Americans begin from a position of disenfranchisement; Celie's own experiences of slowly realizing her potential and her own set of skills are an indication in miniature of the effort required to resist anti-black violence in the South, and in America as a whole. Celie is committed to improving her own life, but she recognizes just how much stands in the path of her own progress, and the progress of African Americans more generally. 

Letter 90 Quotes

And I see they [the children] think that me and Nettie and Shug and Albert and Samuel and Harpo and Sofia and Jack and Odessa real old . . . But I don't think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Nettie, Mr. _____ (Albert), Shug Avery, Sofia, Harpo, Samuel, Adam, Olivia, Tashi, Jack and Odessa
Related Symbols: God
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the marvelous closing passage to the novel. After all that has happened to Celie and to Nettie - after all the miles Nettie has traveled, after all that Celie has been through in remaining in the South - time feels, in this passage, not to have passed at all. It is as though time itself was brought to a halt, or a new kind of time is here introduced. Celie and Nettie, reunited, can now make physical the bond that has united them in letters for years. And this bond is made even stronger by the presence of family, both biological and affiliative, that Celie and Nettie have assembled over the many intervening years. Despite their hardships, Celie and Nettie recognize that their stories are stories of family togetherness, of bonds made and sustained despite the incredible difficulty of their circumstances. The Color Purple thus ends triumphantly, as a celebration of the power of love in the face of violence and hatred.

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Sofia Character Timeline in The Color Purple

The timeline below shows where the character Sofia appears in The Color Purple. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Letter 17
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Harpo says he is in love with Sofia Butler, his girlfriend (the same girl whose father does not wish for them to marry).... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia, seven months pregnant, comes to the house with Harpo to meet Mr. ____. Mr. ____... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Mr. ____ says he will not let Sofia and Harpo marry, even though Sofia is pregnant. Sofia says she doesn't need to be... (full context)
Letter 18
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Despite this, Harpo and Sofia soon marry. Harpo begins receiving a wage from his father (his father believes this will... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Harpo's and Sofia's wedding is small but relatively happy. Celie makes curtains for their new home. Harpo has... (full context)
Letter 19
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Harpo tells his father that he cannot get Sofia to "mind" him, or obey him. Mr. ____ asks if Harpo beats her; Harpo says... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...is revealed that three years have passed since Harpo's wedding. Harpo seems happy with his Sofia, but still wants her to "mind" him. Harpo asks Celie what to do; Celie says... (full context)
Letter 20
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
One day, Celie is walking by Sofia and Harpo's shack, near the edge of Mr. _____'s property, when she sees the two... (full context)
Letter 21
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...trouble sleeping and is not sure why, at first. Then she realizes she has wronged Sofia, by telling Harpo that he ought to beat her. One day Sofia comes to Celie... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie admits that she was jealous of Sofia's ability to stand up to Harpo; Celie is unable to do this with Mr. ____.... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia admits that she feels sorry for Celie, who has no power over Mr. ____, but... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia and Celie end up laughing about Mr. ____, whom Sofia says Celie should crack on... (full context)
Letter 22
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...he returns to his home, he has brought Shug with him. He calls to Harpo, Sofia, and Celie to prepare the house for their sick guest. (full context)
Letter 28
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia and Celie have begun working on a large quilt that Celie wants either to give... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Some unspecified time later, Sofia asks Celie why men eat as much as they do. Apparently Harpo has been eating... (full context)
Letter 29
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...one evening in her house, crying to himself. Harpo is upset that he cannot get Sofia to obey him—this seems to be the source of some of his recent anxieties. Celie... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...married Mr. ____ to look after his children; the two do not love each other. Sofia and Harpo, on the other hand, really do love one another, and Celie tells Harpo... (full context)
Letter 30
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie talks to Sofia, who is fixing the roof of her and Harpo's shack. Sofia tells Celie that she... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...cares only about his own pleasure, and Celie dreams about Shug when they're having sex. Sofia complains, to Celie, that Harpo too thinks only of himself when the two of them... (full context)
Letter 31
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia decides to take a few of her older children (these children are not named) to... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...of one of the children, who has wet herself. He then hands the child to Sofia (this is the last child Sofia will take with her), as she quickly says goodbye... (full context)
Letter 32
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia is gone for six months. In the meantime, Harpo does some "traveling" of his own,... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...be hidden enough by the fields and the woods behind them. Celie asks Harpo what Sofia will think of the jukejoint, but Harpo replies that Sofia is never coming back to... (full context)
Letter 36
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
One night at Harpo's bar, Sofia arrives with a new boyfriend, a boxer named Buster Broadnax. Mr. ____ asks Sofia where... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie realizes that Sofia has started a new life with Buster. Celie feels that her own "new" life began... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Harpo asks Buster if he can dance with Sofia, and Buster agrees. Harpo and Sofia dance across the floor at the center of the... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia, however, as Celie describes, does not deal in slaps, but rather punches Squeak in the... (full context)
Letter 37
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...amount of time later, Celie asks Squeak why Harpo is moping, and Squeak replies that Sofia has been thrown in jail, and Harpo is upset. Before she begins to tell the... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
The story goes as follows: Sofia, Buster, and Sofia's children were walking around downtown, when they ran into the (white) mayor... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Sofia said "hell no" to this offer; when the mayor asked her to repeat herself, and... (full context)
Letter 38
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
When Celie and Mr. ____ visit Sofia in jail some time later, they find that Sofia has been placed on laundry duty... (full context)
Letter 39
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...Celie, Shug, Odessa, Buster, and the rest of the family think of how to get Sofia out of prison sooner, since they worry she will die from her backbreaking labor before... (full context)
Letter 40
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...to her face to lighten her skin. They tell her to tell the warden that Sofia doesn't really mind her punishment, and that the only thing Sofia would hate would be... (full context)
Letter 43
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Some months later, Celie visits with Sofia while Sofia is watching the mayor's children on the mayor's property (which is near the... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
One of the mayor's children, a boy named Billy, tries to kick Sofia playfully, near where Sofia and Celie sit, but ends up kicking a rusty nail and... (full context)
Letter 44
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Sofia continues in her conversation with Celie by wondering how white people manage to do anything—Sofia... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Sofia demonstrated for Miss Millie how to drive, then Millie practiced on her own until she... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Sofia agreed eagerly to riding with Miss Millie to see her family. But Miss Millie first... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Millie drove Sofia to Celie's and Mr. ____'s home. Sofia's children had not seen her in so long,... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Sofia said that Odessa's husband, Jack, could drive Millie into town to get a mechanic, but... (full context)
Letter 55
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...maid looked, working for her white bosses. (Nettie does not know that this woman was Sofia.) (full context)
Letter 74
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia has been let off her twelve-year sentence, as maid to the mayor and his wife's... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie tells Harpo, too, that he is partially responsible for Sofia's service to the mayor's family, since Sofia never would have run away from him in... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...them to Memphis, in order to try to sing professionally. Eleanor Jane, the white girl Sofia cared for, comes over at this point and interrupts the meal. Eleanor Jane asks to... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
After returning from talking to Eleanor Jane, Sofia says she will look after Suzie Q, Squeak's youngest child, and the other children while... (full context)
Letter 78
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie goes back to Georgia, from Memphis, to visit Harpo and Sofia, who are having arguments, just like old times, although they appear to have settled into... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie reports to Harpo and Sofia that, in Memphis, Grady and Squeak have been smoking large amounts of marijuana together, which... (full context)
Letter 79
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie sees Mr. ____ at Sofia's mother's funeral. Mr. ____ has "found religion," and appears to want to mend his previous... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia tells Celie, later, about Mr. ____: how, after Celie left for Memphis, Mr. _____ seemed... (full context)
Letter 87
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia tells Celie and Albert stories about Eleanor Jane, who is now married to a man... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
This speech hurts Eleanor, but Sofia is glad to have spoken her mind, finally, to the family that once employed her.... (full context)
Letter 89
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie has hired Sofia to work in her shop, as a clerk, and Sofia has made amends with Eleanor.... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...Celie and others, yet he also sees how much love surrounds him—Shug's, Celie's now, and Sofia's, and the children's. Albert believes it is his religious duty, while on earth, to wonder... (full context)