The Color Purple

The Color Purple

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God Symbol Icon
God and Spirituality is a theme of the novel, but God, as discussed primarily by Celie and Shug, functions as a symbol for a far greater, and more diffuse, model of religious experience. At first, Celie believes that God and Jesus are white men. But Shug helps Celie to realize that this, itself, is a symbolic conception of God, one that has been created to suit dominant white interests. Shug says that God can be anything—a feeling of joy or connection with another person, or with nature—and Celie eventually comes to realize that God (whom she addressed in letters for a large part of the novel) is not so much a person or thing as a means toward happiness and fulfillment. It is revealed, coincidentally, that Nettie has developed a similar conception of the divine during her time with the Olinka.
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God Symbol Timeline in The Color Purple

The timeline below shows where the symbol God appears in The Color Purple. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Letter 1
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...main character, who is later revealed to be named Celie, writes a first letter to God, saying that she is fourteen, and that she wonders what is happening to her body.... (full context)
Letter 2
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Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
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...as she is dying, wonders who the father is, and asks Celie. Celie replies that God is the father of the child. Celie's father mourns his wife's passing at her bedside. (full context)
Letter 3
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
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Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...designs on her younger sister, Nettie. Celie vows to protect her sister from harm, "with God's help." (full context)
Letter 5
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...so she changes her mind and tells Nettie to wed Mr. ____ Celie reveals to God that she no longer gets her period, meaning she can no longer become pregnant. (full context)
Letter 11
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
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Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
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...reaches the house of the Reverend and Corrine. But, Celie says, in this letter to God, that Nettie never does write. (full context)
Letter 12
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...that she knows better how to deal with him. She says, in her letter to God, that she will continue to appease Mr. ____, and to give in to his demands,... (full context)
Letter 22
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...services, and the preacher delivers a sermon chastising a nameless woman who has strayed from God. Shug is the implied subject of this fiery sermon. (full context)
Letter 28
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...wishes to give it to Shug only if it turns out really beautifully. Celie tells God, in the letter, that she now feels closer both to Sofia and to Shug. (full context)
Letter 35
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...mind when Shug sleeps with Mr. ____. But Celie then admits, in the letter to God, that when she hears Shug and Mr. ____ having sex, she touches herself quietly, in... (full context)
Letter 55
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...reports that Samuel and Corrine believe Olivia and Adam have been sent to them by God. Only Nettie knows that Celie is their real mother—but Nettie derives comfort in knowing that... (full context)
Letter 61
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...of life and of earth's abundance: therefore, he goes on, does it not resemble a God? Nettie finds this ceremony, and her entrance into the village, to be a thing of... (full context)
Letter 67
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...offered to take in Adam and Olivia. Samuel told Corrine, simply, that the children were God's gift to them. Samuel never explained to Corrine the circumstances of the children's origin. Nettie... (full context)
Letter 68
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Celie writes a brief letter to God, in response to Nettie's information, saying she cannot believe that her children were not born... (full context)
Letter 73
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Celie tells Shug that she no longer writes to God—she writes to Nettie. This letter is addressed to Nettie. Celie says that God would never... (full context)
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Celie and Shug have a discussion about religion, after Celie decides to stop writing to God. Shug says that, just because she (Shug) has behaved immorally in her life, she is... (full context)
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Shug asks Celie what her God looks like, and Celie replies that her God is a white man. Shug says this... (full context)
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Shug goes on to say that God is inside her and all around, and that she, when younger, went from believing that... (full context)
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Celie continues, in the letter, by saying to Nettie that she is trying to find God outside of man—to find God in nature, in rocks and trees and grass. But this... (full context)
Letter 86
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...and Samuel worry what is to become of the Olinkans, but they try to find God everywhere—in nature, in the trees, as a way of coping with the horrors they see... (full context)
Letter 89
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...believes it is his religious duty, while on earth, to wonder at the marvels of God's creation, to appreciate the beauty that surrounds him. (full context)
Letter 90
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Celie addresses this final letter to "God," but this time it is a new God—one of the trees, of the land she... (full context)