The Color Purple

The Color Purple

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Color Purple, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The first words written by Celie, the novel's protagonist, are "Dear God," and the novel ends with a letter, the salutation of which reads, "Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear God." This encapsulates The Color Purple's relationship to religion and spirituality: a transition from a belief in a single God, an old white man in a long beard, to a God that exists all around…

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The novel takes place in two distinct settings—rural Georgia and a remote African village—both suffused with problems of race and racism. Celie believes herself to be ugly in part because of her very dark skin. Sofia, after fighting back against the genteel racism of the mayor and his wife, ends up serving as maid to that family, and as surrogate mother to Eleanor, who does not initially recognize the sacrifices Sofia has…

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The novel is also an extended meditation on the nature of men, women, and their expected gender roles. In the beginning, Celie is expected to serve her abusive father, and, later, her husband Mr. _____, and Nettie, not wanting to do either, runs away. But Nettie sacrifices the job generally reserved for women—motherhood—in order to educate herself and work for Samuel and Corrine during their missionary labors in Africa. Celie, meanwhile, has…

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Violence and suffering in The Color Purple are typically depicted as part of a greater cycle of tragedy taking place both on the family level and on a broader social scale. Celie is raped by her stepfather and beaten for many years by her husband, only to have Shug Avery intervene on her behalf. Sofia is nearly beaten to death by white police officers after pushing a white family; she nearly dies in prison…

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The novel is, ultimately, a journey of self-discovery for Celie, and for other characters. Celie begins the novel as a passive, quiet young girl, perplexed by her own pregnancy, by her rape at the hands of Pa, and her ill-treatment by Mr. _____. Slowly, after meeting Shug and seeing her sister run away, Celie develops practical skills: she is a hard worker in the fields, she learns how to manage a house…

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