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 and raise children, and she meets other inspiring women, including Sofia, who has always had to fight the men in her life. Further, she discovers her own sexuality and capacity to love through her developing romance with Shug. Eventually, Celie discovers that her sister Nettie has been writing to her all along, and this, coupled with Shug's support, allows Celie to confront Mr. _____, to move to Memphis with Shug, to begin her own pants company, and, eventually, to make enough money to be independent. Celie's luck begins to change: she inherits her biological father's estate, allowing her greater financial freedom, and she manages to repair her relationship with Mr. _____ (he. gives her a purple frog as a symbol of his recognition of his earlier bad behavior), and create a kind of family with Mr. _____ Shug, Harpo, Sofia, Squeak, Nettie, and her own children.
Nettie's arc is also one of self-discovery. Nettie received more years of schooling than did Celie, and Nettie has seen the world, working as a missionary in Africa, and eventually marrying a kind and intelligent man. But Nettie also realizes that she can balance her independence, and her desire to work, with a loving married life that also includes two stepchildren—Celie's children, Olivia and Adam. Indeed, it is the arrival of this extended family on Celie's land at the end of the novel that signals the last stage in both Celie's and Nettie's journey of self-discovery. The sisters have found themselves, and now, as the novel closes, they have found each other.
Self-Discovery Quotes in The Color Purple
I keep hoping he fine somebody to marry. I see him looking at my little sister. She scared. But I say I'll take care of you. With God help.
I lay there thinking bout Nettie while he [Mr. _____] on top of me, wonder if she safe. And then I think bout Shug Avery. I know what he doing to me he done to Shug Avery and maybe she like it. I put my arm around him.
I can't remember being the first one in my own dress. Now to have one made just for me. I try to tell Kate what it mean. I git hot in the face and stutter.
Lord, I want to go [to see Shug Avery] so bad. Not to dance. Not to drink. Not to play card. Not even to hear Shug Avery sing. I just be thankful to lay eyes on her.
What that song? I ast. Sound low down dirty to me. Like what the preacher tell you its sin to hear. Not to mention sing.
She hum a little more. Something come to me, she say. Something I made up. Something you help scratch out my head.
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.
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.
She singing all over the country these days. Everybody know her name. She know everybody, too. Know Sophie Tucker, know Duke Ellington, know folks I ain't never heard of. And money. She make so much money she don't know what to do with it.
But God, I miss you, Celie. I think about the time you laid yourself down for me. I love you with all my heart.
Did I mention my first sight of the African coast? Something struck in me, in my soul, Celie, like a large bell, and I just vibrated. Corrine and Samuel felt the same. And we kneeled down right on deck and gave thanks to God for letting us see the land for which our mothers and fathers cried—and lived and died—to see again.
Corrine said to me this morning, Nettie, to stop any kind of confusion in the minds of these people, I think we should call one another brother and sister, all the time.
Don't cry. Don't cry, I said. My sister was glad to see Olivia with you. Glad to see her alive. She thought both her children were dead.
She say, My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other pope. But one day . . it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. It sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh.
Shug! I say.
You may have guessed that I loved him all along; but I did not know it. oh, I loved him as a brother . . . but Celie, I love him bodily, as a man! I love his walk, his size, his shape, his smell, the kinkiness of his hair.
Then she took some cedar sticks out of her bag and lit them and gave one of them to me. Us started at the very top of the house . . . and us smoked it all the way down to the basement, chasing out all the evil and making a place for good.
But guess what else . . . When the missionaries got to the part bout Adam and Eve being naked, the Olinka peoples nearly bust out laughing . . . They tried to explain . . . that it was they who put Adam and Eve out of the village because they was naked. Their word for naked is white. But since they are covered by color they are not naked.
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.