Women were oppressed historically as a result of historical injustices, and the female gender was seen as inferior. The societal assumptions only served to dehumanize people, and the situation was exacerbated for black women. Alice Walker is a black feminist who defends women in her book by depicting black feminists. Walker depicts the mistreatment of black women and how they are used to injustice in a male-dominated society. Women fight for democracy and deserve to be free and self-sufficient. Celie sees Shug as a noble figure, and the color purple represents women’s liberation. As such, feminism and the quest for freedom drive the actions of many women in the novel The Color Purple, and they eventually manage to break free from the patriarchy ideology.
Freedom and Feminism
The book of the color purple focuses on freedom and feminism. Evidently, the female characters in this book are trying hard to gain more freedom and stand up against the male-dominated society through advocating for equal rights. The theme of feminism is highly evident in the novel. Celie is one of the female characters who choose to become free from the traditional stereotypes. When the book begins, we are introduced to the oppression that she goes through from her father and her husband. When Celie was fourteen years, her father raped her several times. She says that her father “Start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it. But I don’t never git used to it. And now I feels sick every time I be the one to cook” (Walker 15). Celie’s husband bullies and beats her revealing ill-treated and oppressed. Evidently, domestic violence was significantly ingrained in the culture. Abusing women was a common aspect and men did this through controlling their wives (Lister 9). Celie hates living with her husband, and she wishes to disappear. In part the thinking of men is seen in this quote which states that “Well how you spect to make her mind? Wives is like children. You have to let ’em know who got the upper hand. Nothing can do that better than a good sound beating” (Walker 42). This vividly indicates the position of women in the society during the time. Celie accepts herself later in the novella and becomes free from the social dilemma of the male-centered society.
Women in this novel want to break away from the bondage of the society and stand out for themselves. This is expressed through Celie along with other female characters. Feminism is seen in Celie who chooses to walk away from the repression of the society and stand up for herself. The views and ideas of the female characters including Celie and Shug indicate the notion of freedom (Quyoom 905). Women aspire to have freedom in order to fight against the injustices from the men and break free from the constraining patriarchy. The women also want to have freedom of gaining education and becoming financially stable. Sofia, Shug, and Celie deconstruct the patriarchal ideology which depicts to be a hindrance and obstructs them from expressing themselves (Proudfit 12). This ideology makes women to be seen as servants who are expected to satisfy men, and they should work hard to please them.
In the entire novel, a reader see strong and independent women such as Shug and Sofia who challenge the patriarchy. They defy the societal gender role and do not allow their men to make decisions for them. For Sofia, she does not allow Harpo, her husband to beat her up. She instead fights back and hit him too. Sofia has the courage to stand up against the Mayor and castigate his acts of oppression that he does to his wife. She is bold and does not care the consequences that would arise for standing up for the rights of other women even if it is opposing highly ranked people in the society like the Mayor (Nguyen 13). Shug also comes home and leaves as she pleases and does not allow her husband to control her in any way. She owns her sexuality, and she is free minded. She also rejects the patriarchy norm as she understands that this only degrades women.
Some women such as Shug and Mary are economically liberated from dependence on the male provisions. The two are seen to have established their lives and are independent and successfully developed their career of being singers. Simply put, they enjoy their freedom. Shug says that “Man corrupt everything… He on your box of grits in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he is everywhere. Soon as you think he is everywhere, you think he is God” (Walker 179). Besides, women such as Sofia, Nettie, Celie, and Odessa succeed in resisting the gender injustices and come together to help one another. Quyoom states that “The major theme of the book is the struggle of black women to search for their identity in relation to sex, race and most importantly their own self” (Quyoom 894). They develop the bond of sisterhood which acts as a defense against the women oppression. Celie is also empowered by Shug and establishes herself as an independent entrepreneur.
Feminism has for a long time portrayed to have a significant influence on the liberation of women in the male-dominated societies. It mirrors the rise of women for independence and equality. The Color Purple reflects the idea of feminism and freedom of the female gender, and it represents the voices of women who choose to break away from the stereotypic oppressions. In order to realize their goal of freedom and equality, the female characters form a bond of sisterhood and resist the patriarchal ideology. They confront the male sexist oppressors, and they become independent.
Lister, Rachel. Alice Walker, The Color Purple. Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Nguyen, Catthuan L. A Joint Reading of The Color Purple And The Awakening: From Feminism To Womanism And The Significance Of Authentic Feminine Space. Scholarworks @ Georgia State University, 2010.
Proudfit, Charles L. “Celie’s Search for Identity: A Psychoanalytic Developmental Reading of Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple”.” Contemporary Literature, vol 32, no. 1, 1991, p. 12. University Of Wisconsin Press, doi: 10.2307/1208336.
Quyoom, Sundus. “Women Struggle: A Critical Analysis of Woman At Point Zero And The Color Purple.” People: International Journal of Social Sciences, vol 3, no. 1, 2017, pp. 890-807. Global Research & Development Services, doi:10.20319/pijss.2017.s31.890907.
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Harcourt. 1982.