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The Color Purple Essay

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The Color Purple by Alice Walker is set during the 1930's. During this time period in history, mens' status in society was undeniably higher than that of a womans'. The main characters' role in society, her status, and how it affects the theme of the story can all be seen in the novel. She endures years of abuse by both her husband and stepfather. However, overtime, she overcomes her hardships and defends herself. Celie, like many others, finally takes a stand for what she believes in.
Being the main character in this novel, Celie's role in society is well-developed. Since Celie is a black housewife, she stays at home to care for her husbands' children. Although she works the same amount as her husband, she is treated unfairly simply because she is of the opposite sex. Celie is treated like an indentured servant or a slave, only being used for sexual pleasure by both her stepfather and her husband. Her own husband, Albert, only marries her so she can work for him and assist him with caring for his children. He doesn't view her as a lover, simply as a maid. This shows men's attitude towards women and how they simply use them to satisfy themselves or help them around the house. Since Celie could not work, she remained a housewife. Eventually, she made her hobby of sewing into a business and began making pants for family members and friends but could never get a real career. Men do not support women having jobs but Nettie, Celie's sister, mentions how “ The world is changing.. It is no longer a world just for boys and men.”(Walker 132). This shows how, overtime, society could change immensely and women began having greater roles in society.
Celie's husband treats her terribly and doesn't appreciate whtat she does for him. He reveals to her how he feels by saying “Nothing up North for nobody like you... But what you got? You ugly. You skinny. You shape funny. You too scared to open your mouth to people... And nobody crazy or backward enough to want to marry you, either.” (Walker 205). Men can abuse women without consequences and it's completely normal. Even towards their own wives, men can show such hatred and disrespect. After being attacked by the mayor for replying “hell no” and refusing to be his wife's maid, Sofia, Celie's daughter-in-law, knocks him down. Not only is she placed in jail, but she also is beaten nearly to death beforehand. After being sentenced for twelve years, the mayor and his wife force her to be their maid instead. Since they are rich white people, they believe it is a grand honor to be a white lady's maid. This demonstrates how unfair society is towards women, especially blacks. Men can abuse women anytime, even if the woman has a high status in society, but the moment a woman lays a finger on anyone, it has severe consequences.
Men don't appreciate women and what they do for them. Albert is speaking to his own son, giving him his reasoning for beating his wife. Harpo, Albert's son, does not want to hit his wife and doesn't see a purpose in doing so, but his father encourages him that it is the only way women will listen to them.“Harpo ast his daddy why he beat me. Mr. say, cause' she my wife. Plus, she stubborn. All women good for.” (Walker 235). Even if women help them greatly around the house and treat men well, men don't appreciate their wives good deeds. Also in the novel, Celie speaks to Shug Avery. Shug, who is her husbands' lover, helps her through so much and encourages her to stand up for herself against him. Celie informs Shug that “He ain't beat me much since you made him quit, I say. Just a slap now and then when he ain't got nothing else to do.” (Walker 106). Albert enjoys beating Celie for no reason whatsoever, simply because he thinks she needs it or because he has to beat her because they're married. Also, Nettie is writing her a letter mentioning how “There is a way that the men speak to women that reminds me too much of Pa. They listen just long enough to issue instructions.”(Walker 283). Men would simply order women around and tell them what to do and women had no say in society.
Celie's position in society greatly contributes to the story's theme. Walker emphasizes that one's ability to express their thoughts and defend themselves is extremely important. By simply standing up for themselves, women can develop better self-esteem and self-awareness. Her own stepfather, who she thought was her father at the time, sexually abuses her. He repeatedly tells her to “Shut up and git used to it” (Walker 11) and makes her promise the only person she ever tells is God himself. After this, Celie begins writing letters to God to express her thoughts. After being forced to marry Albert, she also endures physical abuse from her own husband.
Celie has no say in their relationship nor is she pleased with her life. Until she meets Shug Avery, she feels as if she's nobody. Shug immensely helps Celie defend herself and take control in her relationship with Albert. Throughout most of the story, she remains quiet about the abuse, both verbal and physical. However, at the climax, she finally defends herself and stands up to her husband. She expresses her feelings about his comments against her by saying “I'm pore, I'm black. I may be ugly and can't cook, a voice to everything listening. But I'm here.” (Walker 207). In the beginning of the novel, Celie is simply an object of abuse but overtime, her character transforms into a strong, independent woman. By the end of the story, Celie is completely able to forgive Albert for the years of abuse he put her through and finally sees that he has changed for the better. Albert was struggling with stress and anger through most of his life and unfortunately, takes it out on Celie. Shug then encourages Celie to leave her husband and go to Tenessee with her. After their return, Albert, who is clearly affected by her actions, decides to change and reasses his life. He proves this by sending Celie all of the letters her sister had written to her which he had hidden over the years.
In conclusion, this novel strongly depicts the status of women during the early 1900's. Since then, the way women are viewed in society has greatly transformed. Celie, along with many other brave and courageous women, took a stand against the abuse and injustice they had been enduring for centuries before. They encouraged women to earn more rights and changed the way women are viewed even today. Women's status as well as abuse are major issues in this novel that weren't debateable or considered to be harmful or discriminatory. How would life be different if women didn't have the freedoms they do nowadays?

Works Cited
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Pocket Books, 1982. Print.

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