Symbolic Meaning of Colors in Color Purple by Alice Walker
Symbolic Meaning of Colors in Connection to the Motif of Violence Against Women in Color Purple by Alice Walker
Alice Walker is one of the most outstanding and at the same time, controversial female writers of the twentieth century. The main themes and motifs of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Color Purple” take roots in her childhood and her worldview. Alice walker has been fighting for women’s rights and against patriarchal prejudice all her life. This research paper aims to make a point of motifs and themes of violence against women in “Color Purple” in connection to the symbolic meaning of colors. The concept of color refers to the concept of God and so to the emotional change in terms of women’s perception of possibility of gender equality.
To begin with, the personality of the author plays significant role in analyzing the literature piece. According to Barbara Kramer’s research on the author’s life, Alice grew in a positive atmosphere with loving parents, despite poverty in the family. Her mother was a strong, self-confident woman serving an example of woman’s behavior for Alice.
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On the opposite of the main character Celie in “Color Purple”, Alice Walker was an educated woman and an activist in the area of women’s revival. However, one event changed her life: her elder brother accidently shot her, therefore she lost one eye and her face was scarred, so she was ashamed of herself. This gave rise to her aloofness and simultaneously her progress in education and writing poetry, because she isolated herself from friends to spend time reading and studying. Although the scar was removed, emotional trace stayed with her. As she later admitted, her blindness helped her see essential inner things in different relationships.
Alice Walker’s novel “Color Purple” is an autobiographical one, but it irrefutably reveals the position of the author in the terms of African-American female abuse by men. The world of African Americans is demonstrated as a patriarchal one with the autocracy of men as they thought of themselves. Color Purple is an epistolary story, written in the form of Cilies’ – the major characters’ letters to God. Her story begins when she is a fourteen-year-old uneducated girl suffering from Alfonso’s, her father’s violence and rape: she is inpregnant by him with a second child, both of which are thought to be killed by Alfonso.
Cilie has a sister Nettie, who is considered to be prettier and is educated. Cilie is forced to get married to Mr ___ by her father, so the subject of the violence moves on. The further plot progress reveals Celie’s metamorphosis from a quiet slave into the woman with voice. The climax of this transformation is seen in the scene of her reaction on Mr ___ abuses after she is influenced by Shug, Mr ___ lover. These sound symbols of silence and voice are closely intertwined with the concepts of colors and God. Silence is white in the novel as the God in the beginning is an old white man with a long white beard in Celie’s consciousness.
Such a patriarchal view of God reflects her dependant position towards men and her irresponsibility of her own life. She asks for help from this God, but sooner she finds support in Shug and Nettie. At this stage white colors of silence absorb new hints of yellow, maroon, navy blue, rouge, red and eventually, purple. Cilie prefers calm colors to challenging ones. Such a choice means changes in her consciousness towards her perception of life and direct abuse.
Celie’s colors are passive, so they need support of stronger colors, which she finds in the face of Shug. She first appears in rouge dress, which is challenging, and means not only Shugs possibility to resist Mr ____’s beating her, but reflects her way of life, which is not the prudent one. However, Shug plays the role of Celie’s mother, from whom Celie learns a lot. The significant scene to exemplify their interaction as the concepts appears in conversation about God. This conversation stands for a metaphoric expression of the main idea of the whole book. Shug suggests a different approach to the idea of God, questioning why he must be a white old man, but not a purple color without any gender, as the purple is rare in nature.
To continue with, Claudia Durst suggests that men are regarded to be rulers and head of the family hence women ought to submit themselves to everything that is said by men. She also talks about the power of women in the society and how they can flee from men’s bondage into making reasonable decisions. According to Claudia, her evaluation on The Color Purple is that women are viewed to be weak and not able to make valuable decisions in the society. The purple color in the novel becomes a symbol of women’s realizing their opportunity to demonstrate the power and reveal their voice.
On the opposite to the variety of polychrome palette of purple, red, blue and yellow, black color is present in each scene throughout the novel. Not only full colors does it oppose, but contrasts white perception of God at the beginning. Black is the color of the problem in the novel raised by the author on the topic of racism, which evokes many controversies. According to Rachel Lister, many people viewed the book as a presentation of the negativities of black men and in some part promoting lesbianism. Her book discusses the extent to which many people have disputed the book on the basis that The Color Purple is more of a racist work.
Although, Color Purple raise controversial questions on the topic of racism, one may note that the symbol of black color stands for a different idea, which is the problem of violence of men against women not only within the African-American community, but in general. The specific community serves as a model for treating women in the world, but not only black women by black men. The essential point here is that the problem of violence does not exist within one specific society. That is why white and black colors symbolically move to the far-distance view giving way to the polychrome colors that express more general ideas.
Another important symbol is Celie’s children, thought to be killed, but found with Nettie’s arrival. They appear in the context of bright colors, signaling the hope for better life in future and the change of violent patriarchal world into the world of equality for further generations. Besides, the white color absorbs different hints in the chapters, where Mr ___ paints the interior of their house “fresh and white”.
Color white at this point is not the color of old God with white-grey beard, as it was at the beginning of the novel. Mr ___’s white symbolizes the new beginning for Celie and her surrounding. In addition, it signals Mr ___’s transformation from a black violent autocratic man who beats his wife to a man who is ready to accept the power of woman’s voice. The return to the white color in the end represents the rebirth and reunion for the whole family.
On one hand, the title of the novel Color Purple has a direct meaning which brings us to the letter where Celie describes her religious awakening. She finds out that she had never noticed the wonders of God, such as color purple. From this point, her perception of God is becoming less and less personalized. The concept of God becomes the idea of the power inside her and the power of communication. Purple is a stronger color than white or yellow, because it combines both feminine and masculine principles – purple is the result of mixing red and blue. Although purple is present in the title of the novel, the main color of the novel is white. It shows the cyclical nature of emotional rebirth and the entire life. The novel begins with the white color and ends with the same one.
However, the “first white” and the “last white” embody different meanings. The first white was the color of a lost uneducated fourteen-year-old girl, who is looking for support in abstract higher forces. The last white color is the color of the new beginning for a woman who found support in communication and experience. This is the color of growing self-confidence and openness to better life.
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