Abuse of Women in Alice Walker's Color Purple

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The Abuse of Women in The Color Purple

Alice Walker's The Color Purple is an excellent account of the life of poor black women who must suffer not only social ostracism due to gender and skin color but also women who suffer greatly at the hands of black men. This is true in terms of infidelity, physical and verbal abuse, and sexual abuse.

The Color Purple revolves around the life of Celie, a young black woman growing up in the poverty-ridden South. In order to find herself and gain independence, Celie must deal with all manner of abuse, including misogyny, racism and poverty. When she is a young girl of just 14, Celie is sexually assaulted by a man she believes is her father. She has two children by her rapist, both of who he takes to a Reverend. When her mother dies, this man known as "Pa" marries Celie to a man she will only refer to as "Mr. ___."

Verbal and physical abuse is a constant in Celie's life. The man she married makes her raise his two children from another marriage, despises her, and physically and verbally abuses her. Celie is continually told she is skinny, ugly, and got nothing. When Shug first meets Celie she says, "You sure is ugly" (Walker 48). Celie is miserable with Mr. ___, a man who wanted to marry her sister Nettie. Nettie comes to see her sister at Mr. ____'s house and tells her before departing, "Don't let them run over you. You got to let them know who got the upper hand" (Walker 18).

Nettie and Celie both mature throughout the course of the novel, a maturation they keep abreast of through a series of letters exchanged with one another. Despite the constant abuse visited upon Celie, she matures in the novel and becomes an independent woman. She is able to do so partly...

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...le are abused (as many black men in the South were by whites), they typically turn to abusing others. This is exactly what we see in the novel and it is only the love, nurturing, and strength of the women that create some kind of socialization, bonding, and an atmosphere of love and security. Without them there would be no such environment, but rather one existing on hatred, abuse, and sexual assault. It is easy to see why Walker wrote this book to show that no matter how much unjust abuse one must endure, one can find a way to escape its confines and relearn how to feel and love. The color purple is what most of the women in this novel are at one point from physical violence of one sort or another, but when it comes to their hearts they remain bright red and full of love.


Walker, A. The Color Purple. New York: Pocket Books, 1996.

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