'The Color Purple' and the Importance of Sisterhood

I first read The Color Purple on a whim during a high school spring break, and since my first reading, this book has been one of my favorites, if not absolute favorite, book of all time. I had purchased the book at a used bookstore for $2 quite a few months prior, but once I finally opened the worn, slightly tattered cover, I was astounded with what I found.The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, a girl of just fourteen, who for her whole life has in poverty, with no education, and with an abusive father who has left her pregnant twice and then given her children away without her consent. Her only solace from her misery is her younger sister Nettie, who dreams of overcoming her circumstances and becoming a schoolteacher. When her father gives her away to a neighboring man—referred to only as “Mr.”—Celie and her sister are separated, and she is left to live a life of hard labor and physical, emotional, and sexual abuse all alone.

Eventually, Celie’s life begins to change with the help of other women who gradually enter her life. These women—her husband’s former mistress Shug Avery, her stepson Harpo’s wife Sofia, and Harpo’s mistress Squeak—come into this lonely, broken woman’s life and begin to change it for the better. Through her relationships with these women, Celie learns that despite what she had been told her whole life, she is not worthless, she is not stupid, she is not ugly. She is powerful, loved, and worthy of happiness.​For myself and most others who love this book, the love between women who have so much reason to dislike each other—I for example, Celie, in a moment of weakness, advised Harpo to beat Sofia because she wouldn’t obey him, Celie married Shug’s old flame, and Squeak became Harpo’s mistress when Sofia left him—is what prompts our love. These women choose to put aside any negative feelings they may have had for each other and band together to improve one desperate woman’s life and provide unconditional support for each other. With their help, Celie finds the strength to leave her husband for good and finally live the life she has always dreamed of—a life free of men controlling her, abusing her, and limiting and denying her potential.

In a world where women are frequently pitted against each other, these bonds of sisterhood are inspiring and set a precedent that should be met far more often than it is. Women face enough negativity from those around them, and feelings of hatred and competition between each other is another factor working against women that just does not need to exist. The Color Purple features graphic and horrible abuse, yet in its resolution and termination of this abuse, shows the true strength of women individually, and the even greater strength of women together.

 

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