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Comment on the growth of Celie's character throughout The Color Purple.

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Introduction

Comment on the growth of Celie's character throughout The Color Purple The Color Purple is a Bildungsroman novel which charts the growth of protagonist Celie through letters; primarily from her to God, but later to her sister Nettie. Its epistolary nature means the narration of The Color Purple is frank and confessional and Celie's development is shown from her perspective. Walker takes her protagonist on a journey towards self-actualization. The idea of self-actualization originates from Dr. Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs. Maslow pioneered the concept that human beings are motivated by unsatisfied needs. We have basic needs which must be satisfied before we can fulfill the higher needs. His hierarchy begins at the fundamental physiological necessities for survival such as food and shelter. It then moves to the need for safety in a stable and predictable environment. Next is the need for love and social acceptance, fulfilled by affection and intimacy from others. Then the need for self-esteem, which include confidence in oneself and respect from others. Finally, Maslow argues, an individual needs to reach self-actualization, which is defined as "discovering and fulfilling ones potential". Celie's growth as a character very much parallels this basic hierarchy. The novel opens with an innocent description of Celie's rape by the man she believes to be her father. Although addressing God, Celie describes him grabbing hold of her "titties". ...read more.

Middle

Sofia refuses to play the role of submissive wife which society attempts to force upon her, and Harpo cannot overcome his embarrassment that their relationship does not cohere to the conventional model of marriage he sees around him. The next stage in the hierarchy of human needs, safety within a stable environment, is provided for Celie when Mr ____'s mistress Shug Avery moves into their house. The town is disgusted at Mr ____'s behaviour, but Celie is unconcerned. She feels no affection for Mr ____ and has long been fascinated by the idea of meeting Shug. Despite Shug's original hostility they become friends. With Shug there Mr ____ no longer beats Celie or has sex with her, and she settles into their unconventional family life happily, relishing being around the captivating Shug and dreading the day she will leave and Mr ____ will revert to his original behaviour. She confides her fears with Shug, telling her "He beat me when you not here" and Shug promises "I won't leave...until I know Albert won't even think about beating you". Shug and Celie grow increasingly closer, and their relationship offers Celie love and affection she has never before received. Shug forces Celie to question ideas she has previously accepted blindly, and through this Celie lbegins to form an identity for herself. They discuss sex, which Celie admits she has never enjoyed. ...read more.

Conclusion

From the moment she leaves Mr ____ Celie's future begins to slot into place. She discovers that her "Pa" was in fact her stepfather. When he dies she inherits the large house and goods store which was owned by her real father. Nettie returns with the children Celie's Pa gave away many years earlier, and they all live together in Celie's house. It is easy to criticize the ease with which Walker concludes the novel, ensuring that Celie's life has a somewhat unlikely "happy ending". But if the reader approaches the novel as an allegory for female empowerment then the ending is far more satisfactory. The men within the novel represent different social pressures placed upon woman by conventional ideas and stereotypes. Pa is the idea that all women are sexual objects to be used by men. Mr ____ is the insistence that a wife should be submissive and obedient to her husband. Harpo is the difficulty men have with overruling social conventions and inventing their own rules to life. The sudden improvement in her life doesn't happen until she achieves self-actualization, and so her inheritance and her pant making business can be seen as the power women will discover once they become empowered. Celie's growth would not happen within the influence of the women she meets, and their close friendships allow them all to grow and develop. This sisterhood represents the necessity for women to be strong and to help each other if they wish to achieve anything. Kate Egan ...read more.

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