Day 13  October 8, 2002


1. Names. Study questions for exam. Last day on Color Purple Thursday, on break Tuesday, exam the next Thursday. D responses for Thursday.


2. In the News: Bush speaks in Cincinnati.


3. On with Color Purple.  Other issues that come up: how women resist, how they become empowered.

From Sarah’s site,

A. Walker as “Womanist”:

Thirty-five years younger than Welty and nineteen years younger than O’Connor, Walker is more radical in her politics, which one might expect from a writer who fought on the front lines in the Civil Rights wars. "In Search of My Mother's Garden," an intriguing book of essays by Walker, she calls herself a "womanist." A womanist is a black woman who experiences the "twin afflictions" of racism and sexism.”

Note that  Walker’s been criticized for her male characters, who aren’t exactly idealized . . . some noticed this, Sam and others. Commments?

“In the title essay, Walker says that there are three types of black women. You will find her categories useful in understanding the female characters in Color Purple :

1. the physically and psychologically abused black woman

2. the exceptional black woman torn by "contrary instincts"

3. the new black woman who can create herself out the legacy of her maternal ancestors”

Which of these is which in CP? Celie is the first, Shug the second, right? And then the question is whether Celie can become the third. . . . Where does Nettie fit into this scheme? Is she another potential #3? What about her story, and all that Africa stuff?

Here is a link concerning Nettie's insight.  I'm sorry to say I didn't know

that before.  I always thought back to "Roots" and remembered slave traders

trapping Africans, I didn't know they were sometimes sold by their own

people for useful items.

B. Lesbianism, and to what extent Celie is a “real” lesbian and to what extent she’s just desperate for love and human connection. What do you think? What is it, really, that she gains from her affair with Shug? Dave wrote about this . . .

C. The law and the justice system. Sophia’s experience, especially, in which race is a crucial factor. She gets in trouble mainly because she refuses to be a “good,” subservient black woman, doesn’t she? This issue of justice is ongoing. What about their maneuvers to get her out of jail? 92 ff. Sofia, 103: “White folks is a miracle of affliction.”

D. Women and education and how to respond to oppression. At first Celie’s response is not just passivity, but acceptance of her ignorance and powerlessness. Being a tree: trees are not just hard, they’re immobile and, well, dumb, right? 122-123 Nettie to Celie on God and keeping quiet and ignorance and learning. 124: “There are colored people in the world who want us to know!” Seeing New York City, and Harlem, where black people have money and property.

What’s Celie’s first response to the letters? 134: “I think I feel better if I kill him.” Shug gets her to sewing: “A needle instead of a razor in my hand.”

160 the real story of Pa and the family. “You must be sleep,” she writes to God.

Next one she writes to Nettie. And that leads into the next issue:

E. Religion. 142 Olinka and roofleaf and their religion. That crucial passage 175-179, discussion with Shug. About God as old white guy vs. God as everywhere. The color purple. Duane Friesen’s reading of that passage, 171-172, maybe a way of softening Walker’s own view a bit?

What about religion as an issue in modern America? Even among those who claim to be Christians there’s a very wide range of beliefs and practices and priorities and politics. George Bush claimed during his campaign that Jesus Christ was his favorite political philosopher, though he has not invoked Jesus much in the last year or so . . .

What role does religion play in this book? What about “Pa’s” first statement/command to Celie? For him God is just another means of control, a means of maintaining his dominance and covering up his crimes and sins. 

So what is God worried about? Women getting jobs and putting their children in day care? Gays and lesbians and the right to pray to Jesus out loud in school? Killing the enemies of America anywhere in the world?

Religion in Color Purple.

“The Color Purple was published in 1982.  It received much attention and praise and was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award that year.  Walker described The Color Purple in the following ways:

The Color Purple is "a theological work examining the journey from the religious back to the spiritual."

[The Color Purple] "is the pagan transformation of God from patriarchal male supremacist into trees, stars, wind and everything else. . .."

[The Color Purple's] intent [is] to explore the difficult path of someone who starts out in life already a spiritual captive, but who, through her own courage and the help of others, breaks free into the realization that she, like Nature itself, is a radiant expression of the heretofore perceived as quite distant Divine."

Next time: be sure to pay close attention to the scenes where Shug and Celie talk about leaving, especially the encounters between Celie and Mr. ____. And to the further encounters they have in the last part of the book.

And think about a key issue that we’ll be talking more about: where do we locate responsibility? If people have tough lives, how much do we expect them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, how much do they need help from “outside,” formal or informal? The set of questions at the AAWN website, fascinating in what they suggest.

Web Links from last time

Angel Lombardo

The link I found was under “woman haters”  This man tries to explain to other men how to understand a woman.  Yeah, he has it all figured out.  It is like the blind leading the blind. 

Brad Immel

One website I found was at  It is a biography of Alice Walker. 

Adam Drake   this site is about the future of black america and how it's going to get a lot shorter if the judicial system doesn't do something about the racial effect on incarceration. 

Lisa Langood

I found a web site that lists some horrifying statistics on family violence at  What has changed is how these issues are dealt with.  There are now laws against discrimination against someone’s race, gender, or religion.  Child abusers and wife beaters can be put in jail.  . . . I found various groups for incest survivors on the Internet.  V.O.I.C.E.S. in Action, found at is one such group.  The organization reports on what is being done to protect children, and allows incest survivors to share their stories.  She could also find help to deal with domestic violence.  The Family Violence Prevention Fund at provides a lot of info dealing with this issue. 

Jill Kerlin

This is a useful resource when reading the book.  It gives character analyses and overviews of the letters:  This website has no real content, but does have some interesting questions to think about:  This website gives statistics on domestic violence:  The book focuses on the abuse of African Americans, but I was interested to discover that domestic violence occurs equally among African American and Caucasian women. 

Erika Keegan

Student Responses

At some points in this book I found myself getting a little annoyed.  This story seems to be about black men that are just as bad as the white people that enslaved them. Celie was treated so awfully, she was a prisoner in her own life. The details and the words that are used in this book are disgusting to me.  I guess they add to the direction the author wanted the story to go.  This story leaves me with a sick feeling in my stomach.  Its hard for me to think that anyone's life is like this, but I am sure that there are many people with similar stories out there...both black and white.

I find it interesting that Celie has become a product of her environment.  She has had such a bad experience with the men in her life.  Most children would tend to see God as a father figure, but for Celie that is far from what she is able to see.  Her father mistreated, abused and raped her.  She is unable to see God in the male aspect that is most commonly used.  She also has tendencies towards homosexuality.  This stems from the abuse that she has expected from men.

Domestic violence is a cycle.  Celie had become part of the cycle in so many ways.  When Harpo had expressed problems with Sophia, she had told him to beat her.  Celie knew no other way- she had always been beaten herself.  But in this story, Celie finds help to break out of the cycle.  She finds hope in Shug and the revival of her sister Nettie.  This story takes place in a time when there was not much support for women and individuals in domestic violence situations.  In fact it was usually hush, hush...especially when sexual abuse was involved.  Now there are all sorts of support groups.  All one needs to do is search in the internet. This is an example of just one web page that brings together any number of support groups.

Becky Yoder



The Color Purple is a very interesting book to say the least.  The language

can be quite vulgar at times and it's a very descriptive book, if you know

what I mean.


I feel badly for Celie.  She seems at such a loss in the world.  I think

that part of the reason why she lets Shug stay in the house, even though

she's just the mistress is because Shug gives her the attention that she

needs.  All her husband wants is a piece.  That's all she's good for in his

eyes, to cook and clean and serve his needs.  Shug actually talks to Celie

like she matters.  What I can't figure out is why Shug started the sex thing

with Celie.  She has all the attention that she needs.  I just really don't

understand that part.


I also feel badly for Celie because she thought her sister was dead, and

then she learns that Nettie is actually alive and doing quite well in

Africa.  I could be wrong but isn't it a legal offense now to deny somebody

their mail?  It probably wasn't like that during this time period but still

it's definitely not right.  I think that Mr. _____ was punishing Nettie as

much as he was punishing Celie.  I think he was more just taking out his

frustration and anger on Celie.  In Celie's defense, I can understand was

she was so mad about this that she kept saying she just wanted to kill him. 

Her sister meant everything to her and she really didn't have anybody to

talk to for the longest time and he was denying her that all along.


For the website...I wasn't really sure what exactly would go along with this

topic, so I tried to find a website about the "Olinka dialect" which is

mentioned in one of Nettie's letters, page 127, beacuse I had never heard of

it and wanted to find out more.  Typing it in on google led me to this

webpage that is actually about the author, alice walker, and it talks about

where she got the material about Africa.


-Sarah Parker


i find this book to be interesting, and a bit on the disturbing style.  But its the kind of disturbing that really makes one think, and that's a good thing. 

I'd like to respond to the religious ideas found in the second third of the book.  First of all, the Jesus with hair as lamb's wool comment.  I have personally long been of the opinion that Jesus was not a white guy with a mullet as he was born in egypt, if nothing else.  But to read nettie's letter with the lamb's wool reference was very intriguing as i had never heard or read that before.  i even got out my bible and checked the concordance, but could not find the verse.  i assume that it is in a different translation, probably one that isn't very popular because it's considered "radical" or something.  At any rate, regardless of whether the reference is accurate or not, I think it serves as a reminder that what we are indoctrinated with -- even in church -- isn't always accurate. 

The other portion on religion that i'd like to touch on is on pages 199-204.  this was the last chapter i read.  Honestly, I found the discussion of who God is and what God is fascinating.  just as with Jesus, the church, society, someone or something, has instilled in us a certain picture or idea of what God is and what he looks like.  i think Shug is right on when she speaks of not being able to relate to the God that the church "gave" her.  To truly grasp what God is/was, Shug had to make God personal.  Though I don't know that Shug's statement of not being able to find God in church is true, some of her other thoughts resonated well with me. 

I also appreciated her comments on God creating and wanting us to notice the little things in life.  And they had a lot less to take for granted than I do.  i was a good reminder....perhaps alice walker should have been a theologian. 

I'd also like to comment briefly on the opening discussion from class last thursday.  this has little to do with the readings, more with my own thoughts and conversations.  i have long been a christian who believes that God is too big to fit just one religion.  however, at that same time, i think of those, particularly in sudan, where to be a christian is to be persecuted and even killed for your beliefs.  and i think, if there's nothing more to christianity than any other religion, than why not convert to islam and save yourself some pain? i am very conflicted on this issue because i can see both sides very clearly.  on the one hand, i can see the point tim made in class (about being raised in a certain country typically impacts one's religion), and have used that point in many discussions myself.  however, i'd like to think that those who are willing to die for their religious beliefs are not dying in vain.  i guess i'd like to say thanks for the discussion.  though i have thought many times on the issue before, it's always good to hear other's opinions on the subject. 

my website is -erin

-Erin Miller



 I am really enjoying this book.  I found it an interesting change in this section that a religious standpoint was brought in.  It seemed to be two different extremes going from Celie's chapters to Nettie's.  It made me feel that even though there is evil in the world it is also counteracted with good. 

Corrine surprised me by how she acted once they moved to Africa.  She turned cold toward Nettie and limited the amount of time she was allowed to spend with her, Samuel, and the children.  When they were in America she was very kind towards Nettie and let her act almost as her equal, but once they got to Africa, and everyone started saying that Corrine's children looked like Nettie, her attitude changed.  Corrine began to resent Nettie and started to act like the women in Africa and tried to stay away from Nettie.

It is hard for me to realize that women are still looked down upon in other countries.  I always think that this inequality stopped long ago, but that is still not the case for women in other countries.  It is weird to think that women are not aware of the freedoms that we have in America.  We take for granted so much in America and this is just one aspect of it.

I do like the religious standpoint that is brought into the book.  Especially because it comes from Shug whom would be the last person that I would expect it from.  Her words were inspirational to me and made me reevaluate my relationship with God and how I feel about Him. 

Stephanie Rush

I'm not sure what kind of response you are looking for from the book.  I guess one reason for that is I don't fully understand how this book applies to our class.  I mean there are many issues that we have underlined from this book, such as gender, class, and so on but from what we were talking about in The Missing Piece to this book is really odd.  And my thoughts might be because of the things that go on in the book and some of the scenerios that are involved such as the homosexual acts.  I'm stilly trying to figure out where this whole book is going.  There seems to be like a love triangle along with the issue with Celie and her husband as well as Shug.  In a way it is just a different type of reading from like humanities.  So far i think it is a good book but having a hard time in figuring out how it fits with this class. 

This book is giving a good insight though about how some people live their lives.  How badly women are treated and how African Americans were treated as well.  Celie all her life was never loved for and she in turn could never really love anyone else besides her sister and Shug.  Even still there are major issues with these people too, being that she hasn't seen her sister for some time and Shug is sleeping with her husband.  A very messed up relationship between everyone yet still they all are together.  Celie's self esteem and self worth is next to nothing because of the way she has been treated and I know this happens often today as well.  Some people ponder why women stay in a abusive home but when they have nothing else then where else can you turn too?  It is interesting to see how everything will turn out in this book, where the relationships will go and will they last. 

-Jeremy Nussbaum



The Color Purple seems like it can be a tough read at first becausion of

Celie's narration, but the themes are actually more simple and direct than

other books I've read.  There's a definite theme of the marginalized and the

oppressed slowly waking up from their passivity.  For example, after Sqeak

is raped she assertively asks to be called by her own real name.  Celie,

after finding Nettie's letters, begins to decide things for herself and

eventually runs away.  Not to go over the book too much though, I also

noticed how "no good deed went unpunished", as with Sofia teaching Miss

Millie to drive and not being able to see her children or when Sqeak is

raped for trying to rescue Sofia  (also Celie's own father when he lynched

for being successful).  This points to the fact that trying to make it in

spite of oppression or resistance in general can have its consequences.  I

also saw a theme of empowerment through redefinitions...


I must say though, the idea of a married virgin I found interesting.  I

suppose the ability to redefine your world and, especially, your past, can

be very empowering.  Instead of accepting past violences, being able to

reevaluate your memories in a new light helps deal with such abuses.  In a

similar way, I think Christianity has the ability to help people see

themselves as "pure" again through the blood of Christ.

Redefinition continues when Shug helps Celie see god as more than a white

man with a beard.  I think it is healthy not to see men as God, however, I

don't find seeing God as merely an It a particularly constructive metaphor

in most cases.  I can see though, that the Bible's Father-children analogy

sometimes falls short for those who have had poor earthly fathers.  This is

a recurring issue in the church that only time and grace may heal.  So

perhaps in Celie's case, seeing God as an It for now is constructive if it

helps her to continue to pray.

I identified a little  with Celie when she suddenly stopped writing to God.

In a word, her world had become utterly crazy.  She didn't think God could

be active in such a world and she was blinded to the all the blessings God

had given her until Shug pointed them out.  I think at times, when your life

is turned upside down it is easy to feel like God is not there, especially

if you don't realize His grace in your life.  It usually takes outside help

to get a new perspective.

In general I found Celie's letters somewhat more interesting than Nettie's

even though I could understand Nettie's English better and despite the plot

twists contained in Nettie's letters.  Celie's perspective is definitely the

more unique of the two.  I don't say Nettie's letters are useless though,

they give a good perspective on an educated view in light of oppression.

For example, I found Nettie's disgust with the Africans for selling her

people into slavery quite insightful.

All in all this is a good book, though I would not recommend it for children

due its mature language and themes (which are painfully necessary in certain

parts).  I do find that all the men in the story are weak-minded, but I

suppose that is a not a small exaggeration of the facts of life.  I disagree

with Shug and Celie's affair and find it distasteful, though I understand

how the author is trying to show Celie is growing sexually without the need

for men.



Oh, and you want a website to look at.

Here is a links concerning Nettie's insight.  I'm sorry to say I didn't know

that before.  I always thought back to "Roots" and remembered slave traders

trapping Africans, I didn't know they were sometimes sold by their own

people for useful items.



  Sam Shepard



Sorry about the tardyness jenzamail was not working right

I have really enjoyed this book thus far. I am starting to see the transformation that Celie is going through, her self image is growing. She for the first time is becoming an independent woman of Albert. I also think that her relationship with Shug is very interesting. The love each other as a couple, but I would not say that they are lesbians. Even though they have experienced with some of this activity I don’t think it is done on a regular basis. I have typically been one to say that being gay is wrong, but in this case of Celie you can’t hardly blame her for this because she can’t trust men. She hints on this but all of the men with major roles have beaten her and raped her until she can’t feel anymore. Celie is such a powerful woman and even though she has not seen Nettie for over 30 yrs by the end they are still very close. I was really sad to see Nettie die. Celie is taking it really hard. But it has enhanced her religious life. For every bad event God mak! es a good thing happen

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