Day 14  October 10, 2002


1. Names. About the WORTH Center: many should have gotten in your first visit by now. Questions, comments, problems? What about next week—I assume nobody will go Monday and Tuesday, right?


I’m going to ask all of you folks to give me your first WORTH journal, on paper or by email, by next Thursday, just so we can feel this process is well underway.

Questions about exam? Again, check the web for notes and details. If all else fails, read the texts. I actually expect really good exams, given what I’ve seen from you all so far.

2. Last day on Color Purple. “My first response to this book is that I'm surprised I actually read it.” Gotta love it. Side note, perhaps, on reading . . . college is a lousy time for recreational reading, I know; professorial life isn’t a whole lot better. But if you can work some books into your life, summers, vacations, whenever, whatever kind of books you find yourself drawn to, you won’t be sorry.

First, let’s take a little time for questions about what happens. Some journals indicated a little confusion about events . . . everybody clear? In the great tradition of cliffhanger novels, we think Nettie is dead, but she’s just missing . . .

Next chapter, 180 ff: showdown #1 with Albert.  “It’s time to leave you and enter into the Creation.”  He tries to put her down again, but this time she has an answer.

Aside on Harpo trying to rule over Sofia. It was part of her getting into the fight, she says.

Albert tries to slap Celie, she sticks him with her case knife.  What will people think?  Shug; “Why any woman give a shit what people think is a mystery to me.”  They laugh at the men.  Sofia’s youngest, Henrietta, isn’t Harpo’s.  Squeak will go North too. . . and Sofia will take care of Suzie Q, Squeak’s daughter with Harpo.

(One of the fascinating things about this book is the way “family” keeps being defined and redefined.  It’s much more a matter of who loves who than who is legally or formally bound, hmm?)

The turning point might be on 187: Celie’s curse: Albert says “you nothing at all.”  She says, “But I’m here.”  She’s possessed, it seems; the winds come to her aid.  She finally decides not to be a victim, though not without help.

Celie comes to her strength partly as she becomes a writer, as she learns to express her feelings and her human worth.  The centrality of speech and communication to this novel: from being so isolated that she has to write to God, to talking to Shug, writing to Nettie, talking to Albert openly and on the same level, not him giving orders. Her cursing him is a big step, claiming the right to speak and to power.

193: work, money, friends, love, time.  One sort of “happy” ending would stop somewhere around here, or jump from here to Nettie and the children returning. But no. The plantationizing of the Olinka; Nettie and Samuel marry; so do Adam and Tashi; they go to England, find no help there. Nettie writes about how God is different to them too, after all their time in Africa, 227.

And Shug takes off with Germaine, for one last fling, leaving Celie. It’s hard for her, but it does allow her to form some kind of relationship with Albert. (238). And Eleanor Jane, the white woman who hangs around Sofia because her own family’s such a mess, ends up cooking for Henrietta.

247 Albert says: “I think us here to wonder. . . . The more I wonder, the more I start to love.”

Also, a longstanding quasi-literary theme that goes back at least to Keats and Shelley: the duty of hope.  Walker wants to believe in the possibility of human change without ignoring the awful things we continue to do.  Maybe a touch idealistic, but so what.  The movie goes even further this way, with the last big production number and the honkytonk and the church folk all dancing together.  Personally I prefer the more restrained ending of the book.

As I just read in Kathleen Norris’s The Cloister Walk, despair is itself a sin, traditionally—the idea that the world is just doomed and we can’t do anything about it, which sometimes passes for knowing sophistication, she argues is just a lame excuse for idleness. 128-129.

In what ways does the book play against stereotypes or predictable outcomes?  Celie’s reconciliation with Albert?  Her drifting away from Shug?  The book doesn’t end with a re-formed nuclear family, does it?  Or does it? 

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.

Do you think it treats men unfairly?  Which men in particular?  Certainly it focuses on some black men’s attitudes and behaviors as a problem for black women.

What allows Celie to develop?  Love and work, Freud said, were the secrets of adult happiness . . .  she develops relationships, confidence, she makes money, she finds out she can do things others value.

*Where and how does it suggest liberation and transformation come?  What are the stages that Celie goes through?  What resources does she discover?  What changes for her, and what has to change within her?  How do others change around her?  Margaret Atwood, “to refuse to be a victim.”  Shug can’t liberate Celie without her help.  Celie forces Albert to confront his actions, and he turns out to be less than completely worthless after all.

Walker’s a civil rights veteran; the steps toward nonviolent resistance in the Gandhi/King mode:

1.  Recognize the oppression.

2.  Learn to hope.  The need for models: Shug, Sofia.

3.  Avoid violence as vengeance, Sofia: needle, not razor.

4.  Love and solidarity: Shug, others

5.  Work and independence: positive action away from victimization.

6.  Forgiveness and reconciliation as equals.  Refusal of hatred, recognition of the humanity of the adversary.  Albert and Eleanor Jane need liberation as much as the oppressed.

What makes it possible for Albert to change?  “You know meanness kill.”  He gives her the last letters.  He starts to treat her like a human being, rather than a possession.

How might we connect this book with other things we’ve read and discussed? What about J/H and the possibility of change without or with lessened violence?  What does it suggest about possibilities for working things out, for changing attitudes and behaviors, for mending the disastrous inequalities that blight so many peoples’ lives? 



Student Responses

I am really not sure where to start, because my thoughts are so scattered about this book. I really enjoyed reading, but also can't believe how many bad things can happen to one person during their lifetime. I really felt bad for her at first and then towards the middle and end of the book, I stopped feeling so sorry for her because she wasn't doing anything to stick up for herself or defind herself. I just kept thinking how can see be so numb, how can she let them treat her like dirt. But also I have never been in her shoes, or know how that treatment would feel.

In class we were discussing how the men were viewed as weak minded, and that is why they beat and controlled woman. As I was reading the book and remembering that discussion, a question came to mind, I wonder if all black women view men as weak minded? Reading this story, Black women were treated and talked to so poorly by black men, and then they were also treated like crap from white men. It just made me wonder if they had a stereotype on all men being weak? Maybe that didn't make since but this book brought a lot of questions to mind.

Shug and Sofia were my two favorite characters, because the stood up for themselves, and they really cared about Celie. If it wasn't for Shug, I don't think Celie would have ever left Mr._____. I think the part where her and Shug had the descision about God was when Celie can to her senses and realized she didn't have to live the way she was living, because Celie made a comment that her eyes had been opened and she felt like a fool. I also found this part of the book a little disturbing, because I don't understand how anyone can be that far gone for God to feel that he doesn't exist. I know people get that way, many people. But it just makes me feel so confused to why God does let bad things happen to good people. But then I think back to the saying "God doesn't give you anything he can't think you can handle." I just felt really bad for her that she had been that hurt so many times that her heart had been turned cold.

The end of the book was a really good ending, I was happy to see that Celie finally got out of the cycle of abuse her life put her in. I don't think she would have if Shug hadn't stuck up for her. She got to experience a real life. She was happy making pants and making money. She had a sister that was after all alive, and she had good friends that truely loved her for who she was.

The website I came upon was, talks about the black family and how it is found to be dysfunctional due the legacy of slavery. It was really interesting.

-Melissa VanAusdal


I found the ending of the book, The Color Purple, very interesting. I loved it when Celie let Mr._____ know that she was going to Memphis with Shug. She finally speaks up for herself, and let's Mr.______ know how she really feels about him and everything he has put her through. I hate watching tv or talk shows where it shows a girl in an abusive relationship, and she says she loves him! Obviously, the guy doesn't really love her, or he wouldn't beat her, and i don't see how the woman can continue to stay with him and say she loves him. I can tell that these women just have no confidence in themselves, and it is so frustrating for me, because i know that they could do much better for themselves. Of course, i am not in their situation, and i haven't been made to believe that i am worthless and can't get any better. And studies show that most of these women have been sexually abused when they were younger, so they just yearn for love and acceptance from any guy. It is so hard for me to see that, so reading the part where Celie stands up for herself was so awesome for me to read.

Although Celie does go to Memphis and becomes successful, she is not fully happy. Obviously, she is much better off then she was before, but i believe that she wasn't truly happy until the very end of the book. This is when Nettie returns home after her long missionary trip, and when she has Shug by her side again. Also, she has made amends with Mr._____, who she has now begun to call Albert, his real name. I think it helps Albert out too that Celie starts to call him by his name, cause it helps him to make amends with his self, because Celie has forgiven him from everything he put her through. At this part, Celie is surrounded by a large group of people who she loves, and who love her back. For her, i think having her family back and to finally be loved after all those years, is the satisfaction and genuine happiness that Celie has been searching for all her life. So, it is kind of like starting a new life, even though she is really old. I think that is what she means by the very last line of the story, "Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt."

-Kristin Stutzman


My first response to this book is that I'm surprised I actually read it.
After looking at the syllabus and seeing that we were supposed to read this
book in basically a week, I thought there was no way that I would read a
300 page book in one week. But I did, and it didn't turn out to be so bad.
The book was interesting and it was easy to read it fairly quickly.

Now for my actual response, which I think covers the last one hundred
pages of the book. The first thing I want to comment on is that I was
pretty surprised to see that Celie quit writing her letters to God and
instead wrote to Nettie. I probably shouldn't have been too surprised,
though, because once Celie finds the letters that Mr. ___ hid from her and
realizes that Nettie was writing to her, it makes sense that Celie would
start writing to her sister, whether her letters would be received or not.

I also found it interesting when one of the characters pointed out that
all the images of God are portraying him as a powerful white man. I never
really thought too much about that, but it is true that pretty much all of
the illustrations I've seen of God or Jesus portay them as white. With this
in mind, we shouldn't be too surprised when colored people have a hard time
accepting God in this way. If a black person has continually been oppressed
by white people and then is told to accept a God that is white, it's no
wonder they reject Him. It's sad that we try to make God fit a certain
image that goes with our own beliefs and even sadder that we try and make
others believe that that is the way God actually is.

I'm glad this book ended that way it did. Celie lived an incredibly
difficult life. There were times when it appeared that things were looking
up for her, only to have them crumble again. But in the end, Celie finally
finds happiness.

Here is the web address of the site I found:

The site is for a nonprofit organization where artists reach out to young people by trying to be good role models and trying to prevent prejudices. I found this site interesting to see what types of activities are done to reach out to young people. I found a really good quote on the homepage: What people don't know about or aren't educated about, they make fun about. It all comes down to a lack of knowledge.

Brian Steiner

        In reading this I was expecting the same trend of oppression to continue into this section.   The part when the women decide to go to memphis regardless of the opinion of the men in thier lives was very surprising.  Shug's courage and confidence rubs off on the others, especially Celie.  Mr. Blank told her she was not good enough to make her own living and Shug was.  Celie did not take his verbal abuse as she normally had done.  She took his criticism and dealt it right back to him.  She actually stood up for herself and finally was able to climb her way out of her lowly state.  They go to Memphis and without knowing it right away Celie begins to make a business out of making pants for people.  She finds her way out of the bottom of the barrel.  She found herself happy, financially stable, and in love. 


Aaron Wiechart


I loved this book! It reminds me of the selections I am reading for my Studies in the Novel class. The website above is supposedly to be for the use of teachers that want to talk about Walker's novel in their classes, I found some of the questions interesting and possibly worth asking in class.

For instance, one of the questions asks us to examine the women in the books and their relationships with men. Celie, raped by her stepfather and given in marriage to a man who does not love her and who she does not love, seems to have had only bad experiences with men in her life. Shug, on the other hand, has had both good and bad. Many men are in love with her and it usually she that ends the relationship by getting tired of being with that man, and going out to look for the next guy, and so on and so on. Sofia is so obviously independent and it shows in her relationship with Harpo. She, unlike Celie, will NOT be beaten. She beats back and still loves Harpo...well...up to a certain point in the novel at least.

That is all I have to say about The Color Purple for right now since I don't want to write too much and it looks as if this might be the limit.

Erin Wahl


I got a chance to respond to the whole book. "The color purple" is a very different kind of reading from what we are used to. The life story of a woman is written in letters to God and to her sister. I didn't think the book would end the way it did, but I new that Celie would not live her life the same way she did always. I think she was a very strong character. Weak people cannot survive the life she had and then become someone more than that. With the help of Shug Celie was able to tell Mr_____ everything she thought about him, everything she wanted to say to him all those years. She left him and opened a talant in herself that made her very successful. She began making pants and selling them. Then she got the house and her life became nice and happy. Everything becomes normal: Celie has a house, she has money. she has business, she can wear whatever she wants, Mr_____ talks to her, Nettie comes home. An important part, I think, was the letter that Celie writes to  Nettie, where she says that Mr______ works, cleans up after himself and even helps her to make pants. Here we see that a man and a woman are equal and they are happy to live like that.

Everyone is happy at the end of the book. Everything is the way it should be.


-Galina Terbova


This is my response on the last section on The Color Purple. The part I found

most interesting and we touched on this in class on Tuesday as well, was how

"traditional" the Olinkas were. The ways the women were treated may not have

been seen as appropriately, but compared to what the women were going through

here in America, was it really much worse?

       I thought another interesting quote from the book was from page 280. "

And another thing, they don't like nobody acting different from them around."

I thought this was interesting because it seems that racism and prejudice is

tied to groups in situations that have power.

       The last issue I want to touch on is respect: Or quite simply how the

relationship goes from Mr._______ to Albert. I wondered after reading this

was Albert the "hero wearing shades of grey"? Obviously we do not cheer for

him, but we find out he had his share of problems, and he and Celie

eventually become friends.



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Garrett Skare