Review of the Character of Shug and Celie in Alice Walker’s Book, The Color Purple

November 3, 2020 by Essay Writer

‘Examine the developing relationship between Shug and Celie, from the moment Shug arrives to Sofia’s arrest’

From the first moment that Celie sees Shug (which is in picture form) she is immediately mesmerised by her, describing her as “The most beautiful woman I ever saw”. She even places her above her mother “She more pretty then my mama” which shows already how important Shug has become to Celie to the point where she compares her to her mother. She then begins to start dreaming about Shug in the picture “all night long I stare at it. An now when I dream, I dream of Shug Avery”. These descriptions mark the beginning of Celie’s obsession with Shug, and her aspiration to be with her. Whilst Celie is having sex with Mr, her thoughts of Nettie’s safety are taken over by the image of Shug having sex with Mr and says “I know what he doing to me he done to Shug Avery and maybe she like it. I put my arm around him”. As she is influenced by Shug, Celie thinks about how Shug would act and tries to copy her by attempting to enjoy it as well. Soon after this happens, Celie finds out that “Shug Avery is coming to town!”, however, Mr is going alone and Celie says “Lord, I wants to go so bad. Not to dance. Not to drink. Not to play card. Not even to hear Shug Avery sing. I just be thankful to lay eyes on her” which shows her desperation just to be able to finally see Shug in the flesh, instead of only in her dreams.

Celie hears about Shug being sick and having nobody to take her in because she’s a “tramp” and has “some kind of nasty woman disease” Despite hearing all these bad comments about Shug, when Mr suddenly brings Shug into the house, Celie writes “Come on in, I want to cry. To shout. Come on in. With God help, Celie gong to make you well”. This shows how Celie doesn’t care about anybody else’s opinions on Shug as all her thought processes revolve around Shug. It also shows Celie’s maternal instincts; just as how she is like a mother to Nettie, and wants to welcome her into her arms and keep her safe to herself. This is a crucial point in the relationship between Celie and Shug as Celie no longer has to dream about her, she can now be with her in real life and grow further as a person as she aspires to be as free as Shug is.

Celie is shown to have sexual thoughts for the first time when she says “First time I got the full sight of Shug Avery long black body with it black plum nipples, look like her mouth, I thought I had tuned into a man.” Celie is shocked as she notices she is starting to think like a man, showing how in this time setting, only men were allowed to express sexual thoughts, whilst women were not even expected to even think sexually – Shug is an exception to this as she expresses herself sexually, which Celie looks up to and compares herself to a man thinking about Shug. This quote also confirms to reader that Celie and Shug have a sexual one-sided relationship, with Shug none the wiser about Celie’s feelings whilst Celie is completely besotted by Shug.

The relationship between Shug and Celie begins to develop even further when Shug makes a song inspired by Celie whilst Celie is doing Shug’s hair, saying “Something came to me…Something I made up. Something you help scratch out my head”. This is the first significant time that Shug devotes something to Celie and shows the start of Shug beginning to see Celie as a friend. After spending time with Shug sewing cloths together, Celie says “For the first time in my life, I feel just right” showing how Celie is truly happy for the first time in her life now she is spending time with Shug and has been able to get closer to her. It also marks the building up of Celie’s identity as she is finally starting to over on from her unfortunate past that has held her down and look to the future now Shug is in her life.

Celie begins to question the practicality/normality of her love for Shug as she realises both her and her husband Mr are in love with Celie, leading Celie to be “confuse”. As it was unheard of for people of the same-sex to be in love with one another at this point in time, Celie has noticed that and realises “that the way it spose to be”, as she knows she cannot be with Shug even though she loves her. However this despair is quickly changed for the better as Shug sings to Celie, which Celie says in response, “First time somebody made something and name it after me”. Celie is final happy and content as Shug cares about her more than anyone else has before.

The roles in the relationship are reversed as Shug becomes the maternal figure in the relationship when trying to protect Celie after being shocked to find out that Mr beats Celie. Shug says “I won’t leave… until I know Albert won’t even think about beating you”. This is the opposite of Shug’s previous role in the relationship in which she was cared for by Celie when she first arrived very unwell, and knowing how she helped her, Shug now wants to protect Celie like how she did to her before.

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