Self Discovery As A Theme In The Colour Purple By Alice Walker
Self Discovery is a way how people discover how they feel about spiritual or priorities concerning them rather than following opinion of their family, friends or society. It is how we explore our inner self by understanding our potential and purposes and the core principles guiding us. Self Discovery was an important landmark in the lives of Afro-American women as need for identity was their supreme goal. Slavery was a daily thing in lives of Afro-American women therefore how can she discover herself when she is forced to surrender to someone else and believed to be inferior to men all her life becomes her escape. Self Discovery is all about understanding our worth.
In The Colour Purple written by Alice Walker the story is of an Afro-American and the struggles and torture she had to face from people around her. The protagonist of the story is named Celie and the novel is written in an Epistolary format were Celie is writing letters to god and her sister Nettie. In the starting of the story that is in the first letter Celie is saying “I am fourteen years old… you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me”. She is not introducing herself with a name or any other tag which shows us that she lacks self and does not know what is happening to her. She has been raped by someone who is believed to be her father and gives her two children. She doesn’t know where her children are and doesn’t protest for her rights to see or be with them. Her father often says that she is ugly and she tell lies. Her father beats her up for things she doesn’t do such as winking at boys.
The relationship that Celie had with her father was demeaning her self in a way that she doesn’t stand up for herself. She accepts this as her fate and doesn’t question the actions of her father. After getting married to Albert and meeting Shug Avery, she develops a self by developing practical skills and learning to manage house and working in cocoa plantations. She discovers her own sexuality that she is a lesbian through Shug Avery which as an important milestone in achieving a self. She understands that it wasn’t her biological father who has been raping her and inherits her father’s estate thereby stepping into an independent life. When Celie mentioned to Albert that she is going with Shug he assaults her physically by slapping in return to this she jabs him with a dinner knife. From this scenario we can understand how developed her self was by standing up for herself. She reacted like this only because she started to see the world thereby achieving self discovery. Later she becomes independent by putting up a pants company along with Shug Avery and earns money for herself.
Celie’s transformation from a naive young girl to a bold independent women was the result of self discovery through other women. The women characters in the book such as Shug Avery, Sofia and Nettie was portrayed as opposites to her character which results in Celie admiring them. Shug Avery makes her independent by teaching her to sew and put up a business. Shug Avery is also the reason why Celie finds out her sexuality. Nettie who is Celie’s sister is much more independent than her as she has received more years of schooling and has seen the world. It is because of Celie’s sacrifices and care that Nettie was able to break free from slavery and to lead a positive life. By this Celie was motivated to discover herself like her sister. Sofia inspired Celie to set up her independence from her abusive husband. Celie always tries to pretend like Sofia but can’t speak like her because she has the belief that she is inferior to Albert because he is a man which can be seen from the lines “All day long I act just like Sofia… I can’t speak”. The letter writing itself is a process of self discovery and rebellion even though Albert hid Nettie’s letters from her, she continued to write thus breaking the rules of slavery or containment. The true aspect of self discovery is forgiving. She forgives Shug for running away from her to another man and Albert for hiding the letters and abusing her constantly which can be seen from the lines “After all the evil he done… It feel like a new experience”. These lines shows how she has developed to think emotionally and also contributed to the self discovery of Albert.
Moreover finding a job and making the best out of our lives is another aspect of self discovery which is successfully achieved by Celie by working in cocoa plantation and learning to sew and putting up a pants company along with Shug Avery. Celie always tries to impress Shug through her actions and behaviour which shows that Celie still feels that she is not enough because the way that her father and husband treated her.
Society plays an important role in discovering or loving oneself. The society around Celie treated her badly and always made her feel that she wasn’t enough which was reflective of the times when Americans treated Africans badly and freezing their rights to know or stand up for themselves. The society that Nettie lived in was much more forward therefore she could successfully transform into a healthy individual. Despite the oppressing society around Celie which constantly proved that she wasn’t worthy she rose up like a Phoenix bird to embrace her and her rights.
The Colour Purple proves to be a journey of successful self discovery for Celie but it still lingers around the insecurities and hard feelings of Celie. Celie is an emotional being without hopes and dreams for her future. She if often treated badly and doesn’t know what her life is like. The Colour Purple stands for the self-discovery of all Afro-American women who fought or didn’t fought for themselves. The text shows how women supported each other to discover each other while men around them was cruel. Like how Columbus is believed to have discovered America, Celie can be taken as a name to say that women have discovered their self for generations to live peacefully.
- LitCharts. “Self-Discovery Theme Analysis.” LitCharts, https://www.litcharts.com/lit/the-color-purple/themes/self-discovery.
- “Alice Walker’s Color Purple – Celie’s Quest for Self-Discovery.” Cram, https://www.cram.com/essay/alice-walkers-color-purple-celies-quest-for/F3JKWA9NAJ.
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