In the novel, The Color Purple, there are three main characters who demonstrate meaningful traits of women. Celie, the main character, is the most important of the three. She is influenced by other characters in the novel and is inspired to let herself seek their virtues. Celie’s two friends, Shug and Sofia, are both strong women who teach Celie how to achieve the happiness she desires.
Sofia is a woman with authority in her life. Her life has been a constant struggle and can no longer endure conflict. She is strong physically and that gives her confidence in herself. The only opinion of any value to her is her own. Sofia is very upset with Celie when she tells Harpo to beat her and she reveals to Celie details of her painful past. ‘All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. I loves Harpo. God knows I do. But I’ll kill him dead before I let him beat me.’; (42). Sofia can no longer tolerate this kind of abuse and she thought that when she married Harpo she had finally escaped it.
Later Celie admits that she told Harpo to beat her because she is jealous of Sofia. Celie is jealous because Sofia can fight back and she knows she can’t. Sofia tells Celie how she feels sorry for her because Celie reminds her of her mother and how she never could stand up against her father. Just seeing Sofia in control gives Celie hope in getting control in her own life.
Sofia does not live up to the standards of being a wife because she has a voice in her relationship with Harpo and most women allow their husbands to manipulate them. People just accept how she lives because she has a strong opinion of herself and is ready to argue it with anyone at anytime. One day, during a meal, Harpo warns Squeak not to laugh because it was bad luck for a woman to laugh. Sofia laughs in his face saying, ‘I already had my bad luck. I had enough to keep me laughing for the rest of my life.’; (208). Sofia has no trouble expressing herself at the expense of others, especially men.
Shug is a woman who does whatever she wants whenever she wants. She is a free spirit but she does have values and is a major contributor in the transformation of Celie. Shug enjoys her life and tries to spread the happiness to those around her. She is aware of her own physical beauty and uses it to control men. For women like Celie, it isn’t that easy. Celie’s father tells Albert, ‘She ugly. She ain’t smart either.’; (9). This is where Celie develops her low self esteem. Shug tries to make Celie realize that she is a beautiful person by getting to know her and loving her.
Shug is an admirable woman because of her ability to love others. She tells Celie, ‘If you was my wife, I’d cover you with kisses instead of licks and work hard for you too,’; and later says, ‘I love you, Miss Celie.’; (118). Here Celie realizes that she is a lovable person and not the worthless woman she once
thought she was.
Celie and Albert share their feelings about Shug and she tells him, ‘Hard not to love Shug. She know how to love somebody back.’; (289). Through her admiration of Shug, Celie learns how significant love is and how it can change a persons life. When Celie wants to kill Albert, Shug stops her and Celie doesn’t understand why Shug would want this cruel animal to live. Later, Celie and Albert create a friendship and find common ground with their love of Shug. This is where Celie realizes what Shug has been saying all along about Albert having a human side.
Celie is an innocent person who is misfortunate throughout her life until she sees hope through her women friends. She learns to stand up for herself against Mr. ______ and discover her own beauty. When Shug tells Mr.______ that Celie is leaving with them he says he thought Celie was happy and wanted to know what was wrong now. Celie responds by saying, ‘You a lowdown dog is what’s wrong… You took my sister Nettie away from me and she was the only person love me in the world… But Nettie and my children coming home soon. And when she do, all us together gon whup your ass.’; (207). This was a breakthrough for Celie, the first time she got her true feelings out to Albert. Celie knew she had Shug there to back her up and expressed the feelings she had stored up in her mind for years.
Shug also teaches Celie how to forgive the men for all of the pain they have caused her. Shug tells Celie about how one must forget all other issues they have and stop to notice God’s creations. Celie says, ‘Now that my eyes opening, I feels like a fool. Next to any little scrub of bush in my yard, Mr.______’s evil sort of shrink… You have to get a man off your eyeball before you can see anything a’tall.’; (204). Celie has been too caught up in her troubles to see the beauty in life right before her. The burdens in her life seem like nothing compared to the splendor of Gods creation.
Celie is a good example of how certain qualities of different people can form a strong woman. Unlike Shug, Celie doesn’t need men in her life and doesn’t have to confront that burden. Celie learns to be valorous and stick up for herself from both Sofia and Shug. She always had the power to love and trust but Shug makes it stronger by telling Celie to look past her hardships and notice the gifts that God has given her. By gaining this knowledge Celie transforms into a whole new woman and she is finally happy with her life. She has a high self esteem and is surrounded by the people she loves.