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Celie has been a victim of female oppression throughout her life, never believing in herself, and living in fear of men. However, when Shug Avery enters her life, Celie’s quality of life starts to improve on the whole, and her newfound self-belief allows her to challenge societal expectations. Their relationship is based on storytelling, an outlet for Celie to talk of her past hardships, their constant communication is a contrast to Celie’s previous silence and solitude. The sexual relationship between Celie and Shug is important as we see that Shug’s arrival influences Celie greatly, Celie builds a defiance and graving rebellion, and since Shug arrives, it is a climax of Celie standing up for herself.
A good example of a small act of rebellion is when Celie spits in her father-in-law’s water, “I drop little spit in Old Mr__ water”, this is a sign of disrespect in a world where women were supposed to always respect men. Women were continuously oppressed by men in between wars, and Celie was certainly a victim of this, however Celie admires Shug for being different, and tries to follow in her footsteps, it starts with small steps, however it is a positive influence on Celie’s self-belief. Shug and Celie’s relationship is responsible for Celie’s sexual awakening, as this is the first affectionate relationship that she has had. Celie tells Shug “nobody ever love me”. This short simple sentence sums everything up for Celie, and suggests that she is looking for love and comfort after all of her hardships. The relationship is more about love for Celie, that is why some critics received the text thinking that the relationship was more maternal, Celie even says “us sleep like sisters me and Shug”, this simile shows that it is a more familial love, someone to protect Celie. However you could argue that the sentence “Shug don’t actually say make love. She say fuck” tells us that Shug looks for sexual pleasure in the relationship as we see a great contrast between “make love” and “fuck” in terms of connotations. This shows that their relationship is important as it satisfies both needs. Interestingly, ‘Search of our Mother’s Garden’ discusses how Celie would have been looking for a loving, comforting relationship due to her lvoeless marriage, which is compared to being like prostitution, because she was, like many other women, used to bear children and for male sexual pleasure. Along with her sexual awakening , her growing independence is a result of her relationship with Shug as she ends up leaving Mr____ and moving to Memphis independently, and doesn’t hold back when she tells Mr____, she calls him a “lowdown dog”, this derogatory insult shows how Celie’s fear of men has disappeared due to her influence from Shug. Celie even threatens Mr__ by saying “us together gon whup your ass”. The use of the 1st person plrual pronoun “us” shows that Celie feels like she has a family and people to defend and help her, she finally feel a part of something that she didn’t have before, and this self-belief and confidence is because Shug entered her life. The threat of violence from a black woman to a black man in the 1920s was unheard of, as black people had no power, but black women were at the very bottom, as the only way black men could only exert power on black women through beating and rape, and Celie accepted this throughout her life. Now, she is rejecting the racial stereotype and is trying to change her own situation and actually gains control from this. Celie’s independence is also shown through her Trouser Business, fighting the odds of being a black woman, she manages to create her own successful business and be self sufficient, without a need to rely on a man to live. Celie says “I got love, I got work, I got money, friends and time”, the repetitiong of the possessive verb “got” shows how much Celie has earned now that she has left her husband, her life is now so much richer in happiness, as well as materialistically. The asyndetic listing shows the essentials that we take for granted, that Celie never had up until Memphis, making us realise how positive Celie and Shug’s relationship is, and its impact on Celie’s quality of life. Contextually, women would never have dreamed of being financially independent at the turn of the 20th century, as thee would grow up awaiting to marry a man in order to live comfortably, they would be handed from father to husband, not even given a chance to live for themselves. In the Color Purple, Shug gives Celie the chance of freedom, and it certainly has rewards. Shug is key to Celie’s connection with Nettie, as it is Shug that tells Celie that Mr_____ has been hiding the letters, and helps Celie to organise them by saying “I’m gonna put them in some kind of order for you”. The phrase “for you” shows us that Shug really cares about Celie, and that she is determined to find Nettie, Celie’s only blood relative left. Shug helping Celie by going behind Mr_____’s back is totally rebellious against men, as Shug currently has more power and control than Mr____ by invading his privacy, which shows that she is fighting male dominance. This rebellious act is reflected in the music that she sings – jazz and blues, which symbolises her fight against societal expectations and norms, despite her genre of choice could be punishable. Although we’ve discussed what Shug has done for Celie, Celie has also helped Shug in many ways, the most prominent being that she has shown Shug to be generous, which in turn results in Shug sticking by Celie. Shug “donate her old yellow dress” as scraps for the quilting, the use of this verb shows a generous side to Shug that we haven’t seen before, therefore shows that Celie’s kindness has influenced Shug whilst she has nurtured her when Shug was ill. As Shug is a very independant and self-empowered woman, she would have been seen as very harsh and cold, and this is displayed as Celie first meets her and Shug tells her “you sure is ugly”, which is of the semantic field of hate, in contrast to the verb “donate” that is in the semantic field of charity and kindness. The quilting is symbolic of joining together and of sorority, because quillting was something you did with scraps to try and make something better, which is what Celie is trying to do with her life, and the fact that Shug gave something towards it shows that she isn’t purely a rebellious jazz singer like the Preacher said. One of the most crucial parts of the novel, giving it its title, is when Shug introduces Celie to her religion that God isn’t one thing specifically, he is “everything”, this metaphor shows a very comforting philosophy, that ends up making Celie feel a lot happier in herself, adding to her quality of life because of Shug.
The way of life that Walker has set forward is Pantheism, in which you do not look for God in a church, like Celie once did, that you know that is is everywhere and in everybody. This reflects Walker’s personal belief and spirituality which is Pantheism. We must not forget that Shug is a huge catalyst for Celie, as she is the symbol for what woman could be. It is comforting also that at the end of the novel, even though they have gone their separate ways romantically, they still respect and admire each other, showing us how strong their bond is, and how vital it is to the plot of the novel.
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