Shug And Celie Essay Outline

Free Color Purple Essays: Shug and Celie

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Shug and Celie in The Color Purple  


The relationship between Shug and Celie cuts very deep. Both of them help each other become what they really need to be. Both Celie and Shug were very oppressed people. Celie was oppressed by her lack of caring, and by her lack of self esteem. Shug is caught in other people's image of her. She is not free to become what she really wants to be, which is a loving member of a loving family, which she never really had. This is shown by the quote on page 125-6. "(Mama) never love to do nothing had to do with touching nobody, she say. I try to kiss her, she turn her mouth away. Say, Cut that out, Lillie." Celie freed Shug from the role that everybody wanted her to fit into, and Shug freed Celie from the psychological bonds that were keeping her from making of her life what she wanted it to be, by being a mixture of friend, idol, lover, and teacher.

Both Celie and Shug became what they were told they would. Celie was always told that she was ugly, that she was useless, that she was worthless. Alphonso and Mr.----- never lost an opportunity to tell her so. And so Celie became and believed she was ugly, useless, and worthless. Even Shug, when she first met her, exclaimed "You sure is ugly" (pg.48). Shug was told, first by her mother and then in the "respectable people's" opinion, that she was a whore, that she was wicked, and so she became a Temptress of sorts. "Even the preacher got his mouth on Shug Avery, now she down. He take her condition for his text. He don't call no name, but he don't have to. Everybody know who he mean. He talk about a strumpet in short skirts, smoking cigarettes, drinking gin. Singing for money and taking other women mens. Talk about slut, hussy, heifer, and streetcleaner." (Pg 46). She was the woman that all the men wanted and all the women hated, because there was so much she dared to do and so little anyone could do to stop her. However, neither of them necessarily wanted to take part in those roles, and both of them felt confined in them.

Shug has a certain "Venus Image" in the novel. She fits the role of the seductive woman, the temptress, the devil.

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However, when she and Celie became friends, Shug could open herself up to Celie and show the second side of her nature. When she was with Celie, she could relax and be herself, the sweet, gentle, and caring woman which so few people knew about. She didn't have to fit into the role that was expected of her; she could cuddle up to Celie, take care of her and be taken care of, she could be the mother or the child or both with absolute freedom. And Shug did love to cuddle. "I loves to hug, period, she say. Don't need nothing else right now." (Pg. 152) She could be gentle and sweet when she was with Celie, because Celie didn't want or expect anything of her except what she really was.

Celie depended on Shug for love and security. Being constantly told that she was ugly had its effect on her; Celie´s sense of self esteem was exceedingly low. "But what you got? You ugly. You skinny. You shape funny. You too scared to open your mouth to people...You not that good a cook either...This house ain´t been clean good since my first wife died. And nobody crazy or backward enough to want to marry you, neither." That kind of verbal (and often physical) abuse was a part of Celie´s life. However, although Celie sensed something was very wrong, her feelings were dead, buried. Not only her love, but all her rage, her hate, her sense of injustice, her happiness. She wasn't even aware that they should be there. When Celie met Shug those feelings were slowly dug up again, and resurfaced completely only with the discovery of Nettie´s letters.

The first thing that Celie needed to learn was how to care about someone again. Shug taught her about love. Once Celie loved Shug, then she was ready to take the bigger step and go into loving herself. Once Celie started loving herself, it became easier and easier for her to spread out all that love until it enveloped her whole world, her surroundings and the people in it. We can see the progress that Celie has made from the beginning of the novel when she states on page 228 "I love folks." Simply and directly, we can determine the change in her. The love that Celie and Shug had for each other can be interpreted as a sort of lesbianism. However, the relationship that they shared was not erotic. There is one part of the novel when the women start suckling each other, on page 118. "Then I feels something real soft and wet on my breast, feel like one of my little lost babies mouth. Way after a while, I act like a little lost baby too." It describes the motherly way that the women felt about each other. There was no sexualism in the act, it was not erotic at all. They were both, at the same time, the baby and the mother of the other. "Little lost babies" is how Celie describes it, and that is how both Celie and Shug felt. Also, I think it was the way that Alice Walker meant for their relationship to be interpreted.

When Shug leaves Celie for Germaine, the nineteen year old, Celie goes through a crisis. Shug had taught her a lot of things, but she still did not know how to fend for herself. Up to that point, Celie had depended solely on Shug for company, for love, for caring. She felt betrayed that Shug would abandon her when she knew Celie was defenseless, and knowing also that she was the only person Celie loved with the exception of Nettie, who had left her also. However, by leaving, Shug did the best thing she could for Celie. Because, once Shug was not there for her to lean on, Celie learned how to take care of herself. At that moment, she became truly independent, and the last of the ties holding her down vanished. When Shug returned to her Celie´s growth had been completed. She had progressed from being a scared child who needed someone to hold on to, be it Nettie or (as a replacement) Shug, to being a strong and mature woman, who was not afraid to do what she felt was right, and who deserved and what's more demaded respect.

In the same way, once Shug´s own growth was completed, she no longer felt the need to be what people wanted her to be. She decided to retire from her career as the Queen Honeybee. When she was with Germaine, she went to see her children which she had not seen for many years. She was ready to break out of her mold, relax, be herself, and enjoy all the things that God had given her. She made up her mind to get to know her kids better, and actually be a mother to them in a way that satisfied her gentle side. She was still a very strong woman, but now she was strong in a quieter, more commanding, more reasonable way.



Below you will find three outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “The Color Purple” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for “The Color Purple” offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “The Color Purple”at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: “The Color Purple” as an Epistolary Novel

The Color Purple is a novel that unfolds in a series of letters and diary entries, and as such, it is an epistolary novel. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of such a structure in general, and for this novel in particular? Consider notions such as the establishment of intimacy, credibility, and trust between the narrator / writer and the reader of “The Color Purple”. Also consider how this format allows Celie to tell her story in her own reliable voice, uninterrupted by the oppressive men in her life. How might “The Color Purple” have been different had it not been written in the form of letters and diary entries?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Vulgarity and Violence in “The Color Purple”

From the very first page of The Color Purple, the reader is confronted with intense images, strong words, and morally difficult concepts. What are the purposes and functions of vulgarity and violence in The Color Purple? Are they gratuitous or “too much", or is it important for the reader to learn even the most difficult details of the characters’ lives in order to fully comprehend their situations? What, if anything, might Alice Walker be trying to relate about the world she creates in “The Color Purple” and what might her intentions be by making the reader uncomfortable?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Significance of Shug Avery

Who is Shug Avery and why is she such a compelling character, especially to Celie? What does she represent initially, and how does that first impression change over the course of the novel? Out of all the characters in “The Color Purple” she is perhaps your best bet for a character analysis or character map. A character analysis of Celie might also be a good essay topic as well. Celie maintains narrative control, yet for much of the novel she has no real voice or agency in her relationships. How does Celie develop as a character with greater depth, complexity, and authority over the course of the novel? What events, experiences, and people help transform her into the person she becomes by the novel’s conclusion?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Philosophy of “The Color Purple”

Towards the end of the novel, the significance of the title, The Color Purple, is revealed during a moving conversation between Shug and Celie (see pages 199-204). How does the philosophy of the color purple, as explained to Celie by Shug, affect Celie’s life from that moment forward? How does it affect your life as the reader? Can this abstract lesson be useful for the difficult realities of these women’s lives? Why or why not?

** For more information about other works by Alice Walker, visit the PaperStarter entry for another of Walker’s works, “Everyday Use” **


This list of important quotations from “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “The Color Purple” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes from “The Color Purple” contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker they are referring to.

“I don’t even look at mens. That’s the truth. I look at women, tho, cause I’m not scared of them." (6)

“I take out the picture of Shug Avery. I look into her eyes. Her eyes say Yeah, it bees that way sometime." (9)

“I don’t say nothing. I think bout Nettie, dead. She fight, she run away. What good it do? I don’t fight, I stay where I’m told. But I’m alive." (22)

“Harpo ast his daddy why he beat me. Mr. ____ say, Cause she my wife. Plus, she stubborn. All women good for—he don’t finish. He just tuck his chin over the paper like he do. Remind me of Pa." (23)

“Shug Avery standing upside a piano, elbow crook, hand on her hip….Her mouth open showing all her teef and don’t nothing seem to be troubling her mind…. 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." (26)

“What you do when you git mad? She ast. I think. I can’t even remember the last time I felt mad, I say. I used to git mad at my mammy….Then I see how sick she is. Couldn’t stay mad at her. Couldn’t be mad at my daddy….Bible say, Honor father and mother no matter what." (43-44)

“Listen, God love everything you love—and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration….Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it." (203)

“Who you think you is? he say. You can’t curse nobody. Look at you. You black, you pore, you ugly, you a woman. Goddam, he say, you nothing at all." (213)

“You ast yourself one question, it lead to fifteen. I start to wonder why us need love. Why us suffer. Why us black. Why us men and women. Where do children really come from. It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t hardly know nothing. And that if you ast yourself why you black or a man or a woman or a bush it don’t mean nothing if you don’t ast why you here, period." (289-290)

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident." (290)

Reference: Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Pocket Books, 1982.

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