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Themes

Black female characters in this book tend to be victims of violence. Men tend to attempt to exert their dominance over women, particularly their wives, by beating them. Men also commit sexual violence against women, raping them as a result of sexual desire or simply to make women feel inferior. The way female characters react to violence varies dramatically. The protagonist suffers repeated violence from her father and husband and reacts by shutting down emotionally and being very submissive. Other female characters, however, prove their strength in the face of violence; after suffering abuse, many women prove that they will not be dragged down. Eventually, when the protagonist realizes the extent of the emotional violence committed against her, she finds the strength and the willpower to leave her husband and start a new life.

Questions About Violence

  1. Is the majority of the violence experienced by Celie physical or psychological? Does Celie see one kind of violence as worse than the other?
  2. How does Celie react to violence? How do other characters, like Sofia and Squeak, react to violence?
  3. Who is the most violent character in the novel? Why?
  4. Are love and violence in this novel mutually exclusive?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Physical violence may be evil but sinning against another person’s spirit, or emotional violence, is the worst sin of all, according to the characters in this book.

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