Study Guide

The Color Purple Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

By Alice Walker

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory


The color purple represents all the good things in the world that God creates for men and women to enjoy. At the beginning of the book, you could say that Celie has no sense of the color purple. She has such a horrible life, she’s not stopping to smell the roses, she’s just surviving. By surviving, we mean, she’s practically dead emotionally, but is physically alive. Shug is the person who points out the concept of the color purple to Celie. Shug says that God does little things for people, like creating the color purple, just to make people happy and give them pleasure in their lives. God wants people to notice the beauty of his/her creation. According to Shug, enjoying the beauty of creation means all of God’s creation, including sex. Shug teaches Celie that enjoying life is exactly what God wants us to do; it’s a way of expressing our love for God. As Celie does learn to love life, she decorates her bedroom in her own home as all purple and red.


When Celie finally breaks free of Mr.__ and patriarchal society, she becomes a person rather than an oppressed woman. Her transformation into a full, unrepressed woman is symbolized by pants. For most of her life, Celie never wore pants because she (and the society she lived in) considered pants to be men’s clothing. When Celie decides not only to wear pants, but to start a successful business in making pants for both men and women, she has become freed from gender stereotypes. Pants, therefore, are a symbol of liberation from patriarchy and sexism as well as economic liberation.


God is Celie’s salvation for most of the book—by communicating with God through letters, she is able to maintain a certain sanity. Halfway through the book, in a discussion with Shug, Celie confesses that she sees God as a white man with a beard. And since Celie has some serious issues with men, she’s now having some issues with God. Through the remainder of the book, and with the help of Shug, Celie comes to realize that God has no gender and no race. God is not male and God is not white. For a while, Celie strays away from God, preferring to write to Nettie. However, her last letter is again written to God. Now we see that Celie’s notion of God has dramatically changed. Celie’s final entry is addressed to "Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear God." Not only does Celie see God in nature, but in everything, including her fellow human beings.

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