Notes on The Color Purple Themes

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The Color Purple Topic Tracking: Family

Family 1: Celie comes from a large, poor family. Her mother is perpetually pregnant and frustrated with her numerous siblings. Because of this large family, Celie is often left alone and with her terrifyingly violent father.

Family 2: Celie worries about her sister, Nettie, when their father appears to be attracted to her. She promises to look after her beloved sister no matter what happens and vows never to let Nettie marry the wrong person and turn out miserable like their mother.

Family 3: When Celie marries Mr._____, she finds herself in a new family, for better or worse. Her new stepchildren are unkempt, unkind, and violent, as they beat and taunt her with constant insults. She worries about this new family, realizing that they are not her real children, no matter how much time she will spend with them.

Family 4: Celie becomes obsessed with the kind white woman with the baby in town, thinking it to be her own child, Olivia. She follows them into a store, hoping to discover information on their whereabouts. Her desire to find her true biological family takes Celie on many ventures that connect her to this woman.

Family 5: Harpo begins to express emotion for a girl he meets in church and asks Celie for advice. She informs him that she and her father are not in love, but they are married for other reasons. Harpo intends to marry this girl and make her part of his family permanently.

Family 6: Harpo and Sofia spend much of their time in violent battles with one another. Harpo feels unmanly (un-family-like) for not beating his wife. However, when he begins to beat her with Celie and Mr.____'s advice, they fight physically all the time. Sofia ultimately leaves Harpo to visit her sister Odessa, where she always finds refuge.

Family 7: When Mr.____'s father and brother come to visit, they reprimand him for housing both his whore and his wife in the same home. Old Mr._____ cannot believe that his own family is living in such squalor and immorality. Meanwhile, brother Tobias enjoys insulting Mr.______ about the sinful Shug Avery. They look down upon Mr.____'s family values and unusual family set-up.

Family 8: When Sofia lands in jail, the family pulls together to help her. They brainstorm ideas to cure her violent streak and save her soul from murderous tendencies. They realize that jail is killing her physically and spiritually and are prepared to do anything to help her. They are all one family now, regardless of blood ties.

Family 9: Shug returns to town with an additional family member. She is married to a man named Grady and introduces him to everyone as such. Both Albert and Celie are shocked and surprised, for Shug vowed never to marry.

Family 10: The Olinka structure of family relations is different from that in the United States. Men are allowed to have more than one wife, yet the wives are not allowed to be alone with another man - friend or husband. The wives become friends with one another, as they can relate to each other, yet have no other companions. The women serve a role in the family that is purely nurturing: raising the children, cleaning, cooking, and serving the husband.

Family 11: Corrine is hurt and upset when she falls ill with African fever. She has always seen the attraction between Nettie and Samuel and confronts them when she believes her children to belong biologically to the two of them. Nettie explains the truth behind her family. Olivia and Adam are not her children, but rather they belong to her sister. They are her niece and nephew - her true kinfolk by blood. Nonetheless, they are one family together, regardless of white or black or white blood.

Family 12: Samuel tells Nettie the story behind her family's true heritage. Her father is not her true biological father. Rather, her father was lynched and killed years ago. Her mother married another man briefly before she went crazy and died. Her family is now turned upside down by this new information, and the only truth Nettie knows is that Celie is her sister and Olivia and Adam are her niece and nephew. The family she believed was her family is not her family, and this new family of Corrine and Samuel has become her own, despite the lack of biological connection.

Family 13: When Shug and Celie visit Celie's "father," he introduces his new family member - Daisy - a new wife. After seeking her biological parents' grave, they realize that they are each other's family now. The have little else but each other.

Family 14: Eleanor Jane marries Stanley Earl when she becomes pregnant with his baby. Sofia is livid, but understands their relationship. Another new family is created by their marriage, while the friendship (and family structure) breaks down between Sofia and Eleanor Jane.

Family 15: Shug eventually decides to discover her own family. She has not spoken to her children in years and now wants to meet them. All but one wants nothing to do with her. However, one son named James is thrilled to learn more about his infamous mother. They realize the importance of the bonds of family. The others do not see any reason to meet a strange woman, just because she gave birth to them. The significance behind true family ties is in conflict.

Family 16: Tashi officially becomes a part of the family when she marries Adam in an Olinka ceremony. She agrees to follow him to America and become part of his extended family with Celie and her kinfolk.

Family 17: When Nettie and her family return home, Celie falls down in shock. The two sisters embrace, introduce both sets of kinfolk, and cry tears of joy. The two families, throughout over thirty years of separation and growth, are now one. They can now live together, grow together, and share their lives; and whether they are family by blood or time, they are all one family.

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