Notes on The Color Purple Themes

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The Color Purple Topic Tracking: Violence

Violence 1: The book opens as Celie describes her family. Her father beats her mother and proceeds to rape her. She lives in constant fear of "Him" and hopes to protect her sister, Nettie from his violent wrath.

Violence 2: Celie's father impregnates her and when Celie gives birth to her first baby, her father takes the infant out into the woods and kills it, or so she thinks. Celie fears he'll does this to her second newborn baby, as well. Instead, he takes the baby to Monticello and sells it. He takes both babies from Celie, allowing her to believe he's killed them, and sells them in town.

Violence 3: Mr. _____'s first wife was violently killed by her boyfriend in front of their children. Murder seems to be just another act in the town, regardless of its method and intent. And although she was killed instantaneously by a bullet, the very act of murder is pure violence. This violence follows her son Harpo in his own pursuits of marriage.

Violence 4: On a day that should be celebrated with love and passion, Mr._____ beats his new wife, Celie, on their wedding day. Furthermore, his violent streak has been passed onto his children, for they also taunt and beat her. One child throws a stone at her head, causing her to bleed.

Violence 5: When Harpo wonders why his father beats Celie, Mr._____ informs him that beating a wife is a manly and husbandly duty. He beats her because she is his wife, and furthermore because he believes she is lazy. In his mind, these are proper and reasonable reasons for such brute violence.

Violence 6: Harpo admits to his father and Celie that he does not beat his wife Sofia. He is embarrassed by his meager actions and wants to know how to make her do everything he asks and be the subservient wife he wants. Sofia even recommends that he beat her so that she listens to his orders. Unfortunately, he returns home with bruises of his own (from her). One day, Celie finds them fighting like two savage men on the porch of her house. The violence has spread to both of them, as they both want control over the other.

Violence 7: Celie admits to Shug that Mr._____ beats her. Shug is shocked and terrified, promising her that she will not leave the house until he promises not to hurt her. Shug is able to control Mr.____'s violent streak.

Violence 8: One evening at Harpo's, Sofia returns with her new boyfriend. Her violent tendencies return when Harpo's new girlfriend, Squeak tries to dance with him. The two women start to fight and Sofia punches Squeak in the mouth, knocking out two teeth.

Violence 9: Sofia continues on her violent rampage when she attacks the mayor in town. She will never be a white woman's maidservant and is livid when approached about such a position for the mayor's family. Before she could hurt him, all of the guards pounce on her, beating her to a pulp. Her small violence does not match their overwhelming violent attack, which leads to prison time.

Violence 10: Again, violence takes the form of rape, when Mary Agnes visits Hodges the warden to help Sofia. When he recognizes her, he forces her to undress and have sex.

Violence 11: For the first time in her life, Celie finds her own violent tendencies. When she discovers Nettie's letters hidden by Mr._____, she wants to kill him. She knows that she will never do such an un-Christ-like act, but she thinks of doing so nonetheless.

Violence 12: Although considered to be beautiful and ceremonial traditions within the Olinka tribe of Africa, Nettie, Adam, Olivia, and Samuel see facial scarring and female circumcision as negative aspects of their life. These violent traditions involve severe cutting, bleeding, and possible death. The Olinka use these violent acts as significant milestones in their people's lives.

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