The Color Purple by Alice Walker follows the hard plight of Celie. The story takes place in Georgia in the 1930s, during a time where intersectionality affected women of color. Celie was sexually assaulted by her step-father, forced to stop her schooling, and marry. After marriage, Celie continues to suffer and live an unfulfilling life in silence until she meets Shug Avery. Upon meeting Shug, Celie discovers the power of friendship through Nettie’s letters, Shug’s love, and Sofia’s courage. In The Color Purple, Walker portrays the importance of female friendship through her depiction of acceptance and emotional support, confidence, and independence.
Walker shows the power of acceptance through Shug’s friendship with Celie. Shug says “She can talk in sign language for all I care”. Here, Walker demonstrates how Shug does not fear judgment and feels no shame. Instead, she accepts Celie. Shug loves Celie despite their differences regarding education, beauty, sexual experiences, and personality. Celie can be her most authentic self with Shug. Shug’s unconditional love and friendship helps Celie deal with her traumatizing sexual assault and the lack of love she received in her childhood home. Shug becomes Celie’s true friend as she accepts her with her flaws. Shug also provides emotional support to Celie when Celie talks about her sexual assault. Shug says, “Don’t cry. She start kissing the water as it come down side my face”. Shug supports Celie through her hard times by vowing to not leave until Mister stops beating Celie. However, in a more familial way, Nettie is the only family who also accepts Celie. Celie says, “He try to give her a compliment, she pass it on to me. After while I git to feeling pretty cute”. Despite their differences, Nettie continues to love and care for Celie miles away. Nettie puts friendship to the true test, as she continues to show concern and stay in touch from Africa. In her childhood home, Nettie provides Celie with emotional support. Later, when Celie marries Mister, Shug becomes the support she needs to fight his male dominance. Friendship saves Celie from falling apart throughout the novel.
Walker conveys another important aspect of friendship, the ability to confide in one another. When Celie confides in Shug, it becomes therapeutic counseling that helps Celie to stop living in the past. Instead of always being influenced by male dominance in her life, Celie begins to take control. Celie says “He beat me when you not here, I say”. Similar to Celie confiding in Shug, Sofia confides in Celie with her problems. Celie and Sofia’s common problems with male dominance brings them closer as friends and allows them to confide in each other. Sofia says, “Last night for supper he ate a whole pan of biscuits by himself”. Celie’s friendship with Sofia allows for her to discover that her husband overate to protect his sense of masculinity and to remain dominant. As Celie makes Harpo realize that not all women can be dominated, he begins to change his sexist thinking. Celie and Sofia’s friendship proves to help Sofia find happiness in her marriage for a little while. Lastly, Nettie’s and Celie’s letters consist of conversations full of confessions and secrets. These letters become Celie’s motivation to keep going in life. When Celie begins to write, she tells Nettie about her successes in life from meeting Shug to opening up her own business selling pants. Celie addresses Nettie in her letter and says, “I am so happy, I got love, I got work, I got money, friends and time”. The numerous letters allows for Nettie and Celie’s friendship to persist, showing the power of friendship that exists from two separate continents. Their friendship becomes the longest in the novel. They are dedicated to their friendship with their frequent letters. Even Mister could not keep the letters hidden, showing how true friendship prevails.
The power of friendship helps bring about independence. As Olivia grows up among the Olinka people, she begins to support Tashi in a different way than the typical Olinka women. Nettie’s letter says, “At the end of the day, when Tashi can get away from all the chores her mother assigns her, she and Olivia secret themselves in my hut and everything Olivia has learned she shares with Tashi”. As Olivia educates Tashi, she supports her desire to learn more. She wants the best for Tashi and wants her to receive an education, so she can receive independence. Olivia is happy for Tashi and her successes, like a true friend. She gives Tashi the courage to achieve her independence. Similarly, Shug helps Squeak with her singing. Shug says, “Plus, you dress Mary Agnes up the right way and you’ll make piss pots of money”. Shug supports Squeak’s desire to sing. From being quiet and shy, Squeak creates a new identity with her name, Mary Agnes. Shug helps Squeak discover the true version of herself. Additionally, Celie stops turning to God and instead turns to friendship for support. As Celie and Shug’s friendship deepens, Celie begins to achieve the courage to fight against injustices. Celie feels anger when Mister hid Nettie’s letter and with the help of Shug, Celie begins to talk back to her husband. Celie says, “It’s time to leave you and enter into the creation. And your dead body is just the welcome mat I need”. Because Shug moves to Memphis, Celie finds the courage to go and creates a business for herself. Shug and Nettie’s friendship makes Shug finally realize that she does not need Mister, and she can finally stand up to him.”
In The Color Purple, Walker conveys friendship through acceptance and emotional support, confidence, and independence in the character’s actions. Walker portrays how friendship helps boost the characters’ confidence, allows for women to deal with trauma or problems, and allows them to find happiness. The important theme of friendship in the novel allows the reader to understand how women finally conquer hardships and discover their unique independence through female friendship. Furthermore, the novel provides the reader with the important message that friendship provides the strength to accomplish the impossible.