How Does Walker’s Use of Imagery and Symbolism?

In “The Colour Purple,” Alice Walker uses symbolism, and imagery to affect the reader’s interpretation of the novel through very complex themes of religious influence, oppression and emotion developed from these literary devices. This has a profound influence on the reader’s interpretation of the novel as it suggests certain opinions and points of view to them as well as giving them deeper insight to the emotions of the protagonist In “The Colour Purple” a strong theme of religious influence and interpretation is developed through use of symbolism and imagery.
The fact that the letters are initially addressed to God, an entity in whom the protagonist strongly believes, has a significant symbolic impact on the novel. When Celie’s mother asks where her child came from she says “Its God’s” when clearly, it is her father’s child. The elliptical choice of “God” as the father of the baby is symbolic, and shows that the power her Pa wields over her makes him a God-like figure to her. This is ironic the semantic field of the word “God” holds connotations of an all-powerful and infinitely benevolent entity.
The irony of this is that whilst the true father of the baby, her “Pa”, holds a great deal of power over her, he is portrayed as anything but benevolent. If anything, he is more like Satan as he is seemingly the source of all the deplorable aspects of her life. This evokes a great deal of pathos from the reader and also antipathy towards her father. This clearly Illustrates for the reader who the protagonist and antagonists of the novel are Later in the novel, this symbolism is continued as the protagonist’s perception of God is explored through her dialogue with Shug Avery.

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Soon after discovering that her sister is still alive, she becomes frustrated and against the idea of praising God, exclaiming “What God do for me? ” This is a typical reaction of people who have suffered in life to the concept of God. This anger she feels towards God for letting her suffer so much is a manifestation of all the anger she feels towards all the people who have wronged her in life. This further manifests itself when she decides, “She don’t write God no more” as she blames him for giving her a hard life.
She also decides that God is a man, something that is of extreme significance as Celie attributes all of her life’s troubles and problems to men, and their mistreatment of her. She confesses to Shug Avery that she sees God as “Big and old and tall and greybearded and white” This perception of God is a fairly common one, along with the “white robed” and “barefooted” idea. Then Shug outlines her perceptions of God, and church, ideas that are not so common. Her ideas are extremely interesting; she says she never found God in church, and any God she found she “brought in” with her.
The effect this has on the reader forms very strong empathy with the protagonist, as the thoughts she is having are very relatable. It also makes the reader question their own perceptions of God, thus making this novel seem to be a very philosophical one. With Shug’s help, Celie comes to see that God isn’t a bearded white man, he is “Everything”, he is in nature, people, the sky and all that is good. This is most strongly illustrated in the final letter of the book which she addresses “Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, sear peoples.
Dear everything. ” The syntax of those sentences as a list illustrates further that she sees God in everything that is good and beautiful. This shows that she has come back to God and her perceptions have changed dramatically. This symbolises the end of a journey as Celie comes to accept God once more and it also symbolises that fact that she has moved on with her life and is finally happy. She’s also This creates more empathy from the reader who feels joy for the protagonist as well as showing that she has overcome her hardships.
Overall this idea of a journey creates a sense of this being a very biographical novel. The fact that it is in epistolary form makes the novel much more personal and relatable for the reader. When Celie leaves Mr. __ she finds her inner self and gains a lot more personality. At the beginning of the novel, she never mentions her emotions, just physical feelings. This is symbolic of the fact that in her oppression, she was just surviving rather than living. She was very much a shell, her body existed but her inner spirit was suppressed greatly.
The first time emotions are brought in are when Celie discovers that her sister is still alive. Her break from oppression to become her own person is symbolised by the pants. The making of pants is theraputic for her, she claims she “aint been able to stop” after she started. This is the first thing shes ever chosen to do herself so they are symbolic of her newfound independence. Also in that society, pants were considered to be a men’s item of clothing, so the wearing of pants by Celie and Shug is symbolic of their fight against sexism and the patriarchal society.
The fact that she starts to make money from the pants furthers the idea of independence. The effect on the reader of this is it gives an idea of this being a very political novel and being about a struggle for freedom. The colour purple is a regal colour representative of affluence and the good things in life created by God for the people to enjoy. At the beginning of the beginning of the book, Celie has no sense of the colour purple, she has a terrible life in which she is just surviving rather than really living. The lack of emotion at the beginning clearly shows this.
As a result, she doesn’t have the capacity to sense the colour purple, she cant appreciate the simple beauty of life and nature as her conditions are so oppressive that she cant see any good. Shug helps her to see the good in life when she shows Celie that God is in everything and telling her to “relax, go with everything that’s going and praise God by liking what you like. ” This overall analysis of God and the form In which he exists prompts the reader to question their own view on God, especially the way in which society depicts him and his laws.

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