The Theme Of God In Alice Walker's 'The Color Purple'

1951 Words 8 Pages
“What kind of God are you?” this question echoes through the theatre as Celie sings a desperate plea to God in The Color Purple the revival of the 2006 musical that opened in New York December 10th, 2015. Directed by John Doyle with a book by Marsha Norman based on Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by the same name, the musical takes the audience on a journey through Celie’s life as she attempts to answer this question for herself. The musical is a portrait of Celie’s life as an African-American woman coming into her own in rural Georgia during the first half of the 20th century as she navigates abuse, love, betrayal, loss of faith, and family. The musical follows the story of Celie’s life from the time she is a child into late …show more content…
Celie’s intersectional existence as a black woman who seems to be powerless marginalizes her in society, and thus she feels unheard by a God who’s perceived intersectional existence as an all-powerful white man places him in the highest position of society. As Ta-Nehisi Coates asks in his book Between the World and Me “how do I live free in this black body?” (Coates 12) in reference to living freely in a society that marginalizes his existence because of his race, Celie is faced with understanding how to understand god in a society that does the same to her. In his search to answer that question, Coates reveals that he “could not retreat, as did so many, into the church” because he and his family “would not kneel before their God”, the God accepted by “people who wanted to be white” (Coates 28). As a result of being a black man in a society that treated him as less than, he “had no sense that any just God was on my side” (Coates 28). This is the same experience that Celie has, she cannot have faith in a God that is white and male, which is the only way she understands God, and so she loses all faith in God …show more content…
At first, Celie understands God as a white man, but Shug Avery, a jazz singer, and Celie’s eventual lover, helps Celie to realize that this, itself, is a symbolic conception of God, one that has been created to suit dominant white interests. In “The Color Purple” Shug sings to Celie that “God is inside you and everyone else/that was or ever will be” she sings of how God exists in everything and that the only way to find God is to look inside oneself “we come into this world with god/but only them who look inside find him” (Russell et al. 2015). While she still uses the male pronoun to describe God, this is the first time Celie is given the idea that her understanding of God is incorrect. As Celie continues to find her own voice and place in the world she continues discovering what God is to her, by the end of the play Celie feels empowered enough to define God in her own terms. The final song of the musical is “The Color Purple- Reprise” sung by Celie it begins with a direct address to God of “dear God, dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples/dear Everything/Dear God.” (Russell et al. 2015) this address reveals Celie’s new way of envisioning God as everything that exists. She goes on to sing about how when she finally looked inside “she found it/just as close as my breath is to me” (Russell et al. 2015) mirroring the words of Shug,

Related Documents