In The Color Purple, Alice Walker provides us with valuable insights into both Celie and Mr. ____, as they progress through and conquer their toxic relationship. First, she does so by humanizing Mr. ____ through his actions, emotions, and progression of identity. Second, she does this using their relationship as a benchmark of where Celie is in her personal growth. Walker uses the relationship between Celie and Mr. ____ to depict a conventional, patriarchal relationship. Then, she shows the readers what can happen when that toxic relationship is broken.
In this novel, Walker humanizes Mr. _____ using his vulnerability, his similarities to Celie, and his change from “Mr. _____” to “Albert” in Celie’s eyes. For the majority of this book, Mr. ____ is an incredibly dislikeable character. He acts as the ultimate authoritarian patriarch: abusive, controlling, stoic. His actions are often inhumane, causing the reader to feel little to no sympathy for him. However, amidst his atrocious behaviour, Walker inserts small moments of vulnerability to humanize him. First, as he’s ordering Celie and Harpo to work, Celie describes, “He tired. He sad. He weak. He cry. Then he sleep the rest of the day and night” (p. 26). According to patriarchal standards, men aren’t allowed to express their sadness. They are required to remain strong and stoic. Therefore, Mr. ____ is converting this depression into anger, abusiveness, and authoritarianism. Though this does not excuse his actions whatsoever, this quotation does provide some depth of character. Another vulnerability of Mr.____’s is shown when his dad comes to visit. Immediately, his dad begins criticizing him and Shug Avery, causing tension (pp. 54-55). Mr. ____ feels attacked by his father on the basis of someone he loves, which causes him and Celie to feel “the closest [they] ever felt” (p. 55). When the two are on the same side, against his father, they feel most united. This leads to another vulnerability of Mr.____’s, which he also shares with Celie: his love for Shug Avery. Around Shug, Mr. ____ is an entirely different person. Because of his deep-rooted love for her, his emotional vulnerability is most prominent around her. As he says to Celie, “Nobody fight for Shug, he say. And a little water come to his eyes” (p. 48). Walker shows us these moments of vulnerability to demonstrate that underneath his toxic facade, he is human. Due to his love for Shug Avery, Celie and him are able to bond later in the novel. When Shug has her fling with Germaine, Celie describes, “Mr. ____ seem to be the only one understand my feeling” (p. 259). Because of this similarity between Celie and Mr. _____, along with their shared passion for sewing (p. 273), they start to become friends. They discuss Shug, they discuss their failed marriage, they discuss Nettie. Eventually, Celie stops calling him “Mr. _____”, and starts calling him “Albert” (p. 284). This change is the ultimate expression of humanization. Instead of using “Mr. ___”, which expresses detachment and formality, she uses “Albert”, which expresses familiarity and amiability. Walker’s humanization of Albert is essential to this story, as it helps us understand the relationship between Celie and him.
Throughout The Color Purple, Walker uses Celie’s relationship with Mr. ____ to reveal Celie’s stage in her personal growth. At the beginning of the novel, Celie allows Mr. ____ to completely walk over her. She rationalizes his abuse, claiming that, “he my husband” (p. 42), as if that justifies it. As the novel progresses, she develops her ideas about love and religion and self-respect, with Shug’s help. This development provokes Celie to stand up for herself, and combat Mr. ____’s oppressive behaviours (pp. 199-200, 205-207). Celie leaves that toxic relationship, which proves an increase in her self-worth. She fills her life with love and happiness, as she expresses to Nettie, “I am so happy. I got love, I got work, I got money, friends and time. And you alive and be home soon. With our children” (p. 215). Cutting off ties with Mr. ____ allows her to branch out and explore her relationship with herself. Finally, after Mr. ____ experiences a personal growth of his own, they’re able to reconnect as friends. This indicates her ultimate growth: she has progressed from their toxic relationship, to a separation, to a platonic reconnection founded on mutual respect. Walker uses this evolution as a way to demonstrate how Celie positively progresses as a character.
In this novel, both Celie and Mr. ____ experience incredible growth. Through this, they’re both able to recognize the toxicity in themselves and their relationship. Walker’s demonstration of this development is captivating and encouraging, as it highlights the effects of combating harmful relationships.