Alice Walker’s The Color Purple does not portray men in a good light, but nor does it do for women. Throughout the series of letters, we see how all the characters, regardless of their gender or identity, find peace from simply existing. There is no “good” or “bad” character. However, male characters appears to be more “antagonistic” in the first half of the novel. They have hurt Celie in different extents as she said, “men look like frogs to me. No matter how you kiss’em, as far as I’m concern, frogs is what they stay.” (p. 254) Throughout almost the entire book, she calls her husband Albert “Mr. _____,” and calls her stepfather Alphonso, “Pa.” She unconsciously neglects their actual names, showing that her heart is sealed from all the oppression from the men in her life. Only at the very end of the book does she forgive him and refers to Albert by his actual name in her letters. By forgiving Albert, Celie positively influences him and “cures” him.
Even though the male characters oppresses and abuses the female characters, they, too, are “spiritual captives.” Albert is not a likeable character because of his hostility towards Celie and lack of respect for women. However, he also deserves the reader’s sympathy. When he shows signs of vulnerability, he is forced to deny it and swallow it up himself. “You better git on back to the field. Don’t wait for me” (p. 26). He is not a masculine and strong character by nature, as Shug often describes him as “weak” (p. 122). But he is forced to exert a masculine dominance over the female characters, often by beating or shaming them. He says to Celie, “Who you think you is?…You can’t cure nobody.” (p. 206) But it turns out Celie is able to influence him. By returning Nettie’s letters to her, he is cured. To focus merely on the negative portrayals of the male characters is to ignore the book’s entire message. The abuser and the abused both need salvation.