Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Color Purple Study Guide." Course Hero. 15 Sep. 2016. Web. 15 Dec. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, September 15). The Color Purple Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 15, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "The Color Purple Study Guide." September 15, 2016. Accessed December 15, 2018.


Course Hero, "The Color Purple Study Guide," September 15, 2016, accessed December 15, 2018,

The Color Purple | Quotes


You better not tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy.

Alphonso, Section 1, Letter 1

Alphonso, Celie's father, says this after the first time he rapes her. He is threatening her by saying her mother would die if she knew he had molested her daughter. As a result, Celie believes she can only confide in God.


I never tell her how flat it look to me.

Celie, Section 1, Letter 8

Nettie has been trying to teach Celie the concept of the world being round. Circular objects or ideas suggest dimension, and this allows for a variety of perspectives and features. Celie's flat world offers only one perspective—that of abuse and servitude.


I say to myself, Celie, you a tree. That's how come I know trees fear man.

Celie, Section 1, Letter 13

Celie concentrates on petrifying her emotions when Mr. ___ beats her. Wood is difficult to penetrate. By creating this metaphor and comparing herself to wood, she is saying her inner self can never be violated.


Wives is like children. Nothing can do better than a good sound beating.

Mr. ___, Section 2, Letter 19

Mr. ___ is telling his son Harpo what he needs to do to control Sofia. Harpo wants to break her forceful nature and bend her to his will. Mr. ___ is repeating the same advice his father gave him when he married his first wife.


First time somebody made something and named it after me.

Celie, Section 4, Letter 33

Shug is singing a song at Harpo's she composed. She announces to the crowd that she named it "Miss Celie's Song" because Celie helped her to create the lyrics. The pride Celie feels, along with Shug's praise, sparks Celie's self-confidence.


By now he just about her size.

Celie, Section 4, Letter 36

Celie refers to Harpo's obsession with eating and gaining weight so he can be assertive like Sofia. This is a metaphor comparing a powerful physique with mental muscle.


Cause she the only one you ever love.

Shug, Section 6, Letter 49

Celie has just explained to Shug why she feels Nettie is dead. When Shug pushes Celie to continue discussing her sister, Celie asks her why. That's when Celie makes this comment.


Where I'm at it peaceful. It calm. No Albert there. No Shug. Nothing.

Celie, Section 6, Letter 50

Shug has just told Celie that Mr. ___ has been hiding Nettie's letters. Noting Celie's shock, that night Shug chooses to explain her affair with Albert. Although she has allowed her emotions to soften from their wooden state since she fell in love with Shug, she still needs to mentally crawl into a void and blanket her pain.


Like family might have been, I mean.

Nettie, Section 7, Letter 54

In one of her earliest letters to Celie, Nettie explains Corrine and Samuel welcomed her into their home the same as they would a relative, and showered her with love and respect. With this statement, she is wistfully referring to the kind of family life she and Celie desired but never enjoyed.


They're like white people at home who don't want colored people to learn.

Nettie, Section 8, Letter 62

Olivia asks Nettie why the Olinka don't allow Tashi to attend school. Nettie explains those who control others, no matter their race, keep the people they rule uneducated so they don't learn about a life they are missing and might attempt to attain.


You must be sleep.

Celie, Section 9, Letter 68

Celie is writing God and listing all of the horrific events that have led to her life of misery. She is angry that God has ignored her suffering. At this point, she quits writing to God.


And not being tied to what God looks like, frees us.

Nettie, Section 13, Letter 86

Nettie's interpretations about God mirror Shug's. Emphasizing His color instead of concentrating on His love, and on His creations inhibits them from finding their own spirituality. This internal understanding is unique for each person and must be based on what God does, not on color or gender.


And I start to git mine real heavy long about the time I told Shug it was true that I beat you cause you was you and not her.

Mr. ___, Section 14, Letter 87

Mr. ___ is telling Celie that he is ready to take responsibility for his cruelty to her. He confesses his mistreatment of her, needing her forgiveness. She comments, "we all have to start somewhere if us want to do better," and they stand on the porch hugging each other.


They not so backward as mens here.

Celie, Section 14, Letter 87

In response to Mr. ___'s comment that "men spose to wear the pants," Celie tells him that some African men wear robes that are like dresses. He admits he used to love sewing but was ridiculed. She hands him a needle and helps him renew this pastime.


If she come, I be happy. If she don't, I be content. And then I figure this the lesson I suppose to learn.

Celie, Section 15, Letter 89

Celie misses Shug but realizes she will feel fulfilled even if her friend and lover never returns. She recognizes Shug's friendship and love have empowered her to take charge of her life by breaking the emotional bonds of physical abuse. She is strong because of the love she feels for herself and the love from her friends and family, and this fills her with satisfaction.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Color Purple? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!