The Color Purple and Shug
Every story has characters that have their own roles of keeping the story going. In “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, one particular character goes beyond playing their part. Shug Avery. Shug Avery herself is a symbol throughout the story, though not the main character she works behind the scenes at adding more to the story. Shug serves as a symbol of a better life in the black community in which the book is based. Though the story seemingly goes on as a flow, there are stops and goes when Shug enters the scene.
Shug Avery leaves an impression on every other character. She functions as a bold flower in a dim background in the story that slowly relates and combines with what is in the background. Shug changes lives with her boldness and promotes freedom that she believes everyone deserves. Easing into the beginning of the story, Shug is used as a bold feature in a blunt background. At the start of the story the reader falls into the normalcy of the way of life and a woman always being controlled by man.
Once Shug steps in however, she brings along a major contrast. Once the reader compares the differences, then the story has more of a feeling to it because there is something to compare the formal characters’ lives to. Shug is rich, a free woman and never takes orders from a man if she does not want to. In addition she is blunt, does as she pleases and sings with tight expensive clothes in public. Compared to what ‘dim background’ folk, Shug was just too special, lucky and good. Shug herself certainly felt that way.
In the beginning when she arrives to live with Cecile and Mr. _ , Cecile writes, “She look so stylish it like the trees all round the house draw themselves up tall for a better look (45)”. Clearly Shug stood out and wore much more extravagant clothes than Cecile was used to seeing. Shug was definitely bringing difference and change to the house. She was very assure of herself and wanted only the best. Cecile states, “She look me over from head to foot. Then she cackle. You sure is ugly (47)”. Shug was open and her thoughts are what counted most.
Clearly Shug provides a difference in atmosphere and shows a whole difference part of the world that Cecile and people in her family had only dreamed about. Shug was an outstanding contrast painting in midst of mellow paintings. After staying a while in the mellow paintings, Shug lowers her standards to her surroundings. She becomes the best friend of Cecile. Through understanding, listening and all the time she spends with Cecile, Shug changes her views of disgust to love towards Cecile. “I won’t leave, she say, until I know Albert won’t even think about beating you (75)”.
Shug is constantly learning how different life is for Cecile and when she hears about Cecile being beaten, Shug takes it to change things herself. Shug herself promotes her independence and rights throughout the story. Through her own independence, she becomes a figure that Cecile and other women look up to as their fighter for freedom, or someone to learn from. A free woman is a happy woman and that is secretly what all the woman want. And Shug is the free woman to follow. At one point Sofia was put in prison for denying, and getting physical, a white woman her service to her kids. Miss Shug cuss, she come special from Memphis to see Sophia (88)”. Throughout her long stay with Cecile and the family, Shug had come to believe them as part of her own family also. Shug has become a protector too all that know her well. She might be sassy and rude at times but she now cares for this family that has multiple problems with staying together. She is now the strong glue that holds everyone together, and the lady that women look up to. Throughout the book though Shug’s attitude and perspective of life stay the same, she changes others.
Shug is a symbol of strength for many, especially Cecile. Shug has no strings attached to her families, sings in public with expensive clothes without embarrassment and never lets herself be treated wrong by a man. Her easiness with her seemingly stressful life puts her in a position of awe for others. There are multiple couple fights and breakups in the story, but with Shug around to support the girl, things do not get too messy and physical. When Shug announces that she is leaving to Memphis with Cecile, Mr. _ says he thought Cecile was finally happy.
In reply Cecile says, “You a lowdown dog is what’s wrong, it’s time to leave you and enter into the Creation. And your dead body just the welcome mat I need (199)”. Shug had taught her that. Shug taught Cecile to stick up for herself and not let a greedy angered man always rule over her just because he thinks he can. She taught Cecile independence and that was the greatest gift to Cecile. Also, this was a turning point in the story. After the whole story having problems with men and beating, this showed that independence was not impossible. During this occasion, Sophia stands up to her husband too.
When Cecile exclaims that Sophia would have never gone to prison if Harpo (her husband) had not tried to rule over her, Sophia said “A little truth in it (200)”. Confirming and standing up to what Cecile was saying. At one point Squeak decides she wants to speak and announces she is going to do so. First everyone is against it, but she is persistent with her wish and achieves it. Shug changed all these women. She brought in unity, love and strength so each could walk on their own feet. She opens their eyes and has them see that they are all equal and deserve their equal rights.
Shugs boldness is like no other in the book. She does as she wants and listens to none other. Her happiness with just the way she is contagious throughout the story. Slowly other women realize that their happiness should not necessarily rest on a man’s happiness. Thus, a good change is funded through Shug. She depicts everything a woman wants and shows, indirectly, how to achieve them. Sometimes it is though the characters think pleasant kindness and simple pleasure are sin. Shug steps in and shows there is no such thing as sin besides treating another as a slave.