Ugliness and Beauty in Walker's The Color Purple
When I finished The Color Purple, I cried. I was deeply touched by the story and all of the issues that it addressed. One interrelated theme that reiterates throughout the novel is that of ugliness and beauty. Celie represents ugliness, and Shug Avery illustrates beauty. The most prominent way that the struggle between ugliness and beauty presents itself in the novel is through Albert, Celie's forced husband, and Shug's long-time lover.
The characters of Celie and Shug are compared and contrasted throughout the novel, and the reason why Albert, for the majority of the novel, treats the two of them so differently is because of the way they look. Albert not only hates, but beats Celie because she is ugly and she is not Shug. "He beat me [Celie] when you not here, I say. Who do, she [Shug] say, Albert? Mr. _____, I say. . . . What he beat you for? she ast. For being me and not you" (79). Albert loves Shug because she is beautiful. In addition, Alice Walker "views Albert's love of Shug, in spite of her color and his father's protestations, as a sign of psychic health and, more specifically, a sign of self-love" (Winchell 98). However, this "self-love" that Albert supposedly possesses is only extended to Shug, not to Celie. This is because Shug is the epitome of society's patriarchal definition of a feminine woman. She has perfect flawless skin, hair that is never out of place, a voluptuous and sensuous (non-fat) body, and the fashionable clothes and accessories of a model. On first meeting Shug Celie describes, "and she dress to kill. She got on a red wool dress and chestful of black beads. A shiny black hat with what look like chickinhawk feathers curve down side of one cheek, and she carrying a little snakeskin bag, match her shoes" (47).
However, my first impression of Shug was not one of affection. Right away I could see that underneath all of that makeup and glamour, Shug was really like everyone else, except that she was experiencing a tremendous amount of hurt and pain. Celie observes this too. "Shug Avery was a woman. The most beautiful woman I ever saw. She more pretty than my mama. She bout ten times more prettier than me. I see her there in furs. Her face rouge. Her hair like somethin tail. She grinning with her foot up on somebody motocar. Her eyes serious tho. Sad some" (7). This description of a simple photograph of Shug reveals just how much Celie is taken in by her beauty. Celie already loves her even though she has not met her yet, and from then on she becomes excited even when she thinks about Shug.
Unfortunately, Celie's love for Shug is not the same reaction that Shug has towards her. In fact, it's exactly the opposite. For example, when she meets Celie for the first time she "look me over from head to foot. Then she cackle. Sound like a death rattle. You sure is ugly, she say, like she ain't believed it" (48). Celie, who has no real reaction to...