Discuss the title of the novel The Color Purple

In the novel The Color Purple images of birthing, gestation and nurturing are abundant which foreground the concept of motherhood and mothering in the novel. ‘Different kinds of motherhood are seen in the novel. Celie is a mother through rape but has to give away her children and look after Mr.’s-children. Nettie is childless and raises Celie’s two children. Sofia has six children and is not always there for them because she has been forced to be the “mammy” for the White Mayor’s children.

Squeak has her child Suzie Q (Jolentha). When she wants to pursue her singing career Celie offers to look after Suzie Q. Squeak, along with Odessa , looks after Sofia’s children while she is in jail. Shug’s three children are looked after by her own parents. Eleanor Jane, who is a mother herself also looks after Sofia’s daughter, Henreitta, while she is sick. Comne who is childless, adopts two children Adam and Olivia (who happen to be Celie’s children). Through these examples, Walker is showing to us that women and children were treated as moveable property by patriarchy. This was further compounded by racism and slave history.

In most of Walker’s novels, violence is inflicted on mothers because they are helpless. Although there is so much of motherhood and mothering shown in the novel it is not privileged. It shows how women are defined by it. That is, the complexities involved in the mated role for women is demonstrated through these examples. Walker elides literary motherhood with biological motherhood by tracing a mated ancestory. She admired Zora Neale Hurston, her own mother and other women writers who came before her.

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