In Alice Walkers novel, The Color Purple, the character Celie first speaks about color when Mr. ______s sister takes her shopping. She admires a woman she knows only by a photograph (Shug Avery) and she wants a dress that she thinks Shug might like. I think what color Shug would wear, she writes. Although Celie has never actually met Shug she invinsions how she would dress. The colors Celie chooses for the woman she doesnt know and eventually the color of her own dress come from her constructed views about men, women, sex, and power.
The first color Celie imagines Shug would wear, purple, says a lot about Celies original perception of Shug. While Shugs strength and attitude become apparent at first meeting, Celie instantly recognizes these characteristics from the picture in which Shug has one foot up on an automobile and has on furs and red rouge. In addition to this being the first picture Celie has ever seen, Shugs pose and wardrobe cause Celie to associate her with the color purple.
She like a queen to me so I say to Kate [Mr. __s sister], Somethin purple. . . The fact that Celie says that Shug [is] like a queen and then immediatly connects her to the color purple says a lot about the constructionism instilled in Celies mind. The photograph, the furs, and the car make Celie think Shug has wealth. This explains why the poor, oppressed character would think of her as a queen. Along with the royalty, Celie also gives Shug power and strength (beyond that of a normal womans) based on the wealth she invisions.
She views Shug as a powerful queen and yearns to have these things as well. Therefore, she wants to wear purple as she thinks Shug would. However, Celie cannot find anything purple in the store, perhaps symbolizing the lack of opportunities she has to attain power at this point in the novel. Shug can connect to the boldness of purple and Celie cannot. The other color Celie chooses for Shug also fits ideals that have been constructed by societal standards. She says she wants Somethin purple, maybe little red in it too.
Celies instant association of Shug and the color red add to the concept of Celies mind being set in the views that have been constructed for her by the society she lives in. The chosen color red, conventionally associated with sex and sex appeal, tells the reader before they even get a chance to meet Shug that she possesses a very strong sexuality. While Celie clearly says that Shug the most beautiful woman I ever saw, the book does not initially state that Shug uses her sexuality as a strength, or that she even possess sexuality.
However, this aspect of Shug Avery becomes clear with all of Walkers references to Shug and red. For instance, the first time Celie meets Shug, she has on a red wool dress and red rouge, despite her severe illness. Celie writes, She look like she aint long for this world but dressed well for the next. The very idea of a sick woman still getting all gussied up says a lot about the womans attitude, but the fact that Shug gets fixed up in red tells the reader that Shugs sexuality makes up the basis of her attitude. This, of course, comes from societys constructed symbolism in the color red.
While Shug never recieves a blantently sexy type of description, the use of the color red alludes to Shugs sex appeal throughout the rest of the novel. When Shug debuts at Harpos Jukejoint, for example, Celies description obviously implies the singers sexiness. She talks about Shugs bright black skin in her tight red dress, her feet in little sassy red shoes. While the image of Shug swinging her hips and bellowing out Bessie Smith songs brings sexiness to mind, Walkers using of a red dress and sassy little red shoes makes the concept much easier to grasp.