As The Color Purple has progressed, I have increasingly been interested in the gender fluidity of the novel, which is especially apparent within the last 30 pages. I first noticed it as a major pattern with Celie and her pant sewing business. Not only are pants during this period seen as specifically a male garment, but running a business was a man’s job. So the fact that she was doing both was really impressive. Then it turns out that she and Nettie were left their childhood home and the general store in town, so Ceile is once more a business owner.
What I’m trying to say is that the gender attributes that are strictly held in white society are not by the characters in this book. Sure, Harpo* was expected to beat his wife and have her mind him and when she retaliated with equal force, he sought to cover up his bumps and bruises and saving face by telling his father tall tales. But for the most part, gender norm violations are not made a big deal of. They are what they are the fact of their existence is accepted without batting too many eyelashes. And that’s what’s astounding about this: Its actually a very gender fluid book, and it doesn’t make a big deal about it. These are the kinds of books that will help pave the way to accepting gender fluidity fully into our culture in the future because people will be able to see what it would look like, see it as a normal thing.
The best illustration of this idea is one sentence on 272: “Now us (Celie & Mr. _____) sit sewing and talking and smoking our pipes.” The two of them are sitting on the porch, passing time pleasantly, not worrying who has the power. Celie narrates this scene nonchalantly, stating as fact and not making a big deal of the fact that they were passing time doing girly things (sewing) and manly things (smoking pipes) at the same time.
*Sidenote: I’ve been wondering something for the entire book- Is Harpo named after Oprah? I’m pretty sure that there is a correlation between them somehow. Oprah’s company is named Harpo Studios and Oprah spelled backwards is Harpo. The Color Purple was printed in 1982 and Harpo Studios was created in 1986.