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The major theme of the novel is the harm inflicted on the Black community, both by their own cycle of violence and the racially motivated hatred of Negroes in the South. Embattled by white racist violence and its constant threat, the rural Black Southerners form a tight-knit community; however, they destroy themselves from within by abusing and belittling their women -- mentally, physically, and sexually. Black women, such as Celie and Sofia, are truly doubly oppressed; they are discriminated against by racism, which makes them second-class citizens in the larger society, and they are oppressed by their fathers and husbands, which makes them second-class citizens in the home. In neither place can the Black woman enjoy the basic human rights of self- determination, freedom from violence, or ownership of their own bodies.
A minor theme of The Color Purple is the potential strength and joy women can find in solidarity with one another. Powerless in the patriarchal family that isolates them from one another, women become powerful allies to one another when they join together. Part of their oppression as women is their internalized sexism, which teaches them that they and other women deserve the poor treatment they get from men. When they come together to share their pain and joys, women realize that they deserve better and can work together to improve their plights.
The Color Purple is written in a mood of endurance with an underlying and unquenchable sense of wonder and hope. Despite the horrendous existence that the protagonist lives under (the triple oppression of poverty, racism, and sexism), she maintains a sense of her own dignity, and when she is given the opportunity, she opens her heart fully to love.