I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child aint safe in a family of men” (46).
Sofia is brazen and outspoken and has little in common with the often-beaten and intimidated Celie. Celie says, “I like Sofia, but she dont act like me at all. If she talking when Harpo and Mr. ____ come in the room, she keep right on” (42). This is in complete opposition to the fearful respect that Celie has learned to show to the men in her life. Celie is also resentful of the fact that Sofia looks on her in pity because she obeys Alberts commands without question. Harpo felt that Sofia needed to be more deferential towards him, and he asked Celie for advice. Celie gave him the only advice she knew: she told Harpo to beat her. Rather than admiring Sofia for her strength of personality, she suggested that Harpo try to make her mind the way Mr. ____ taught Celie herself to obey.
Celie was envious of Sofias defiance. Out of jealousy, she sided with the men in their persecution of Sofia. When Sofia asked her why she told Harpo to hit her, she admitted, “I say it cause Im jealous of you. I say it cause you do what I cantfight” (46).
Rather than allowing herself to be beaten, Sofia fought back whenever Harpo hit her. Their relationship turned violent, and eventually she left and moved into her sisters home. Unfortunately, soon afterwards Sofia had an encounter with the Mayors wife, who asked her to be her maid.
When Sofia answered in the negative, she was badly beaten, imprisoned, and ended up working for the Mayors wife anyway. It took many years for her to regain even a fraction of her earlier courage.
Celie did not gain the confidence that she needed until she began a love affair with Shug Avery, her husbands mistress. Shug gave Celie the confidence that she needed to leave Albert when she told him that Celie would be coming to Memphis with herself and Grady, Shugs husband. At that point the floodgates opened and everything that Celie had wanted to say over the years spilled out. She told him that he was a “lowdown dirty dog” (181) and told him that she had never asked or wanted anything from him, “Not even your sorry hand in marriage” (183). Shugs love gave her the courage that she needed to free herself from Albert.
In the end, both Celie and Sofia had to undergo a painful struggle for identity. Sofia had to fight both the white establishment and her own family. She lost her freedom and nearly lost her life in the battle, but she reunited with Harpo and regained her sense of self. Celie, on the other hand, was only able to establish her identity after she walked away.