One of the most innately human characteristics is that of wanting. Everyone has wishes and desires that they hope will someday come true, although the manner in which they deal with those feelings varies based on the person experiencing them. In The Color Purple, Celie wants to be physically free from her husband so that she can be with her sister, but she does not immediately act on her wishes. Instead of rising above the situation and leaving Mr._____ as soon as he begins to treat her inappropriately, Celie chooses to stay with him for many years before she realizes that her dreams will never come true while she lives in Mr._____’s house. Similarly, George also holds a dream of freedom. George wants to own a plot of land with his best friend where they can be free from working for someone else, as well as free from judgment. George takes action to follow his dream by attempting to reach his goal through hard work and perseverance. Through a comparison of Celie and George, it becomes apparent that internal motivation alone will not suffice and that external motivation is a necessary factor in achieving a dream.
In The Color Purple, Celie is a heroine who has been placed in a horrific situation and appears unable to achieve her dreams. She has not only been raped by her father (1), but also sent away to live with a man who despises her (12). Celie’s desire to be reunited with her sister and children appears to be unreachable. She lives for many years without the knowledge that her sister has been trying to contact her. During those years of disillusion, Celie has several opportunities to run away or to escape from Mr.____’s grasp, but she chooses to stay with him and to continue acting as a loving wife despite his mean and hateful nature. Perhaps this reluctance to leave Mr._____ is due to the fact that Celie is an abused woman who has never known a man’s love. In fact, Celie seems to believe that the only people who have ever loved her are other women. This is reflected in the fact that Shug and Nettie are the only people that Celie loves, as Shug gently reminds her. “Cause she the only one you ever love, she says, sides me” (115).
Upon discovering Nettie’s letters, the possibility of obtaining her dreams becomes a reality for Celie. When Celie discovers that Nettie has been writing to her, she is incredibly overjoyed (115), and begins to think about Nettie incessantly. Celie realizes that her sister has not forgotten about her. In fact, her sister loves her and thinks about Celie every day. With this realization, Celie gains the knowledge that she can have a life without Mr._____. This is something that she had not previously thought possible. When Celie makes the decision to leave Mr.______, she realizes that her dreams can come true. She simply must take the first step to make them do so. “I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here” (205). Celie realizes that although she may not be the most highly educated or beautiful person, she has the ability to achieve her dreams.
Celie takes the first step in reaching her dreams by leaving Mr.____ and beginning a life without him. Mr._____ is one of the major forces that restricts Celie from achieving her dreams, and it takes the exterior motivation of Nettie’s letters to push Celie to leave him. It is only after Celie receives the letters that she realizes she will be able to survive without Mr._____. The letters give Celie the knowledge that she will be able to pursue her dream of being reunited with her children and Nettie, and she gains the courage to be able to start trying.
Contrary to Celie, George is a very self-motivated character. From the beginning of the novel Of Mice and Men, he believes that his dream is obtainable. George’s dream consists of someday owning a ranch and living “off the fatta the lan'” (14). He describes his dream in detail to Lennie, with whom he hopes to someday make this desire become a reality. “O.K. Someday — we’re gonna get the jack together and we’re gonna have a little house and a couple of acres an’ a cow and some pigs” (14).
Throughout his story, George takes steps to make his dream come true. George and Lennie both are hard workers who make plans to purchase a ranch. George does not sit idly by and wait for his dream to appear – he seeks out an available ranch and begins to save the money it will cost to purchase it. “Well – I could get it for six hundred bucks. The ol’ people that owns it is flat bust an’ the ol’ lady needs an operation” (59), George tells Candy. “We got ten bucks between us” (59). Candy agrees to pool his own money with George and Lennie, which brings the assumption that it will be even easier to obtain the goal of being self-sufficient.
George contains an internal motivation that pushes him toward hard work and determination. George presses on, despite the foul working conditions, because he believes that he is only a few months away from seeing his dream come true (60). It is only when the external factor of Lennie’s death becomes present that George decides to give up on his dream. Without Lennie, George’s desire to own a ranch and “live off the fatta’ the lan'” (106) begins to fade. The exterior event of Lennie’s death shows George that he will never be anything but a farm hand. George could still continue to work and save money by himself, but without Lennie, George realizes that his dream is no longer worth striving for.
In comparing Celie and George, it becomes apparent that external motivation plays a huge role in determining who reaches their dream and who does not. Celie, while lacking internal drive, is able to develop courage when she receives the external force of Nettie’s letters. The letters give her the “boost” she needs to stand up to Mr.______ and to leave the farm where she has been a prisoner for so long. George, however, is overflowing with personal motivation but his external motivation disappears when Lennie dies. George’s desires rested partly on the fact that he wanted a pleasant place for Lennie to live where people would be “nice to [him]” (106). When Lennie passes away, that desire fades.
Celie and George each exhibit different motivations for desiring their dreams. Celie wants to be free from Mr._____ and be with her sister and children, while George wants to be free from a boss and to be with Lennie. While Celie’s external force is brought into the story and gives her the push that she needs, George’s external motivation is taken away, which leaves the idea that internal desire is not enough to make something a reality. A certain amount of external motivation or force is also required in order for a dream to come true.
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. London. Penguin. 1993.
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York. Harcourt. 1992.