I wasn’t sure what “The Color Purple” was about when I pulled it off the shelf in the living room. It’s on one of my many to-read lists I have lying around. I figure now was as good a time as any to read it, and I’m glad I did.
“The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker, is about Celie, who lives in Georgia in the 1930s. It’s an epistolic novel, meaning it is written in the form of letters. After having two children by her father and unable to have more, she is forced to marry a man who has children of his own and is a widower. Women who visit her in her new home, including her sister Nettie, tell her she needs to fight.
But I don’t know how to fight. All I know to do is stay alive. (p. 26)
She writes her letters to God, detailing best she can about her life with Mr. ______, how Nettie is gone and probably dead, and her friendship with Shug Avery, the blues singer and her husband’s lover.
The first few letters Celie writes are short, to the point and a bit jarring. She writes about how her father, whom she only refers to as “he” in most of her letters, rapes her, about how she gets big (twice) and how he takes her babies away. Her mother dies in the second letter and by the ninth letter, she’s married to Mr. ______, who’d rather marry Nettie.
Each letter Celie writes becomes longer and more in depth. By the end of the novel, the letters are three to four pages long on average. It’s one thing to have the novel in the first person point of view, but letters written by the narrator are so much more telling to character growth. Celie’s growth as a character is one of the best I’ve read. There’s no mistaking how confident Celie becomes, not only with others but in herself. This is shown especially through her interactions and friendships with various characters, Sofia and Shug Avery in particular. It is her relationship with Shug Avery that Celie truly blossoms.
I wasn’t surprised by Celie’s relationship with Shug Avery in the least. When the book began and throughout the beginning before she met Shug, I wondered if perhaps Celie was asexual. After her relationship with Shug began, it became more clear to me that perhaps she was gray-sexual. It’s all in how you interpret it.
There were so many memorable lines throughout the book, but there was one that stood out to me:
“Sometimes I feel mad at her [Shug Avery]. Feel like I could scratch her hair right off her head. But then I think. Shug got a right to live too. She got a right to look over the world in whatever company she choose. Just cause I love her don’t take away none of her rights. (p. 236, emphasis mine)
Once this book challenge is over, I think I’m going to go back and reread this. It’s such an excellent book, and it should be on everyone’s reading list.