Synopsis: Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. The novel has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 at number seventeen because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence.
Opinion of the book:
I read The Color Purple as part of the Emma Watson Book Club Challenge, sw. This is a book that I’ve always wanted to read but I never felt an urgency to read it, until it was assigned our book of the month for February. It was an excellent read that gripped me from start to finish. I felt strangely connected to the women in the book, and felt invested in their personal journeys. This shows the excellence of Alice Walker’s writing, that she can make the struggles of women who lived so long ago poignant to the struggles that women are still dealing with today.
Celie as a protagonist:
The story is told through the eyes of Celie, which is a struggle to get into in the beginning because she writes phonetically, and I think you have to partly be familiar with the American accent to truly make out some of the words. But once you get into the swing of the writing style it makes the experience richer, you ultimately feel part of Celie’s world. There are moments when Celie does not fully understand what is happening, and you as the reader can kind of makeout by Celie’s descriptions. It is also great that the voice of the novel is a marginalized voice, Celie is female, Celie is black, Celie is queer, Celie is a victim of rape and abuse. She is also a wife, a mother, a sister, a lover, a friend.
The role of women:
There are three prominent women in the novel – Celie, Shug Avery and Sofia. Both Shug and Sofia are fiercely independent women both in and out of their relationships with men. We see both women through Celie’s eyes as she becomes enamoured with Shug and admires Sofia. Both women also have a role in helping Celie find a voice, both characters live in spite of and bear the consequences of the racism and sexism of the time. In many ways, as readers we are Celie, and Shug and Sofia are encouraging us too, to find our voices and to become strong and independent.
How Africa is portrayed:
Celie’s sister in the book, Nettie, joins some missionaries on a trip to Africa, and being from post-colonial Africa, I am always touchy as to how it is portrayed in American novels. Told through the eyes of Nettie, in the forms of letters to Celie, we see an Africa that knows all about foreign missionaries, that are sort of immune to them (after in Things Fall Apart) but also haven’t truly been tainted by the West yet, which we see happening once the road is built. It is heartbreaking and sad, especially when they get banished from their own land because it was ‘bought’, the ramifications of activities like this is still being felt years later.
Would I recommend this?
Yes, definitely. If only just for Celie’s amazing journey and for the challenge it invokes in everyone of us.