Purple signifies grandeur, independence, creativity and magic- just like the women characters in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The moment I began to read it, I felt like I’ve stepped into the diary of the protagonist Celie- a diary in which she writes heart wrenching letters to God.
Set in rural Georgia in the early 20th century, the book centres around the women relationships, the toxic way society sees them and how they see themselves. The letters Celie writes are in a broken dialect- strongly reflecting her poverty and lack of education. The use of such language throughout is helpful in feeling Celie in an intimate way, seeing through her pain and struggle. There is brilliancy in how the simple and innocent letters so eloquently speak about the web of horrors she is subject to right from her childhood. Nevertheless, a ray of sunshine is seen when she warmly talks about her sister Nettie, highlighting the strong bond of sisterhood and friendship. In the second half of the book, they write to each other after being estranged- sharing about their very different lives.
Many poignant questions of life are raised in unique ways- whether it is in her diary, in her conversations with Shug Avery- the woman she is in awe of and loves deeply or her loving conversations with the wise Nettie.
“Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And some-times it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, Lord. Feeling like shit.”
Several themes such as religion, family, oppression, culture, LGBT, sexual identity, violence and different shades of love blend together richly. No matter what Celie goes through, we are consistently shown how strong her faith is and how she keeps the fire of hope burning through her darkest days. Her resilience enables her to love despite the abuse.
“I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here.”
The entire story is an interplay of power and gender, of victimization and liberation. What I liked most about it is that the characters grow through their pain and evolve into stronger people, introducing Black Feminism into the male centred society.
“Why any woman give a shit what people think is a mystery to me.”
The title speaks of a single colour but a myriad of beautiful colours emerge as each character undergoes a wonderful transformation, brings out hidden talents, learns what it’s like to love herself and be determined enough to follow her dreams.
“Listen, God love everything you love – and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It.”
If there is one book that I had to pick for its immense strength it would be The Color Purple. Also, it is one story where watching the movie with Whoopi Goldberg’s expressions is as good as reading the book. Experiencing it in entirety is like being pulled in a whirl of emotions that you can’t ignore, urging you to reinforce your belief in the power of gratitude and perseverence.
In the beginning the colour purple is a metaphor for Celie’s trauma and as the story ends, it blooms into a grand purple shade of self-discovery and freedom.
My rating for ‘The Color Purple’