Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coffee Table Book: Alice Walker's "The Color Purple"

I grabbed this book when I was wandering around the used bookstore in my home town. I'd heard the book's title for years, and knew that it had been turned into a film with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. other than that, I hadn't a clue what it was about.

This book quickly became a page-turner for me. It is epistolary, meaning it is written often times in the form of documents (letters, journal entries, etc.). The dialogue that takes place between the characters is raw and honest.

The story revolves around Celie, an uneducated, poor black woman who suffers years of abuse (sexual, physical, and psychological). Celie attempts to protect her sister, Nettie, from the hardships she herself endured. When her sister is sent away, life only becomes harder for Celie as she learns to live with an awful man who takes on a mistress, Shug Avery.

It is the relationship between Celie and Shug that drives Celie to look for, and eventually find, herself. While the bond didn't began naturally, the two women find themselves sharing their home and their hearts. Shug, we could say, is Celie's first true love.

Being set in the South in the 1930s, this book is replete with racism and sexism. Many of the violent scenes revolve around both. Both issues are vulgar and upsetting and are no different when presented in the book.

In the end, it is Celie's self discovery that has us cheering for her as she crosses that finish line. The realization that she is beautiful and loved and worthy of love is her victory. The story reinforces the belief that no matter what you endure, you have a choice to be a victim or to move on. It also reminds us that, as Celie says, "If you know your heart sorry ... that mean it not quite as spoilt as you think" (pg 248).

Conclusion: A truly magnificent piece of fiction, The Color Purple sharpens our faith in the bond and power of women as well as the knowledge that we are the bearers of our own destinies.

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