The Color Purple, published in 1982, is a classic novel that celebrates black women who challenge unjust authorities and raise their head beyond the yoke of their situations and circumstances.
The novel follows an impregnated and abused young girl, Celie, through her personal and spiritual growth in slave-bound Georgia. It’s 1909. Celie navigates through poverty and oppression from family and foes alike.
The story is told from the first person POV. We are allowed an entry into Celie’s mind. The narrative begins with the tone of a subdued and naive young girl. It continues to ring this way until Celie meets two strong characters, Sophie and Shug, who challenge her conception about life and make her realize that her life could be much different.
As the story progresses, you can feel the tone begin to change. The narrative voice tightens from that of a weak, fragile girl and continues to strengthen through the course of the book.
Alice Walker, through the book exposes the patriarchy at the time that condoned male domination and female suppression.
At a young age, Celie feels the need to understand life and her many struggles. She has so many questions that she begins to write epistolary letters to God. Her letters span over 20 years and are geared toward discovering who she really is. Celie, like most of us, grew to see God the way she was introduced to him: the big guy above making all the decisions- much like an oppressor in his own right. As Celie grows, her perception of God morphs from that of a rigid Christian entity to one more personal and unique to her experiences. Celie grows in all regards, helped to rediscovery by the strong female characters that surround her.
Alice Walker’s masterpiece is a powerful tale of courage in the face of oppression. The Color Purple is essentially a feminist novel though it extends beyond feminism to touch on other themes.
In all, Celie’s story is a deeply inspiring narrative and will be remembered as one of the greatest contemporary classics of American letters.