Lockdown is arguably the best time to tick off books from your to-read list. It’s also the perfect opportunity to revisit your favorite ones.
It wasn’t the first time that I laid my hands on The Color Purple by Alice Walker. But what amazes me is how each time I have, some new perspective has come up. The title itself has shades of reds and shades of blue, and everything in between. There’s something for everyone packed in there, if only you’re receptive enough.
The Color Purple (Review)
While the setting is mostly the Southern United States in the early twentieth century, the story transcends time and space. The themes it touches upon hold just as much importance in today’s world as it did in 1982. The introduction itself lays the groundwork for what is to follow.
Walker compares Celie’s (the protagonist) Pa to Tsunami and Mr —— to a hurricane that can manifest itself in anyone’s life. Adversity, she reckons, can take the form of mental illnesses, class, caste, sex, etc. Initially, it may seem a bit taxing to adapt to the poor grammar and colloquial writing style. The beginning is supposed to be written by someone who lacks eloquence. But from the first sentence itself, you are drawn into this more-real-than-reality world. And soon enough, you start appreciating the witty storytelling.
The story is told in the form of letter exchanges panning two decades. As the narrative unfolds, Celie becomes more and more aware of her identity; the writing style also gains clarity. Even the recipient of the letters changes from God to Nettie (Celie’s sister) and ultimately to all the remarkable creations of God (star, sky, people…) Characters’ comparison with inanimate objects such as trees ultimately gives way to Celie’s recognition of others’ feelings as well as her own. Personal seamlessly gives way to politics too. Nettie’s comment, “Time moves slowly, but passes quickly,” can be considered a meta-statement for the whole book. You’re constantly making fast-paced moves from one letter to another, but the depth each one has is striking. Celie, Sofia, Shug, and Nettie are some of the strongest characters to have walked the literary red carpet. And they become all the more pivot sources of inspiration in the era of #metoo movement.
The book brings the most rudimentary need for feminism to the forefront: to counter the ill effects of patriarchy. A society that values one gender over another is detrimental to BOTH the genders. Harpo’s inhumane binging of food is a comic tragedy that mocks the age-old societal norms. Here’s a man, who loves his wife dearly, set out to destroy the loving bond because his very idea of marriage is flawed. This line of abuse is carried forward from Celie and Mr—— ‘s dysfunctional relationship. Celie herself encouraging Harpo to beat up Sofia is probably the lowest point in the novel. Sophia, fortunately, fights back.
Moreover, Harpo loves housekeeping tasks, like cooking and cleaning. But women are “supposed to work,” and he is a man. Where did he get this message from? Well, it is anybody’s guess. Even his dad, Mr——, who was fond of sewing as a child, was mocked because of this “feminine hobby.” Another noteworthy instance is when Celie views Shug’s way of talking as manly. Women are “supposed to” talk of things like hair and health. Walker also lays bare how the combined impact of racism and sexism is far worse on the women of color. When we say “poorest of the poor,” this is what it means. What might be an obvious historical experience or explanation to the whites might differ drastically for the black man’s history? Sofia responds, “Hell no” to the white Mayor’s wife, asking her to be their maid. She is then forever indebted to the people in power.
The belief of the white race being the superior one enters the spiritual realm as well. Celie compares the act of giving Shug a bath to that of praying. She even claims to have lost interest if God is white and a man. Shug explains to her that God is not a person but an entity, a force that is perceived differently by different people. And this perspective is what Walker brings to our table. It all boils down to the book’s ultimate message: to acknowledge and appreciate the similarities and uniqueness of each of God’s creations. Do not ignore God’s surprises; do not oversee the color purple."For all the movie buffs out there, this Pulitzer Prize Winner was also adapted into a Steven Spielberg film in 1985!" Did you know this?
Finally, Celie and Albert sharing a smoke and sewing together might come up as a shocker. But Walker wants us to believe in the power of redeeming qualities inherent in each of us. All these problematic people can finally coexist because of forgiveness and acceptance. There is no denial of reality or mishaps. The characters are not delusional folks but people who have discovered the ultimate truths.
So, grab your copy and hop on this journey from darkness to light, and the ultimate discovery of the color purple. For all the movie buffs out there, this Pulitzer Prize Winner was also adapted into a Steven Spielberg film in 1985!