Wow. Just wow. In all honesty, I did not think I would like this book, but I am absolutely smitten.
«Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls „father“, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie, and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.»
I read this book as part of Emma Watson‘s feminist book club Our Shared Shelf, and I have currently twelve tabs open, all of them full of discussion topics. It‘s way too much to discuss in a singe blog post, so I decided to instead focus on quotations. I promise I‘ll try not to spoil anything, in case The Colour Purple is still on your T-Read list. The language of the book is incredibly beautiful, and the author has the talent of bringing difficult topics to the point.
With this simple line Alice Walker sums up the message that Celie has received her entire life. How can a woman, who keeps being told that she is nothing, keep her dignity and a sense of worth?
This is the first time Celie sees another woman defending herself against a man. Up until that point, this has never been so much as an option to her. And Sofia, this woman, puts her own well-being before her husband, while Celie sees no other way than stay obedient and suffer through her abuse head down.
Throughout the story Celie stays very suspicious of men. In her opinion they are all prone to violence and oppression, which is the only treatment she has ever received. Falling in love with a man, to Celie, is unconsiderable. But Alice Walker also makes it very clear that relationships based on mutual love and trust do exist, and that they have nothing to do with abuse. Also, she emphasises on the fact that a woman can indeed be in love with a man and still be empowered. Love is not a weakness, no matter who it is you love.
One big topic The Color Purple discusses is religion. Can somebody who has been raped, had her children taken away from her and been pushed into an abusive marriage still trust in a God that‘s good and just and loving? Alice Walker presents the concept of a God that does not believe in sin but wants you to be happy and free. This is a thought that eventually pushes Celie towards emancipation and sets her free.
Just for context, this girl has only just been raped by a stranger. And yet, she refuses to be defeated by rejecting the belittling nickname, Squeak, that her boyfriend has given her. By renaming herself, Mary Agney resists the patriarchal words he has imposed on her. By doing so, she refuses to let the man in her life gain interpretive control over her.
People can change and, more importantly, people can be forgiven. When Celie finds the strength and the courage to leave her husband and finally be her own woman, the man who has been nothing but a possessive and lazy bastard finally gains control over his life and finds some sort of inner centre. It is made very clear throughout the story that violence creates more violence, and that no person is violent or oppressive by chance. Celie‘s husband had a father who decided over his head what his fate was to be, so he saw no other way than to control the life of his wive. It‘s only when she takes this piece of control away from him that he sees a way to change.
To me The Color Purple is about love and discovering your worth, and this is made to count for men and women alike. It‘s a complicated setting because women are twice the victim – once in their role as women, but also by being black.
While reading the book, all I could think of was how privileged I am! I could have been anybody, but instead I‘ve been born into a white upper middle class family in freakin‘ Switzerland. If I were even so much as involuntarily touched by anyone people would consider this a violation and support me. No one has ever told me that I‘m worth less because of my race or gender. And that makes me feel so, so lucky!
Definitely read The Color Purple, you‘ll cry and laugh and you‘ll want to spread love. Really, you‘ll just want to wave this book around because it feels as if everyone should read it and that would make the world a much brighter place. Yes, it‘s that good!