The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple

The story in The Color Purple is told through a series of diary entries and letters. Somehow this worked well for me, since I could have short attention span sometimes, and reading diary entry or letter means it’s hardly longer than 2-3 pages at a time. The narrator, Celie, is a black woman who lives in 1930s in Southern United States. Since the diary entries are all Celie’s, the book is practically told in dialect, something that resembles “broken English”. It took some pages getting used to, but I got it pretty soon.

Celie is a poor uneducated woman who, at fourteen, repeatedly raped by a man she calls Pa and impregnated twice. The children were taken away from her and she was forced into marriage with a man who’s equally abusive. The only person she loves, her sister names Nettie, was separated from her. Later on the letters in the books are recorded from both Celie and Nettie, even though each doesn’t know if the other would read it.

The Color Purple discusses issues of degradation, poverty, sexism, racism, abuse, lesbianism (things in book that usually get banned..) But also about friendship, God, hope, and empowerment. I’m most interested in the relationships of the women in the book. From wife, mistress, ex-wife, girlfriend, step mom/daughter, sister, to nanny. The men are mostly portrayed as abusive, and therefore these women have at least something in common so they stick together and watch each other, even though it sometimes doesn’t start very smooth at the beginning.

I like the narration, how it feels so honest and down-to-earth, because the narrator, well, is a simple person. I get to like the simplicity of Celie’s observation of the world, her opinions and views about things, how she just hopes for the best and does everything she can to survive. The book is not at all heavy, but it’s touching and heartbreaking. I teared up at the end.

I think The Color Purple is a very important book. It touches on important issues without being preachy. It opens your eyes to ways of people’s lives that you may not be familiar about. At the end of the book, you’d feel that you are privileged to be allowed a glimpse into these amazing people’s lives. That they’re really alive somewhere, flesh and blood, and not just characters in a fiction book, which brings me to share the interesting dedication from Alice Walker at the beginning of the book:

beautifulalicewalker

To the Spirit:
Without whose assistance
Neither this book
Nor I
Would have been
Written

and at the end:

I thank everybody in this book for coming.
A. W., author and medium

She’s a medium, really? I would have believed her. The characters were so real, it is as if they were coming as spirits to her.

The Color Purple is one of the most frequently challenged book according to ALA because of its explicit content. It’s no. 6 in the top 10 of most challenged book of 2007 with reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language. I’m reading this for Banned Book challenge 2009 (and other challenges). Just a note from me, I don’t think the book is over-the-top sexually explicit apart from the very first page. It’s sort of started like an explosion, but calmed down more after that. And now that I think about it, there wasn’t any offensive language that I could remember of. It’s just that I can easily think of other books that contain more sexual content and offensive language that are not banned. I guess people are wary about the whole topic more than anything else.

Memorable Quotes

“But it ain’t easy, trying to do without God. Even if you know he ain’t there, trying to do without him is a strain.” ~ Celie, p174

“… have you ever found God in a church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in a church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.” ~ Shug, p174

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” ~ Shug, p177

“People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back. … It always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.” ~ Shug, p177

“Not if it make us crazy. It hard enough to git by without being a fool.” ~ Sofia, on Reefer, p198

“Now. Is this life or not? I be so calm. If she come, I be happy. If she don’t, I be content. And then I figure this the lesson I was suppose to learn.” ~ Celie, p257

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Pages: 261
Publication year: 1982

Awards
1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and National Book Award

First line
You better not never tell nobody but God.

Last line
Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt.

Also reviewed by

The Hidden Side of Leaf (quotes) | Jenny’s Books | Things Mean A Lot | Arukiyomi | It’s all about me (time) | Care’s Online Book Club (forethoughts) | 1morechapter | Caribousmom | Orpheus Sings the Guitar Electric | Kristina’s Favorites

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18 thoughts on “The Color Purple by Alice Walker”

  1. Great review! I love those quotes from Shug about God. I read this book when I was fourteen or fifteen, and what she said about God really, really resonated with me and made me rethink the way that I had thought God was supposed to be.

    …I also love that line “White folks is a miracle of affliction!”

  2. I loved this book so much. I agree with you, it’s not very explicit at all. But I guess it talks openly about things people would rather not talk about.

  3. Jenny: Yes I remember that line lol. I’m glad that I read it at this age though. I’m not sure if I could really appreciate it if I read it when I was 14.

    Nymeth: Yes, that’s what I wanted to say :). You put it very nicely.

  4. Thanks for the review – I really found it well-written, and concise. Even while reading the book, I loved the first quote you have in the Memorable Quotes section.

    I really should attempt making my reviews more organized, as yours is – mine just seems to sprawl all over the place.

  5. Thank you. I try to write a better review each time. I used to write really badly I think. It’s nice to hear the compliment :). I guess some things must’ve worked. Phew.

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