I am a British Literature fanatic… obviously! However, last spring semester in Junior College I had to take A Survey of American Literature and was introduced to many amazing American authors. I really delighted in reading Alice Walker after I read her short story, “Everyday Use.” It is about two sisters who take different paths in life and how their lives effect each other from that point on. I really enjoyed that story and have always wanted to read Walker’s novel, The Color Purple. It was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, so of course it was bound to be good. However, I did not realize how amazing I would find it. It only took me 3 days to finish it, and with how busy I have been that goes to show how addicting it was.
I could not put it down. I just had to find out what was going to happen to Celie and Nettie, two African American sisters that stay in touch by writing letters to each other. The two are separated once Celie is married off as a teenager and Nettie, with no other choices, becomes a missionary in Africa. They are able to keep pushing forward despite life’s challenges through their faith that the other is still alive and well.
There was a good amount to the novel that I did not expect and made the book so very intense and suspenseful. To start, there was a large amount of graphic scenes, including rape scenes. Alice Walker was able to capture the moment of Celie’s life where her innocence was robbed of her in a very subtle way at the beginning of the novel. There were also some flashbacks that included lynching and a scene where a friend of Celie’s is beat up by the police. These scenes, though graphic, made the book much more realistic and made you feel so much emotion for the characters and what they were dealing with. There was also a lot of historical context in the novel concerning Africa and the actions of the British government towards it. I knew that Nettie went to Africa, but I did not expect there to be as much detail about the problems that were going on there. Alice Walker brought attention to the injustices that Africans were forced to live with even after slavery was taken out of the picture. Lastly, there was a lot of spirituality in the novel. I was expecting this of the dedication at the beginning of the book, but when Walker mentioned “Spirit,” I had assumed it was the Christian Holy Spirit. Let’s just say that I was wrong.
Overall the novel was marvelous. It had the perfect combination of family loyalty, friendship, social criticism, and identity crisis. The use of vernacular is also astounding and quite impressive. It got to the point where I would have a southern accent if I read it for too long at once. The only thing that should stop someone from reading it is the graphic content. However, that should only stop you if you are under the age of 14, or have the mindset of someone under the age of 14. Other than that, I would recommend this book to everyone! It is just so great and I would probably read it again if I didn’t have 20+ unread books in my room.
There is also a movie with Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg from 1985 directed by Steven Spielberg that I am set on seeing. The story was also made into a musical and is possibly going to be remade into a movie in 2013.
Hope you enjoy it!