Alice Walker’s The Color Purple presents the life-long struggle of Celie, a black Georgia woman, who yearns to obtain confidence and self-esteem. During the early stages of the novel, references to wagons are made, signifying the “old days,” whereas towards the end of the work automobiles surface. Though Walker never discusses any specific time or place where the story actually occurs, the change in transportation suggests about a forty-year span of Celie’s life, from the beginning of the novel until the end. Written in first person, Celie writes a series of letters to God, explaining the torture that she faces, and begging him for some form of mercy.
After years of abuse, both physically and emotionally, Celie discovers herself searching for some self-respect. Fonso, Celie’s abusive father, forces her to marry Albert, also abusive by nature. Celie finds a degree of hope through the depiction of Albert’s mistress, Shug. Shug serves as a tremendous force in Celie’s attainment of confidence, as the two eventually form a strong bond. Celie’s sister, Nettie, intelligent and caring who “means everything in the world” to Celie, also faces many of the same obstacles that Celie does, but Nettie first helps Celie overcome hers. As time passes, Celie gains more and more self-respect as well as some respect from others.
The central theme flowing throughout the work remains that man often defeats his problems through the nurturing of close intimate relationships. The bond between Shug and Celie allows Celie to conquer her passive behavior. Likewise, her relationship with Nettie also instills a strong sense of courage and self-esteem within Celie. Celie refuses to allow the horrible deeds of the men in her life to control her towards the latter stages of the novel. The intimate relationships that Celie shares with both the energetic Shug and the loving Nettie provides Celie with hope that she will one day come out of her passive shell.
Walker captures the audience with Celie’s series of letters to God that involve the audience. This unusual style of writing forces the reader to become directly involved in Celie’s life. Though the work is told by Celie’s perspective, the audience is able to receive adequate information about other key characters instead of only being able to venture into Celie’s mind. The language used throughout the novel serves several purposes. Initially, the use of the slang serves to exhibit to the audience the illiterate Celie who just spells words as they sound. Though the novel is not written in standard English, the reader can easily identify with Celie and the other people in the novel because the slang makes for easier reading with a better idea of what message is trying to be conveyed. Walker illustrates the importance of close human relationships and how they help heal pain through this masterpiece.
A Review of
The Color Purple