I read The Color Purple in my early teens, was traumatized by the graphic abuse portrayed, and vowed to never read it again. I was curious about why so many of my friends rated it so highly and was eventually convinced to give it another go.
Years after my first read, I still (of course) have the same visceral reaction to the abuse but that no longer blinds me from seeing the magnificence of Alice Walker’s storytelling, and how she brings her characters to life.
Celie is the protagonist of the tale. Her story is told through a series of letters written firstly to God, and then to her sister Nettie. As an abused, uneducated woman (abused by her father, husband, and step-children) who was only ever shown love by Nettie, the letters are very telling, and are the only means Celie has of expressing her feelings.
I adored Celie. It really amazed me how a woman who was abused so much (sexually, physically, verbally) could still have so much love in her heart, and not be bitter. Imagine hearing things like this regularly:
“Who you think you is? You can’t curse nobody. Look at you. You black, you pore, you ugly, you a woman. Goddam, he say, you nothing at all.” – (Husband to Celie)
But Celie is something, and one of my favourite parts of this book is the sisterhood portrayed, especially by the enigmatic Shug, who helped Celie on her journey to self-realization. The book has strong female characters, which is another plus.
I’m so glad I gave this book a second chance. Celie is a wonderful character and proof of the resilience of the human spirit.
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”