The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, is a very intense book to read. By
intense, I mean it is a book touching very difficult and hard aspects of life of
a poor, black oppressed woman in the early twentieth century. Walker does
social criticism in her novel, mostly criticizing the way black women were
treated in the early twentieth century. Walker uses the life experiences of
Celie to illustrate her social criticism.
The Color Purple is not written in the style of most novels. The author
does not tell us everything about the characters, the setting, and why the
characters behave the way they do. The novel is written in a series of letters,
not dated. There are large gaps between some letters, but this is not revealed
by the author; we have to figure it out ourselves. The letters are written in
what Walker calls black folk language, which also reduces the easiness of the
When the novel opens, Celie is a young black girl living in Georgia in
the early years of the twentieth century. She in an uneducated girl, and writes
her letters in common language. Celie is entering her adolescence believing she
was raped by her father and that he killed both of their children. She writes
to God, because she has no one else to write to. She feels that what happened
to her is so terrible that she can only talk about it to someone she feels loves
her. She knows her sister Nettie loves her, but she is too young to understand.
Celie believe only to God may she talk honestly and openly about her suffering.
Celie is not, however, at this point, complaining to God, she is simply
confiding in him.
Celie was born into a poor family; her mother was sick most of the time,
mentally and physically; there were too many children in the family; and Celie
was abused by the man she believed was her father. Celie feels used and abused,
but does not understand why. So many bad things have happened to Celie that she
lacks self esteem and confidence. Celie does not even feel she is worth enough
to sign her name at the end of the letters.
Slowly, Celie evolves into a mature woman with great confidence, but not
before her sister Nettie is taken away from her, and she marries a cruel man who
really wanted to marry Nettie. For a long time, Celie is almost a slave to her
husband, until her husband’s mistress comes to live with them to recuperate from
a sickness, and Celie becomes her nurse. Shug is a strong woman, and encourages
Celie to grow stronger. At the same time, Sofia, Celie’s daughter in law, shows
Celie to stand up for herself and fight prejudice and injustice, and fight.
By the end of the novel, Celie’s new strength pays off, because she is
able to live happily with the people she loves. She reunites with Nettie and
her two children, who have been raised by Nettie. Celie learned to fight, to
stand up for herself, and she was rewarded. Celie was able to survive
physically and spiritually, and is able to mature into a full, modern twentieth
In The Color Purple, Alice Walker is able to illustrate the abuse,
neglect, and oppression a black woman had to go through in the early twentieth
century, but she also illustrate how a woman must fight back to regain the self
esteem and confidence lost way back in the early adolescent years. The Color
Purple is a story about growth, endurance, and fight, all nurtured by love.