Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Color Purple - Alice Walker

Published: 1982

In 1001-books-you-must-read list

The Color Purple is a novel about two sisters Celie and Nettie, two young black women born in a racially conflicted America.
Celie is being married off to an older man who isn't interested in her since he is head over heels in love with someone else. She learns the tough lessons of life from very early on and grows a thick skin and an almost impassive nature to the world.
Nettie, the younger one, runs away from home and after staying a while with her sister and her husband she must leave there too. She comes upon a reverend and his wife and they embrace her into their life to look after their children. Treating her better than house personnel is treated in those days, she quickly becomes friends with them and joins them on a mission to Africa to help their brothers and sisters and relieve them of their wicked ways.

The novel consists of letters, most of them written by Celie. In the first half of the book she addresses them to God, since she thinks Nettie has died. Her thoughts are very dark, sober, but yet naive in a way. She has seen so little of the world, that she believes that what is happening to her, happens everywhere.
She's attracted to other women, but as reader of her letters we realise that sooner than she herself. But when she does come to the same conclusion there is no shame, no regret. She doesn't know another way and she lets herself be whomever she is.

Her initial behaviour towards god is a shy and fearing one. She fears the image she has of god, until her friend and lover tells her that she only fears the image white people have put in there. God is everywhere, and instead of fearing his disapproval, we should celebrate all he has made for us. As soon as Celie embraces that new train of thought, her life picks up. She leaves her husband and goes off to Memphis with her girlfriend, where she slowly starts a new, yet succesful life.

Nettie has been stationed in Africa, along with the reverend and his wife and their two children. They try to help a tribe, give them education and teach them better, less crueler ways of life.
The reverend and his wife couldn't have children of their own, and the two children they do have, have been adopted. These children are the two babies Celie has had, in her young years still living at home. Celie always thought that her babies had died, until she reads Nettie's letters.
Celie's husband had hidden Nettie's letters for years, leaving Celie to think her sister had died, but when she found out the truth, the person she wrote to, changes from god to Nettie.

Due to circumstances it takes 20 years until the two sisters meet again. Nettie married to the reverend, after his wife died. Celie living alone, at peace with her ex-husband and ex-girlfriend. Both aged, Nettie already starting to become grey, they fall into eachothers arms and there the story adrubtly ends.

My Opinion

 I wasn't swept away. It's a good story, but I expected more. I think that is because this is one of those novels everyone insists you should read.
I get the moral of the story.
Instead of fearing god, you should love and honour him by taking pleasure in the things he does for us.
Instead of having your life lived for you, you should take the reigns into your own hands and make the best of it, because it's all you have.
Instead of focussing on changing other ways of life into yours, open your eyes and admit the fact that there is more than one right way.

The progress both sisters make is remarkable. Celie becomes stronger, most of all because of the love she feels for the woman of her dreams. But when that woman leaves her, she easily recognises that the strength was all along in herself.
Nettie becomes wiser. She learns that people in need don't always want help. She feels that god isn't the divine being as thought in church, but god is everywhere. In every raindrop, in every ray of light, and she relishes in the fact that she is alive and well in gods creation.

Those transformations both sisters made, have been accompagnied by loose sexual morals, blunt use of language and a streak of violence that makes you realise you are not reading a novel per se. This has happened to someone somewhere.

Of course, with being overwhelmed by violence every day, the sheer shock this novel must have been on its release date, is lost on me. I don't quiver when I read about the violence and my cheeks don't redden when I come to a sex scene.
Much of the novel depends on that, it's a good story, but not as shockeffective as it used to be.

For me, this novel is a DECENT read.