I read The Color Purple as my first book for the Southern Reading Challenge. I've heard much acclaim for the novel, but I have not expected to like it so much. It is a powerful novel, with a clear, direct message that speaks straight to the heart. I love it, and I want to read more Alice Walker in the near future.
The Color Purple is an ambitious book: it explores the themes of history, feminism, power, abuse, forgiveness and love all at once in this powerful story of Celie and her sister, Nettie. The sisters different journeys - Nettie goes to Africa for missionary work, Celie staying back home as wife/servant to a spiteful man - finally come together at the end in a wonderfully touching scene of reunion and love coming full circle.
The tragedy that was Celie's life opens the novel, with her writing letters to God, telling him about her violation by her father. Throughout her life, Celie is abused, demeaned, and badly used. She was impregnanted by her father, and the babies given away. Later, she is also given away as a wife - but treated less than a servant to a man she could only call Mr.___.
All her life, Celie seems to be nothing more than a sad, broken woman. But the turning point came when Mr___ brings home his mistress - a fiery singer who calls herself Shug Avery. Through her friendship and love for Shug Avery, Celie begins to learn to love herself, begins to gain the self-respect that has been denied her all these years. Finally, she walks out on Mr.___, until he too, begins to learn to look clearly at his own life, and change.
I read The Color Purple as a tale of transformation and coming into your own strength - but there is also a deep, underlying spirituality in the book. Towards the end, when Mr.___ and Celie arrives at a sort mutual respect, and Celie has learnt to accept Shug's absence, she realises this simple truth:
And then, just when I know I can live content without Shug, just when Mr. ___ done ast me to marry him again, this time in the spirit as well as in the flesh, and just after I say Naw, I still don't like frogs, but let's us be friends, Shug write me she coming home.
Now. Is this life or not?
I be so calm.
If she come, I be happy. If she don't, I be content.
And then I figure this the lesson I was suppose to learn.
And that, is a beautiful kind of peace indeed.