The Color Purple stands for the independence of one's mind and feelings. It plays an important role in Celie's and Shug's life. When Celie gets a dress for the first time, she chooses the purple one and her room is purple.
Alice Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia, in 1944. Living in the south of the U.S.A., she experienced racial discrimination personally. After school she went to university, and joined the Martin Luther King civil rights movement. Influences of southern tradition and the Bible are obviously present in her novels. She writes about the domination of blacks by whites and of black women by black men. She wrote three novels: The Third Life of Grace Capeland (1970), Meridian (1976) and The Color Purple (1982), which won the Pullitzer Prize. Steven Spielberg has made the Color Purple into a film.
The literary period:
The Twentieth century - second part (1945 - now).
The Color Purple is a modern novel with elements of a psychological novel (you get a detailed description of Celie) and a Bildungsroman (because Celie develops from a scary little girl to a strong independent woman).
Celie, 14, has given birth to two children, after having sex with her stepfather, whose wife doesn't want to have sex with him anymore. The children are taken away from her. Celie can't go to school and remains very poorly educated. She also has a sister called Nettie, who's the only one she really cares for.
Then a certain Mr____ wants to marry Nettie, but their father says he can only get married to Celie. Celie looks after Mr____’s children. Nettie comes to live with them, because her stepfather abuses her. But when Mr____ tries to seduce her, she goes back home. Mr____ is treating Celie very badly and she writes more and more letters to God.
After a while Shug Avery who is an old friend, comes to visit Mr____ She becomes ill and stays with Mr____ and has to be looked after. Once, Shug performs for Celie, singing a song dedicated to her. Shug also teaches Celie to discover her body, which had been abused by men until then. She also makes sure that Mr____ doesn't beat Celie again. She goes back to Memphis and gets married to Grady. She has made a successful comeback.
One day Celie discovers a box with letters from Nettie. Nettie writes that she lives with Corine and Samuel and that she thinks their adopted children are Celie's. She writes that she is going with them to Liberia as missionaries. Nettie describes the feelings she had when she first saw Africa. Celie finds out that her father was really her stepfather, who had no right to give her away, so she resists her husband more and more. Shug accompanies Celie when she goes to see her stepfather and her real parents' graves.
Celie inherits a sum of money when her real father dies and starts a little shop. Then Nettie and Samuel, who she has married because Corine died, decide to go to America. Celie and her husband live in the house, which her real father left her. She misses Shug who has taught her so much. Finally a car stops in front of the house and Nettie gets out. They are extremely glad to see each other and from then on, they have a reunion every year on the fourth of July.
The story takes place in the first half of the 20th century. When Celie starts telling her story she's 14 and at the end she's about 55 and the Second World War has just begun. The story is told chronologically.
Celie lives on a farm near a small town in the south of the U.S.A. It's an area with a lot of racial discrimination. Nettie spends part of her life in the village of the Olinka in the African jungle.
Characters and relationships:
She is an uneducated, ugly 14-year-old black girl. She is eager to learn but can't, because as the eldest daughter she has to look after the children. She is sexually abused by her stepfather and Mr____ She writes letters to God. As the story develops, she becomes an independent woman.
She is Celie's younger sister. Samuel and Corrine, a missionary couple educated her. She looks after Celie's children. Nettie has a particular interest in the fate of black people.
(Albert) is a good-looking widower who wants to marry Nettie, but who marries Celie instead. He is inconsiderate, cruel and contemptuous of women. When he hangs his ways, Celie calls him Albert for the first time.
She is a very attractive woman, a kind of a femme fatale. She's a famous blues singer. She's a very independent woman with her own philosophy, based on her experiences in life. Shug is bisexual, but in the end she chooses Celie.
I could have been a true story.
The theme in this book is the exploitation of women by men, blacks by whites and the African culture by the Western culture. A second theme is the liberation of women and men from their respective traditional roles, but within their own cultural context.
Show me how to do like you
Show me how to do it
Celie's language is very awkward and limited at first, but it develops into Black English. Nettie's language is more correct, but misses the primitive beauty of Celie's language.
To the spirit:
Without whose assistance
Neither this book
Would have been
Personal narration. Celie and Nettie who each tell their own story alternate the perspective. Each of the girls writes letters to a special person; God, Nettie or Celie.
The book has 295 pages and no numbered chapters but is divided in pieces. It contains letters from Nettie and Celie.
Own opinion on the book:
I had to get used to the language because it is a sort of slang. The story seems to fit in my knowledge about the past and racial problems in the U.S.A.
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