The Color Purple

by Alice Walker

Paperback, 1990

Status

Available

Call number

PS3573 .A425

Publication

Pocket (1990), 304 pages

Description

As a young, black woman living in 1930s Georgia, Celie faces constant violence and oppression. She survives the brutality of incest before being married off to "Mr.," who routinely abuses her both physically and emotionally. Eventually, Celie develops a deep bond with her husband's mistress Shug, and it is through this relationship that she understands she is a woman capable of being loved and respected.

Media reviews

Walker accomplishes a rare thing: She makes an epistolary novel work without veering into preciousness. Rather, Celie's full-bodied voice emerges, a moody and honest voice, in an inherently intimate literary form.
1 more
Without doubt, Alice Walker's latest novel is her most impressive. No mean accomplishment, since her previous books - which, in addition to several collections of poetry and two collections of short stories, include two novels ("The Third Life of Grange Copeland" and "Medridian") - have elicited almost unanimous praise for Miss Walker as a lavishly gifted writer

User reviews

LibraryThing member lauralkeet
How is it I have never read The Color Purple? This classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a vivid and sometimes heartbreaking portrayal of early 20th century life as seen through the eyes of Celie, a poor black woman. As a young girl, Celie is abused by her stepfather and bears two children who are sent away to be raised by someone else. Her sister Nettie manages to escape before being abused herself, and Celie is married off to a local man who would have preferred Nettie. He sees Celie simply as an object to satisfy his sexual desire. Nettie promised to write, but Celie never hears from her and after many years, assumes she has died. Celie tells her story through letters to God and later begins addressing these letters to Nettie.

Shug enters Celie’s life as her husband’s lover. Shug is a singer with a strong flamboyant personality, but she is also kind. Shug helps Celie find her inner beauty and strength, and teaches her how to love. Meanwhile, the reader learns Nettie is still alive, having moved to Africa with the missionary family who took her in when she left home. And Nettie has been writing to Celie all along, but the letters haven't reached her. Nettie's letters show a life very different from Celie’s with its own hardships and pain. The sisters’ stories begin to converge, but the road is rocky for both of them.

Celie was a wonderful character with such a strong voice, and I cheered for her as she developed a strong sense of self. Nettie’s voice read more like a standard narrative and she felt a bit less authentic. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this novel and finished with a lump in my throat -- always a good sign.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
The Color Purple isn't for the fainthearted reader. If you can tolerate some graphic descriptions of abuse (both sexual and physical), strong language, and sexuality, you'll be rewarded with some poetically beautiful passages.

This is a novel in letters written by sisters Celie and Nettie. Each one's voice is distinct, but Celie's seems the most powerful. Celie had little formal education, and her dialect is more unique than Nettie's grammatically correct style. Both women address issues of racial inequality in the Jim Crow South, conflict and violence between husbands and wives/men and women, and poverty. Additionally, Nettie's missionary venture to Africa prompts her to reflect on the differences between African American and African cultures.

Continuity issues always jump out at me, and this book has several. The time line between Celie's and Nettie's letters just doesn't add up. Events that seemingly span several years in Celie's account happen within weeks or months in Nettie's account. I don't think time was an important concern for Alice Walker, though. No dates are mentioned in the novel, although there are vague references to World War II. The story is more important than the details, and readers will do well to turn off their internal calendars and immerse themselves in the flow of the words.
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
Because of the brutality of some male characters, and the awful effects on women and children, The Color Purple often is upsetting to read, particularly in the first half of the book. Yet at the same time it is beautifully written by Alice Walker. She convincingly conveys the voices in this rural Georgia community, and not only creates many memorable characters, but allows them to learn and grow.

It takes place from the early 1900s to the 1940s. At its center is Celie, a poor, black woman who has lived in a nightmare of abuse from the man she believes is her father. Two children who result are taken from her, and she helps her younger sister Nettie escape before she suffers the same. Celie then is married off to a widower with four children who doesn't love her. He wants a maid and a mother for the kids, and an occasional sexual outlet. Thinking little of Celie, he beats her simply "{c}ause she my wife." Celie accepts everything stoically, but we know her inner feelings from letters she writes to God, and eventually, to her lost sister Nettie. We learn that she and Albert both are entranced by Shug Avery, an attractive, full of life blues singer who won't let anyone tell her how to live her life.

The story is told through Celie's letters, and through Nettie's letters to Celie. Nettie has become a missionary in Africa after escaping, and her experiences there at times are a beatific contrast to what Celie is experiencing. She tells Celie, "try to imagine a city full of these shining, blueback people wearing brilliant blue robes with designs like fancy quilt patterns. Tall, thin, with long necks and straight backs. Can you picture it at all, Celie? Because I felt like I was seeing black for the first time." But the village has a shameful legacy, as ancestors sold other blacks into slavery. And there are problems there, as well, with male domination and the village's unyielding commitment to old ways. Nettie eventually contemplates returning with her husband and children to Celie''s community.

With Shug's help, Celie leaves Albert and relocates to Memphis, where she begins to develop her own business designing and sewing simple, useful clothing. She is emotionally supported by Sofia, Albert's fierce daughter-in-law who stands up to Albert's son, and to the white mayor of the community and his wife. Celie's departure and personal evolution unexpectedly begin to affect Albert as well, as he is forced to take care of himself and reassess his way of living. Shug comes to love Celie, and together they begin to have a healthy, sexually satisfying relationship. Albert eventually says to Celie, "It don't surprise me you love Shug Avery. I have love Shug Avery all my life... I told Shug it was true that I beat my wife cause you was you and not her... some womens would have just love to hear they man say he beat his wife cause she wasn't them. ...But Shug spoke right up for you, Celie. She say, Albert, you been mistreating somebody I love. So as far as you concern, I'm gone."

I particularly liked how the author let the characters develop and mature in the book. Most notably, Celie, who begins with no belief in her own worth at all, comes to a hard-won wisdom and stability. Shug, and Albert, and others, come to more honestly view themselves and how they want to live. After Celie returns to the community, she and Albert even begin to sit out on the porch together, just to talk and pass the time. She tells Nettie in a letter, "I mean when you talk to him now he really listen, and one time, out of nowhere in the conversation us was having, he said Celie, I'm satisfied this the first time I ever live on Earth as a natural man."

How does God fit into their lives? At one point, a disgusted Celie says, "the God I've been praying to is a man. And {he} act just like all the other mens I know. Trifling, forgitful and lowdown." Shug tries to convince her of a different view, that God just wants admiration: "Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." As they all gather near the porch toward the end of the book, we see they each in their own way have learned to how to notice.
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LibraryThing member juliette07
This is a multi layered story with themes of slavery and subjugation, unspeakable horrors, loss and despair and yet as I read it the inspiration and hope of the characters shone through despite the dark and bleak experiences that each had in some way undergone.

Having read a number of reviews I was well prepared for the dark side of this book. The contrast that came when a small ray of light shone for the characters was all the more arresting. For example the simple act of laughing, followed by the quilting that drew women like Celie and Sofia together.

So I appreciated the moments of hope and the inspiration. The centrality of learning was another theme of the book that I was not expecting. Here, I am using education, not in the formal sense but rather in the wider way in which we are all life long learners. In Nettie’s letters the way that education was seen as so important and the revelations it bought – Nettie writes of being so thankful to her teacher for ‘keeping alive in me somehow the desire to know’ (page 119). What a priceless gift that was and remains so today.

I also loved the reciprocity of the learning that struck me in a number of places. For example, Nettie works for Corrine and Samuel and admits that even though she looks after their children she does not feel like a maid. Nettie further explains ‘I guess this is because they teach me , and I teach the children and there is no beginning or end to teaching and working – it all runs together. (page 120)

I enjoyed the challenges to taken for granted assumptions, the close juxtaposition of God, fatherhood, love and relationships that Alice Walkers characters grappled with. The reader cannot help but become engaged with many of ‘the big questions of life’! In conversation with Shug Celie ponders ‘God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’s know what you are looking for….’ (page 176) The perseverance and spirit of the women as they grow and learn more of themselves and their spirit was inspiring.

Finally I loved the phrase that made me laugh out loud ‘I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it’ (page 177). After all, as my friends know purple is my favourite colour!

The Color Purple is one of those books that will keep me thinking long after I put it back in my bookcase. I highly recommend it.
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LibraryThing member MaryAnn12
"The Color Purple" is one of the strongest statements of how love transforms and cruelty disfigures the human spirit that this reviewer has ever read. Alice Walker gives us Celie, 14 years old when the book opens, who has been raped, abused, degraded and twice impregnated by her father. After he takes her children away from her without a so much as a word, he marries her off like a piece of chattel to her husband, who is so cold, distant and inhuman to her that she can only refer to him as Mr; and this person deprives her of her sister Nettie, the only one who ever loved her.

Celie manages to survive by living one day at a time. Her life is a series of flat, lifeless panoramas painted in browns and grays. Into this existence, if you can call it that, comes Shug Avery, her husband's mistress, who shows Celie her own specialness and uniqueness. A lot has been made about lesbianism in this book and all of it is beside the point. Celie isn't a lesbian, she is a human being in need of love and Shug Avery helps Celie realize that she is somebody worth loving and caring about. When Celie hurls her defiance into Mr's face -- "I'm poor, I'm black, I may be ugly... but I'm here", she is making an affirmation not only to him, but to the whole world; the reader can only say, along with Shug Avery, "Amen".

When Celie finds the strength to leave Mr, he is left to face the reality of himself and what he sees isn't pretty; his transformation humanizes him and allows Celie to call him Albert, recognizing him as a person, as he finally recognizes her as one. The last chapter makes many readers go through half a box of Kleenex (Stephen Spielberg once said in an interview that he "cried and cried at the end" of the book), but Walker doesn't play cheap with the reader's emotions; she has a powerful story to tell and she tells it with such consummate skill and sensitivity that she brings us into it and makes it ours. This is a book to be treasured and read over and over again.
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LibraryThing member akosikulot-project52
"But sleep remain a stranger to this night." - Thoughts on The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I can’t beleef I’s took long to read this book. But then again, books have they way of coming to your life when’s you need them most.

I first hear of The Color Purple back when’s my friends taking up class in Film and Litratur. They was made to read it before them teacher show the movee to class. Sure was curios, them says it about poor black womans with lesbian tendesis. Plus the fact that Oprah had somethings to do with the film. Hear the book was famous. Felt likes I the only one who not read the book yet, but then forgots it until I pick it up on my book pile on New Year’s.

Book’s thin, not much to read, wudda have read it in one sitting if I’s wanted, but you know me, I likes to make good things last. Instead made myself not read it until night, before sleep, but then spent first three nights of the year with insomya. Thank the good Lord for this book or I’s have chewed sleeping pills like candy.

Do I’s got to tell you what it story for? Maybe I shudnt. Maybe you go and git a copy and read it yourself. I’s know what I tell you, tho. I’s tell you how nice it was, reading The Color Purple. Reminds me of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon – them some of last year’s reads – more of the late one than that before, really. Celie’s a good bloke, not very bright, but her dumb she makes up for character. Her sister Nettie was the smart one, went off as a mishunary to Africa, sent letters to Celie that wudnt have been read because Celie’s husband dint givem to her. Damn Mr. __________ – good thing’s there Shug to help Celie out.

Oh, Shug. She be fine and dandy as hell. Feisty woman at a times when womans not supose to be. She like the version of Anna in Leo Tolstor’s Anna Karenina in somes way, and Kitty be Celie – they’s fall for the same man at the start, Vronsky. But Anna and Kitty dint git no lesbians with each other.

And there’s be everyone else: Harpo, his wives stubborn Sofia and singing Squeak; Celie’s childrens Olivia and Adam, born when Celie’s Pa raped her before he marry her off to Mr. __________; mishunarys Samuel and Corrine, who welcomes Nettie to the family when she ran away. They’s such a band of misfits they form a family that be perfect.

Damn. I’s said I aint telling you nothing. Now I’s must have spoiled you something.

The Color Purple git funny some, git really sad, too. There even be surprise bits. Mostly it thoughtful book, makes you think about lotsa things. Best part I read that make me pause and let things sink in, when Shug and Celie talk about God. Celie always write to God her letters, but then she stop. Shug ask her, then they’s talk about God.

Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit.

That Shug. She may be a sinner, but she knows God better than them some churchgoers.

PS. Writing like this, it git hard to keep up. Miss Walker ma’am, you’s one hell of a writer to keeps this up for an entire’s length of a book. Dang.

Originally posted here.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I thought this amazing even though there were several aspects of the novel that would ordinarily be off-putting. First of all, this is very dark--that first page landed like a punch to the gut, dealing with the rape of a child. There's a lot of raw sexual content and graphic violence depicted in the novel. I've dropped books with strong styles like Fingersmith and The God of Small Things because I couldn't take similar subject matter.

But I think what helped me through it (besides the sense that after this beginning worse couldn't happen) was the second aspect that ordinarily would put me off--this is an epistolary novel--told through letters (and in dialect and with many deliberate misspellings and no quotation marks to offset dialogue). The text is headed by the words: You better not never tell nobody but God. It'll kill your mammy. Following that are the "Dear God" letters of Celie, who is fourteen-years-old when the novel begins, set in the American South from the early 20th century to World War II (The 1927 Bessie Smith song, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is referenced fairly early on.) Once I started reading those letters I just couldn't stop--they were that riveting. I think it helps the subject matter--imparting a simultaneous intimacy and distance--so that your heart can break for Celie without feeling repelled, and it's easier to take the disturbing content in short bursts--this book flew right past, read in one sitting. The voice is marvelous, making the best use of the epistolary technique, showing Celie and her growth in the very way she writes--spelling, grammar, etc making me feel as if she was whispering into my ear.

There are a host of strong characters such as Shug Avery and Sofia. Well, strong Black women characters. If I have a criticism, it's that pretty much every male and every White character is loathsome, at least through most of the book, although there is a redemptive aspect to one of the worse, and a few positive minor male characters like Samuel and Adam and Jack. There's a strong spiritual theme in the book--as you might guess from a book mostly composed of "Dear God" letters (and ending with "Amen.") It's important--but I never feel it was preachy--and ties in very closely with the title:

But more than anything else, God love admiration.
You saying God vain? I ast.
Naw, she say. Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.
What it do when it pissed off? I ast.
Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

It's a pretty harrowing book for most of its length--but with passages of beauty, glints of humor and strong friendships among women--dark in themes and content but ultimately not depressing. I enjoyed the Spielberg film adaptation too. I think it would be hard to beat his cast. But compared to the book it feels like a Disney production.
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LibraryThing member Alera
There is something truly poignant about this novel. It explores the harsh reality of life in the 1930's. But at the same time it manages to explore something much deeper and more meaningful. This novel deals with how a woman, who appears to have so little, can become truly rich. Celie's discoveries about family, love, and God shape something new and different for her and her life. This is a book that will definitely stick with me.… (more)
LibraryThing member rainpebble
The Color Purple by Alice Walker; (5+*)

I find The Color Purple to be as beautifully written today as it was when I read it for the first time upon it's release. Alice Walker was given a gift to put onto paper for the rest of the world to share with her.

"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it."
(Shug to Celie)

"What I love best bout Shug is what she been through, I say. When you look in Shug's eyes you know she been where she been, seen what she seen, did what she did. And now she know."
(Celie to Mr.)

The Color Purple is a pure example of great and wonderful literature. Alice Walker proves the hardship of life for those less fortunate. The painful and hard things that Celie had to go through make you feel total compassion for the character.

One of the best qualities of a writer is being able to make the reader feel what the characters are feeling and in writing this book Alice Walker did just that.

I very highly recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
I knew this was an intense story, and sure enough the first page begins with a sexually abused child. More graphic than I usually tolerate, the graphic nature was part of the story and needed to be there. Written in the form of letters, it is a quick read, but one of the most difficult books I've ever read.

Celie has very few positives in her life. Her story is a graphic example of how people de-humanize each other. Yet through it all, there is a core of strength which keeps her going. Very few can see this in Celie, she doesn't even know it herself. Somehow she finds some love and that enables her to grow.

This is one of the saddest, and yet encouraging stories I've read in a long time. It makes me want to go out and get involved, helping others who have been abused to discover that they are valuable, that they matter and that they deserve love.
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LibraryThing member priamel
I was bored upon reading this the second time round. Some things worry me--but not the reaction to people's lives being ruined at the hands of the whites as just a part of life.

If all of the female characters manage to rub along together without bitterness or recrimination, then what does Shug Avery, who appears to be a blues singer, sing about? Everyone appears to be quite rich (In the sense of well-fed) even in Depression-era America. Why does Nettie keep on sending her sister objective and detached letters (having had no reply for decades) and even use the words 'vice versa'? Why are the English colonists talking about kilometres?? (To show that they're non-Americans, of course.)

It was good at the time a quarter of a century ago...
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LibraryThing member writestuff
"You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy."

So begins The Color Purple, a novel set in the deep south and told in the voice of a young black girl named Celie. Alice Walker brings Celie to life through her letters to God. Celie's words tell of unspeakable horrors - her rape at the hands of her stepfather, her marriage to an older man who beats her, the loss of almost everyone dear to her. But, then her husband's lover arrives and teaches Celie what it means to be courageous in the face of pain, and most importantly what it means to love and be loved.

The Color Purple is a splendid novel full of pain and joy, tears and laughter, love and hate. It is an American Classic that should be mandatory reading for all of us.
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LibraryThing member KLmesoftly
Nobody warned me about the amount of crying I would do while reading this book - sad crying, happy crying, this book just really played on my heartstrings! On the one hand, it was awkward since I brought it as my airplane read for a business trip, but on the other hand I'm glad I had such an immersive, addictive book to take my mind off airport terminals and delays. The one-line summary would be something like "epistolary novel about a poor black woman who is basically traded off into marriage by her father to a terrible guy but who survives through her friendships/romantic relationships with the women in her life" but it really is so hard to capture exactly what it was that made this book so enthralling; the writing was excellent, the characters were excellent and all interesting and easy to relate to even as you watched them hurt each other...it was just one of those books that flew past in a couple of hours but also is still sitting with me mentally/emotionally. It's rare for a book to be so incredible in terms of depth and complexity yet also so incredibly easy to keep reading from page one, almost no ramp-up required before I was totally immersed and invested.… (more)
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
There was an awful lot of misery in this book. I know it's meant to be uplifting in an all-women-together sort of way, but the overwhelming emotion as far as I was concerned was depression.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Alice Walker has a masterful voice. Just by starting chapters "Dear God" the voice evokes prayer, a quiet kind of desperation. It's even worse when it's coming from a child in the beginning. Most people start uttering "dear God" when things turn bad and for Walker's main character, Celie, it's always bad. From the very first chapter you learn she is being raped by her own father, tolerating pregnancies and beatings while taking care of her siblings, only to be sold off to a man who does exactly the same. Different man, different children to take care of - same struggles to survive. Yet, Celie is clever, strong and more importantly, resilient. She knows how to make it through the toughest of times. She even learns how to blossom when Shug Avery, her husband's lover, comes to town. She discovers love, sexuality, and a sense of self.… (more)
LibraryThing member AndrewBlackman
This is a deeply religious book, in a couple of different senses. First of all, the main character, Celie, narrates the book through letters she writes to God. She is trapped in abusive relationships, first with Pa and then with her husband Albert, referred to by her as Mr ______. She writes to God because she has nobody else to talk to after her sister Nettie disappears, believed dead. Gradually, through her relationship with Shug Avery and piecing together the truth about her past, she rids herself of the traditional view of God as an old white man and comes to view God as a more creative, loving, playful entity, symbolised by the colour purple, put in a field just for the fun of it. Celie finds her sexuality, her ability to stand up for herself, begins to make a living doing something she loves and starts to like life.

It's religious in another sense because Alice Walker has tapped into something deep and rich in creating this book. She starts by dedicating it to "The Spirit, without whose assistance neither this book nor I would have been written" and ends it by writing "I thank everyone in this book for coming. A.W., author and medium." This sets up quite an expectation, but the book delivers. The style is not literary - it can't be, because it's narrated mostly by Celie, who is uneducated and admits herself she can't write well. But still there is a beauty in its simplicity. Normally any kind of dialect begins to irritate me after a while, but this doesn't. It is powerful. The horrific events at the beginning of the book, particularly, when 14-year-old Celie is raped by her father and has two children by him, then sacrifices herself to save her younger sister Nettie from the same fate, are incredibly powerful, and the power is heightened by the simple, childish language.

It's also a political book, in the best sense. It evokes the injustices of the Jim Crow South and of colonial Africa beautifully, and they always feel like part of the story, not like a political sermon. It works well because character always comes first. Everybody in the book has a character - there are no purely symbolic characters or representatives of political positions. They're all introduced and drawn carefully so that I believed they were real and cared about them. And while the book speaks some harsh truths about men, and white men in particular, nobody is a stereotype of evil - most of the characters have some redeeming features, and the "good" characters have flaws too.

There are also lots of lovely little insights, like this from Mr ______ towards the end: "Anyhow, he say, you know how it is. You ast yourself one question, it lead to fifteen. I start to wonder why us need love. Why us suffer. Why us black. Why us men and women. Where do children really come from. It didn't take long to realize I didn't hardly know nothing. And that if you ast yourself why you black or a woman or a bush it don't mean nothing if you don't ast why you here, period.
So what you think? I ast.
I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting 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, he say, the more I love.
And people start to love you back, I bet, I say.
They do, he say, surprise."
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LibraryThing member Thien9
The novel, The Color Purple, encompasses that you are your own person, and when someone tries to take that away, you need to fight back. In the beginning, Cecile lives with a sexually abusive family,and struggles to live her life and at the same time worrying about her sister and a once close family, now dstant. Even as an adolecsent, her father conceives two children with her and then steals them away to kill them. Through out the middle, she perseveres through Alfonso's abusive natures and sexual needs and the new husband, Mr. ____________. During all of this, she feels the need to find herself, who she really is, not just a sex toy to be played with and "loved." Throughout the novel, she writes letters to God, and waits for letters from her sister Nettie, who ran away or suposedly died. By the end she has learned that life is beautiful, wherever you are, God has placed beautiful things on the world to be seen and loved, even when her life is nothing close to beautiful, Shug teaches her to believe in God and not lose faith. 288/288… (more)
LibraryThing member anovakoski
I really enjoyed reading The Color Purple. I found it to be very expressive about the conflicts an African-American woman may be faced with, while living in the south in the early twentieth century. One of my favorite aspects of the novel is how it is written in the form of letters. I think that it gives the readers a better grasp on the story, and allows the reader to see the plot from Celie and Nettie’s view- a more personal aspect. I also liked how it was written in the dialect of someone who may be living in the south in that time period-it gave me a better understanding of the culture and era that the story takes place in. On the other hand, if one was unfamiliar with the dialect, it might be hard to follow along with.
The main characters in the book were Celie, Sofia, Albert, and Shug. In the beginning of the story, Celie is a young adolescent and through the book grows into a strong, older individual. One of the first diary entries or letters to God that she writes, she reveals that she was raped by her father (later found to be stepfather) and has been impregnated by him twice. She is then married off to a man whom she calls Mr.___ (later referred to as Albert) who treated Celie more like a slave than his wife, beating and belittling Celie constantly. Albert works as a farmer, and is infatuated with Shug- a glamorous singer who is his mistress. Shug later has a love affair with Celie, after showing her how to stand up for herself and love herself. Harpo is Albert’s son, and Harpo’s wife, Sofia also teaches Celie to stand up for herself and fight back. I personally enjoyed how the woman in the novel all taught each other how to be strong and love each other, despite the hardships that came their way.
I think that the main themes in the novel are rape, abuse, sexism, and racism. There are multiple times where rape was shown. In the beginning of the book Celie is raped by her father. Later in the book Squeak is raped by her uncle, the jail warden. Abuse plays a big part throughout the novel, with almost every male-female relationship. For example Albert is very physically and sexually abusive to Celie. Harpo is physically abusive to Sofia and likewise, she is to him. Squeak was abused by her uncle. My favorite example is with Harpo and Sofia; their relationship is slightly different than the others because Sofia fights back and doesn’t put up with it. In the end, she is actually is the abuser to Harpo.
Sexism is a very strong theme in this book, because male domination over women is repeatedly shown. In this book, women are degraded by men, treated poorly and like they are lower class citizens. Harpo thinks that Sofia should do what he tells her to, just as Celie does for Albert, but yet again Sofia fights back and shows a different view that women are not inferior to men. Harpo feels threatened by her because she is so defiant and the wants to beat her down (literally) so things will return to how they should be in his eyes, with the man ruling the relationship and ruling the house.
Racism applies to every African-American character in the book. During the 1930’s, there were major prejudices held by the white population, especially in the south. Blacks often felt like they had no hope for the future and could definitely not compete in a world that was dominated by white people. One example is with Sofia, and how she is sent to jail for punching the mayor’s wife. Afterward she is kept as a maid for the mayor’s family. I think that if Sofia was white, the incident would have never happened, and if it had than she would not have been sent to jail or kept as a maid.
Although Celie and Albert make peace with each other in the end of the book, they only remain friends rather than lovers. Her female friendships throughout this book have helped shape her into a strong, confident, empowered woman. She begins a lucrative business tailoring pants and ends up being very successful. Celie was able to defy some of the major social stigmas of the time, whether it was being an African-American or being a woman. This end to the book is important to me because it shows the power of someone who has “been on the bottom” but through personal growth and trust and advice from others, can fight and work their way to the top, avoiding permanent damage, mentally or physically.
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LibraryThing member varwenea
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” – Shug Avery

In this book of letters written to God by Celie (main protagonist), Nettie (Celie’s younger sister) to Celie, and finally, Celie to Nettie, themes of strength amidst adversity, resilience, love, growth, forgiveness and topics of racism, rape, abuse of women, colonialism of Africa, family flood the pages filling our minds and hearts. The book doesn’t sugarcoat, and I thought ‘holy sh*t’ reading page 1. Cruelty and ambivalence permeate the first pages as Celie writes to god about her rape (at age 14) and her two children taken from her, the forced marriage to Mr. ___, and the abuse from Mr. ___ and his kids. Damn.

Celie, the kind, gentle soul, eventually wins over all those around her, including the mistress of Mr. ___, Shug Avery, who in turn becomes the love of her life. (Yes, that’s right, throw in some lesbianism too.) Celie finally loses her cool when she learns Mr. ___ has been hiding the letters from Nettie. Shug, the strong willed and life-wise singer, gives Celie the love she needed and the strength to make something of herself, and Celie does!

Nettie, forced to be separate from Celie because of Mr. ___, finds herself in the home of the adoptive parents of Celie children and ends up following them to Africa, to a village called Olinka and worked as a missionary.

Despite much mention of god and missionaries, I didn’t find the book to be preachy. In fact, this book has a self-deprecating quality that I appreciated. Not that I’m familiar with black or African American literature, I was *surprised* to read of Nettie raising/asking about the role of the fellow Africans who participated in the slave trade, meaning the in-power Africans handed over their fellow brothers knowing they will become slaves in the hands of these foreigners for financial gains. Nettie also was disappointed when the Olinka refused to acknowledge such part of history. Whoa, mind blown on my part. Also, the book stated the missionaries were never asked to come; they are convenient when wanted, but in the end, never truly part of the Olinka world.

Overall, a well told tale that touched my heart strings just right. Recommend!

Some Quotes:

On Being a Girl in the South – what a horridly difficult life:
“She say, All my life I had to fight. I had to fight my daddy. I had to fight my brothers. I had to fight my cousins and my uncles. A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men. But I never thought I’d have to fight in my own house. She let out her breath. I loves Harpo, she say. God knows I do. But dead son-in-law you just keep on advising him like you doing. She put her hand on her hip. I used to hunt game with a bow and arrow, she say.” (She = Sofia)

On Sex:
“Listen, she say, right down there in your pussy is a little button that gits real hot when you do you know what with somebody. It git hotter and hotter and then it melt. That the good part. But other parts good too, she say. Lot of sucking go on, here and there, she say. Lot of finger and tongue work.” (She = Shug)

On White Folks – this passage has a Langston Hughes’ “Ways of the White Folks” quality to it:
“So it end up with me and Jack driving her back home in the pick-up, then Jack driving me to town to git a mechanic, and at five o’clock I was driving Miz Millie’s car back to her house.
I spent fifteen minutes with my children.
And she been going on for months bout how ungrateful I is.
White folks is a miracle of affliction, say Sofia.”

On History and Slavery:
From Nettie: “’Hard times’ is a phrase the English love to use, when speaking of Africa. And it is easy to forget that Africa’s “hard times” were made harder by them. Millions and millions of Africans were captured and sold into slavery – you and me, Celie! And whole cities were destroyed by slave catching wars. Today the people of Africa – having murdered or sold into slavery their strongest folks – are riddled by disease and sunk in spiritual and physical confusion.”

On Black Beauty (not the horse :P) – I thought of Lupita Nyong'o when I read this:
From Nettie: “Tall, thin, with long necks and straight backs. …Because I felt like I was seeing black for the first time. And Celie, there is something magical about it. Because the black is so black the eye is simply dazzled, and then there is the shining that seems to come, really, from moonlight, it is so luminous, but their skin glows even in the sun.”

On Africans – another example of the self-deprecating quality I mentioned:
“I think Africans are very much like white people back home, in that they think they are the center of the universe and that everything that is done is done for them. The Olinka definitely hold this view. And so they naturally thought the road being built was for them.” (…and everything that follows eventually destroys the whole village)

On Love – Mr. ___ finally learning to open his heart, for real:
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting 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, he say, the more I love.”

On Love – Celie regarding Shug – I stared at this for a long time; if only I can reach this level of zen on love:
“If she come, I be happy. If she don’t, I be content.”
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LibraryThing member nfmgirl2
This story covers the life of Celie, a damaged and down-trodden black women living in the early 1900s. It follows her through years of physical, emotional and psychological abuse, and her resignation to it and to her lot in life. The one thing that sustains her through her life is her love for her sister Nettie, from whom she is separated. We get to know Celie through her writings to God, like diary entries, and later the writings of sisters Celie and Nettie to one another.

The Barnes and Noble synopsis says that this covers 20 years of Celie's life, but I would think that is inaccurate. By the end of the story, the women are plump and gray-haired. They are definitely older than the 34 years of age that the synopsis would put them at!

Celie has a childhood of abuse, being raised by an indifferent father after her mother dies. Even while her mother was alive, he began an incestuous relationship with Celie, raping her for the first time when she is 14. Her father marries her off to a man she doesn't even know, and she simply moves from one horrible homelife to another. Eventually she meets a woman that everyone calls Shug (like "sugar"), and Shug becomes a vital person to Celie over time and to her growth as a person.

Celie may not realize it early on in her life, but she really is a strong woman. She only learns this later on through the love of Shug.

I liked Celie. I really did. She was walked all over so much that she really underestimated herself. She built a wall around herself and didn't want to let anyone in. She became like steel-- rigid and nearly indestructible. I just kept rooting for her, hoping she would catch a break, that she would find herself and realize the power she had.

There are many "unlikeable" characters in this book, and some characters that you feel somewhat indifferent about. But this story is really one of hope and redemption, and many of those unlikeable or indifferent characters experience a certain redemption before the book ends. And the author did so well at making me care about Celie that by the last chapter it only took the final chapter introduction to make me break down in tears, although I wasn't even sure yet whether they would be tears of happiness or tears of sorrow.

This was a very good book. If you haven't already read this classic, add it to your Wish List!
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LibraryThing member MsNikki
Great book, Alice Walker stole my heart with this story. You could relate to this story, the characters are so real. It is a true account of the human experience and will to live, even if the situations are fictional.
LibraryThing member Clurb
Despite the number of times I've read this I still find it deeply moving and fluffy and wonderful. It covers everything from discourse on race and sexuality to history and man's relationship with God.
LibraryThing member SparklieSunShine
This is one of my favorite stories of all time. I love the characters. I love how strong Celie is even though she is going through so much. I found the book facinating and engaging though also very hard to read due to the content. I am glad that it is as strong and gripping as it is.

I would love to read everything else Alice Walker has to write.… (more)
LibraryThing member drinkingtea
I had to read this for an English class that had a focus on women's studies and racial issues. Good book, good class. We thought out the book, had discussions, and wrote papers. Years later, I recall that I enjoyed the book.
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
I wasn't a big fan of this book the first time I had to read it, and it didn't gain anything with a second read. It seems that most of Walker's novels put across the same characters and themes, and this book (as some of the others) occasionally comes off as preachy. I'm not sure that Walker doesn't put her ideas and beliefs above the story and characters, and I'd say that this novel and the writing in general suffers for that. I can appreciate the art here, but the more of Walker I read, the less impressed I am with this book or her work as a whole.… (more)

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

1982-??-??

Physical description

304 p.; 4 inches

ISBN

0671727796 / 9780671727796
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