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The Color Purple
The Color Purple

anna g, May 3, 2010

Approaching Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple, one may think of her as the next Zora Neale Hurston. With similar ideas, Walker’s novel tells the story of a young 14 year old African American girl named Celie. Throughout the novel, Celie endures gender abuse along with figurative voice deprivation and various life struggles. The purpose of this novel is to bring into light some themes such as independence and the power of communication which are normally overlooked. The audience for this book consists of anybody willing to read with an open mind. This book contains controversial same-sex love and can be offensive to some. Overall, I thought the book was an enjoyable yet inspiring read and I would give the novel 4 out of 5 stars. In order to better understand the novel, background information is important to learn.
Background information is key to placing the novel in context. The book takes place in rural Georgia during the time period of 1910-1940. This was a time when race was a huge issue and gender roles were confined to stereotypical thought. Don’t judge the book based on language or ideas. The language is set to resemble that of the Deep South in the 1900s. It is somewhat difficult to understand, however it reflects the time period well. Also, the ideas presented in the novel are based off of historical ideas so keep an open mind to what is being presented. A summary of the main points of the book can also be intertwined with themes.
The themes of the novel are as relevant today as they were in the 1900s. The main ideas consist of the power of voice and gender abuse/sexism. The power of voice is an extremely important theme to the novel. The struggle to find one’s voice is the struggle to find one’s own self. In the beginning, Celie’s rape experience forces her to become silent and reserved. In this case, Celie denies any voice that she may have for the safety of her own self. During the novel, Celie befriends Sofia and Shug Avery who lend her their ears in order for Celie to find her voice. Throughout the novel, Celie begins telling her story to Shug Avery which helps Celie express her feelings verbally. Celie uses her new voice and power to put Mr. ___ in his rightful place. Walker’s intent when using this theme is to show the positives and negatives of self narrative. Walker believes it is entirely well to possess self knowledge and voice; however, the consequences of boisterous voice can be dangerous.
In addition to the power of voice, sexism is also a huge issue discussed in the novel. In this novel, sexism can even be applied unto the men of the novel. The men are supposedly the “bad guys” in the novel. Most of these men are victims of sexism themselves. For example, Harpo, Mr. ____’s son, beats Sofia only because his father told him he was not a man because he refrained from beating his inferior wife. Even Mr. _____ is aggressive because that’s how his own family was raised. The novel is based on the oppression of women. Women are constantly beaten and deprived of rights by the men. This theme is constant throughout the novel, but in the end enlightens Celie to be all that she can. Finally, to get to the heart of the review, I evaluated the book based off a scale of 5 stars.
Personally, I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. I thought the book achieved its goals of highlighting several themes through character development, point of view, and motifs very well. In addition to the highlighted themes, Walker also discusses the struggles of African life and imperialism with the incorporation of letters from Celie’s sister, Nettie. I don’t feel that the book left out any important issues that would be relevant to the time period. On another note, I feel the book was very similar to Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Both novels incorporate the themes of sexism and gender struggles, and both include the woman protagonist that seeks God for liberation. This would make apparent the similarities between Walker and Hurston as Walker tries to bring back Hurston’s central ideas. Also, the author’s control of plot and character impacted my reading.
Walker advances the plot with the use of letters. This type of novel is called Epistolary. In the beginning, the letters are addressed to God. Later, the letters become addressed to Nettie, Celie’s sister. These letters correspond with Celie’s character development as well. As Celie gains her independent voice, the letters become more complex in nature. Also, her address to God becomes, “Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear God” (285). This displays her religious awakening as Celie learns that God is what she makes “it.” I found the thought behind this cleverness to be extremely remarkable. I would have never thought to associate the letters with character development. It puts the novel above the rest in thought process and makes for an interesting read.
In conclusion, The Color Purple by Alice Walker highlights central themes such as the power of voice and sexism that are still relevant today. The novel achieved its goals by provoking the mind with several new issues and provided for an interesting read. Overall, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend it to anyone with an open mind.

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