Book Shelf: The Color Purple

(image source: mensmovieguide)

I just finished reading Alice Walker’s novel “The Color Purple” and  watching Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of it. Such an insightful read! Written about African American woman and mostly based in rural Georgia, this is a relatively new context for me. Initially, I wasn’t accustomed to the diction and practices in the story but I eventually felt at home with it. 

Following Celia’s life from her tender age of fourteen to her golden age, as she writes letters to God, it was natural to feel a part of her life – heck, a part of her family. I think at one point, I imagine myself as one of Mr. ___’s children, reading a shoebox full of letters, and writing a biography about my stepmother. Flipping the pages of the book one page at a time was like holding Celie’s hand and swinging it up and down, up and down.

Exploring racism, sexism, and paternalism, the novel faced loads of criticism back in it’s day. It is listed on the American Library Association’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009. This was probably because many characters break the boundaries of traditional male or female gender roles. Both the novel and the film makes us question what we believe women or man to be: can Sofia be strong and sassy, can Shug be sexually assertive, or is it natural for Harpo to be very insecure? Is it acceptable for black male to be abusive, uncaring, and disloyal or for black women to be terribly oppressed by men? Can we really allow children and underage girls to be violated as such? Nonetheless, it was inspiring to witness how much Celie has grown, in terms of her self-respect, her relationships, her sexuality, and her outlook in life. And same thing goes for Mr.____ and Nettie – the characters was always learning, growing, changing; never linear.

It was also intriguing to observe the religious elements in the story and how it affects the characters’ perspective in life. Feeling rejected and unloved by men and God, Celie didn’t want to have faith in both anymore. But Shug, oh rebellious and volatile Shug, (ironically) convinced Celie to reimagine them and their purpose in our lives instead of completely dismissing them. The dialogues exchanges in this part is a personal favourite for me.

In addition, the changes in who Celie address the letters to also illustrates the development in her personal identity and what she believes in. Writing to God and then to her sister Nettie, Celie seems to write to the only person she places her hopes in. The sad thing however, is how they (Celie and Nettie) were persistently writing to no one in particular as they are unaware of whether the other receives their letter to begin with. Moreover, Celie’s concluding letter addressed to God marks a sense of completion and accomplishment – the circle of life.

I think the story is something people should knowing about. Book or movie? I guess, it depends on whether you prefer to experience the story and meet the characters through words or through film. Officially, the novel won 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction while the film, though nominated for 11 Academy Awards, won none. There’s a musical version of this too!

In my opinion, the book had more dimension: the nuance in diction and varying pace gives more texture to the novel itself. Plus, the letter writing form exhibits how personal these stories were to Celie. However, “us has to git used to them words.” On the flipside, the film captured more life, music and colour. You can see Celie’s beautiful smile and blooming disposition and how she overcomes all the challenges. Hmmmm.. I can’t seem to choose between the two medium – they are both great in their own way. I guess, I’m giving both the book and the movie 4 out of 5! What do you think? (:

(image source 1 and 2)

“Listen, God love everything you love – and a mess of stuff you don’t. 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.”
― Alice Walker, The Color Purple (between Celie and Shug)


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