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The Color Purple, Book Review Example

Pages: 3

Words: 842

Book Review

It is difficult to uncover an interpretation of Alice Walker’s title, The Color Purple, that has not been extensively discussed.  Most people take it to refer to the beauty in things people fail to see, but which is known to God.  This suggests that even the homely Celie has beauty in God’s eyes, as does everything that is ignored by mankind’s blind standards.   I accept this, of only because Walker blatantly refers to this meaning.  I also feel, however, that there are deeper intentions within the title.  What I think upon reflection, in fact, is that Walker is also referring to rage, and to the empowerment abuse may often create.  Purple is the color of bruises, and the consistent physical abuse Celie takes points to severe battering of this kind.  In a sense, then, the title translates a duality to me; purple is ugly as a mark of hatred and violence, yet there is still beauty in purple itself because God knows what transformations it may lead to.

As gifted as Walker is, I do not find the ending satisfying. It seems to me to be too determined to give Celie a spirituality larger than life.  It is acceptable that she changes dramatically and evolves as a woman, as it is also acceptable that she can forgive Mr.  His reclamation, however, does not succeed for me, simply because Walker has too well established him as a sociopathic monster.  This is a man who for long years relentlessly raped and abused Celie and others, and committed acts of cruelty beyond the physical.  In my eyes, as Walker presents a landscape of all human possibilities, so too should she honestly maintain that there is evil in the world no human can  understand.   More pragmatically, if a man like Mr. truly awakened to a sense of his evil, the contrast would be so extreme that only his suicide should follow.  Walker has him reflective about his past, if also disgusted by it: “I wanted to kill you, said Mr., and I did slap you around a couple of times” (271).   This, however, minimizes the true brutality of his actions, and the peaceful ending of his new connection to Celie seems forced.

Tashi’s choice to go ahead with the circumcision appears strange, but I believe it completely relates to the broader understanding of how women are treated everywhere, and also to how they react.  In a sense, this is nothing but a form of submission Celie herself has long presented.  In her case, the abuse of Alphonso and Mr. reflect her powerlessness, and her accepting of how men choose to use her.  Tashi is essentially doing the same thing, if in a more ritualized form.  There is the additional, and more disturbing, aspect of Tashi’s greater idea of herself, which should create resistance.  As she submits, however, this then only amplifies the many ways and the degree to which women are passive objects of masculine thinking and actions.  Ironically, Tashi’s submission does not so much evoke Celie to me as it does Sofia, because this adds even greater weight to the blind anger of that woman in lashing out.

As with both the title and the circumcision, Nettie’s stories about the Olinka offer a variety of interpretations, even as they drive the narrative forward.  In my eyes, and on a basic level removed from cultural considerations, this is a visceral connection between two sisters.  They have been robbed of their natural right to share their lives, so Nettie is giving to Celie in these accounts everything she lives and experiences.  It is a form of expression, then, as primal as Celie’s letters to God.  It is one sister reaching out, and what is most important is that she does so unanswered; the need to connect and share is that strong.  Then, it may be argued that there is a cynical point to the Olinka.  This is not a perfect culture of gender equality, even if consideration is fundamental to it: “There is always someone to look after the Olinka women.  A father. An uncle. A brother or nephew” (Walker  161).  As Tashi’s submission demonstrates from across the ocean, it may be that women are never truly permitted to enjoy real freedom, which entails as many risks as it does privileges.  Walker then does not point to an idyllic place where a Celie could be happy because no such place exists.  This in itself, however, gives added meaning to Celie’s own transformation of character, which importantly explodes upon learning of Nettie’s communications hidden from her.  The letters were directed to her as an individual self, even if their content describes yet another place where that self of the woman is controlled to some extent.  Consequently, Celie’s emergence into her own being takes on greater meaning because, in this world, it is all any woman or man can hope to achieve.  No one can change the culture, but everyone may finally assert an identity and a strength within it.

Works Cited

Walker, Alice.  The Color Purple.  Orlando: Harcourt Books, Inc., 1992.  Print.

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