Unless you have been residing under a bridge or bypassing bookstores and libraries, you probably know that books do make a difference in the world. Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple’ is an epistolary that entirely liberated women from the harshest, sexual, social and racial gender injustices in patriarchal societies since the ‘90s to date.
Walker’s novel is an epistolary, made up of letters written by a girl to “Dear God”. It is a treat to lovers of moving yet domestic fiction about a girl child (Celie) who is abused and shamed as she fights her way through life as a woman to know God in a male-dominated and racially prejudiced society.
Unlike her sister, Nettie, she is described by her stepfather, Alfonso, as ugly, spoilt and “too dumb to keep going to school”. Not only does Alfonso demean Celie but he also rapes her. She falls pregnant twice and is taken out of school.
The book is not easy to read as it is not written in Standard English. Instead, it is written in “Black English”. Celie is uneducated; however, this does not stop her from expressing her thoughts and feelings, reflecting “the power of narrative and voice”. She, therefore, writes her letters exactly as she speaks and thinks. The readers are then fascinated and intrigued to read more of the story and learn to appreciate Celie’s writing style as Walker tries to highlight “her black voice”.
Celie, as the protagonist, is an audacious, courageous and womanist character. She falls victim to Alfonso’s incest and is married off to Mr_____ (Albert) and becomes a victim of sexism. Nettie, on the other hand, feels remorse towards her sister and tells her to fight and show her perpetrators that she has the upper hand. “But I don’t know how to fight; all I know how to do is stay alive,” Celie remarks. So, she accepts it as a way of life and allows herself to be used by men.
The novel then changes the course of the plot as Walker presents another womanist character, Albert’s lover and blues singer (Shug Avery). After feeling helpless and hopeless, Celie finds comfort in Shug as they develop a same-sex relationship.
She shows Celie fearlessness and shamelessness and tells her she is not ugly and has the brightest smile she has ever seen. Shug is perceived as a hero as she helps Celie take charge of her life later in the story. In doing so, Celie becomes an independent woman, leaves her sexist husband and starts her own business.
The novel is centred on womanism and the power of strong female relationships. Relationships among women in the novel form a sense of refuge, providing compassion and love in a world filled with male violence. Most importantly, as proven by Walker, these women uplift themselves, redeeming them to sing their truth, their self-worth and their desires.
Most if not all the men in ‘The Color Purple’ are stereotypical monsters who showcase toxic masculinity. However, the women ended up breaking sexism and violence by fearlessly talking back to these men who abused them.
This proves that the only way change can emerge is when we speak up – not worrying about how difficult or complicated a situation is. Therefore, this should not only apply to women but to the nation as a whole, with a purpose to speak up and change the lives of the indigenous people.
*Claudia Diana Nandumbu is a Third Year Bachelor of Arts in English student at the University of Namibia. She is passionate about writing and literature. She is also a blogger at
2020-06-12 11:25:17 | 3 months ago