Come meet Celie. She shares her life with us in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. Through letters from her to first God, and later her sister Nettie, we learn all about the lows and highs Celie experiences.
Through love and loss, hope and devastation, The Color Purple gives us a look into life in the early 1900s in rural Georgia. It’s a view that is both sad and beautiful. Come and see what is so special about purple and why we need to stop and really see it.
[Warning: my review of The Color Purple contains some spoilers!]
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The Color Purple doesn’t shy away from the ugly part of life
Celie is just 14 years old, but within a few paragraphs of meeting her, we know her life is going to be hard. In a small home with too many children, her father decides that she’s old enough to become a woman, whether she wants to or not. He forces her to take on the role of wife and mother. Then he decides to give her to another man to use as a wife and mother. Celie finds that the best way to protect herself and her sister is to just go along with what these men want, even if it’s not what she wants.
Eventually, Celie meets someone who sees who she truly is. Shug is Celie’s husband’s old flame. They’ve maintained an on-and-off affair throughout their lives, and now Shug is sick. Everyone says she’s dying. No one wants her around, so Celie’s husband, Albert, brings Shug to their home. Celie is completely infatuated with Shug and slowly nurses her back to health. At first, Shug is horrible to Celie. But eventually, she realizes how special Celie is and the two become friends and then more than friends.
Sisters and faith in Alice Walker’s novel
While Celie is living her life, her sister Nettie is off living hers. The two write letters to each other, but they never receive any from the other. And neither knows that the other isn’t getting their letters. Heck, they don’t even know if the other sister is alive. But they just keep writing, hoping to see each other again someday. It’s a beautiful show of love and faith that they keep writing and believing for decades without any sign that their faith will be rewarded.
Celie’s faith in her sister, and her belief that she’ll see Nettie again, is unshakable. But her faith in God is less unshakable. After everything Celie goes through, she starts to believe that God doesn’t exist. Or that if God does, God doesn’t care about her.
Shug helps her to find her way to a different kind of god. I really loved this part of Celie’s journey. It mirrors my own feelings about God. And I think that a lot of people could not just appreciate Shug’s take on God, but benefit from hearing it and thinking about it.
Celie, the quiet hero
Celie is the kind of person who never sees their own worth. She is incredibly strong, brave, and selfless. She is willing to endure all kinds of hardship if it means that those she loves can be safe and happy. And she doesn’t ask for anything in return.
Like most quiet heroes, Celie doesn’t see any of her great qualities. She believes the things her parents told her growing up, that she’s dumb, that she’s ugly, that she’s useless. But the truth is that she is far from any of these things. She may not be bold like Shug or fiery like Sofia, but she is strong in her own way.
Celie deserves a happy ending, and when we leave her, it’s with tears of joy in her eyes and ours. She may have had a hard life, but she had times of happiness too and in the end, she is rewarded for all her faith. She finds her purple.
The Color People is a book for everyone
The Color Purple has long been touted as a “Black book”. Interestingly enough, I have never heard a single mention of it as a “gay” book, even though Celie is clearly a lesbian and she and Shug carry on as lovers for years. Shug is also polyamorous and carries on multiple relationships with both men and women at the same time. She deeply cares about each person that she’s in a relationship with, she’s just got a lot of love to spread around.
I think that a lot of people could relate to Celie as she finds her way to love after years of denying her feelings because they weren’t “right”. But whether you’re Black or White, gay or straight, male or female, there’s something in Celie’s journey that you can relate to, I guarantee it.
Even if the exact circumstances aren’t yours, she’s a human going through a difficult life the best she can. And we can all relate to that. So please don’t skip over this book because you’re not the “target” audience. Literature is about the human experience, and we’re all human. That makes us all the target audience.
My Rating: 9/10
The Color Purple by Alice Walker is available now! Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord if you’ve read this classic novel or plan to before watching the film!
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