The Color Purple

July 11, 2014

Color PurpleDeoarece în prezentarea care urmează nu m-am oprit asupra unui rezumat, voi scrie aici câteva cuvinte. Romanul este de fapt o înlănţuire de scrisori, mare parte dintre ele fiindu-i adresate lui Dumnezeu. Cine le scrie? Celie, o tânără de culoare în viaţa căreia bătaia şi violul sunt la ele acasă, fie că vin din partea tatălui (vitreg, cum aflăm mai târziu), fie din partea soţului. Urmărim evoluţia protagonistei, modul în care creşte ca om şi ca femeie, găsind iubire, respect şi independenţă. Acestea fiind spuse, let’s begin.

The beauty of analyzing a good novel is that readers do not have to settle for only one interpretation; they are given a complex text and are encouraged to unwrap it, to reveal its secrets, to enjoy it and to learn from it. Such is the case of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. We will focus here on the way African-American women are represented in this novel, the way they interact and the bonds they form in a still patriarchal society in order to survive and grow as individuals.

Unlike the white woman, who was expected to submit to the will of her father, husband or any other male figure in her life, an African-American woman had to pay for two “sins”, and is therefore considered of a lower status than everyone else: she is a woman and she is also black. She is forced to face oppression and violence not only from the white man, but also from those of her own ethnicity; black men seem to take their frustrations out on their women because they are also victims and are not capable of breaking this vicious circle (a situation perfectly captured in The Color Purple).

Women find support only in each other, creating thus an intricate network. They can either help or destroy one another, although we will see here that, in the end, women look after each other, forming one big family, building identities for each individual, breaking away from the patterns and expectations forced upon them by men, sharing both beautiful and painful moments. The relationships formed between them cannot be broken by anyone, getting stronger as time goes by and they cannot be completely separated. These bonds take many forms, from motherly and sisterly to sexual; they are presented sometimes separately (the women of the Olinka tribe raise their children together and become friends, but their relations do not slip towards the erotic), but most of the time they are not quite clear-cut.

Celie, the main character, grows thanks to the women around her, especially Shug Avery. The protagonist starts off as an innocent, abused girl, an innocence which remained with her most of her life, one that could have easily destroyed her in the end, had she remained ignorant of the ways of the world. Although she is quite weak, she does everything she can to protect Nettie, her sister, and help her have a better life than hers. This is the first and one of the most important knots of the network that will come to be formed around the protagonist, but a more influential figure will help Celie grow, find herself and her place in the world: blues singer Shug Avery.

Labels do not manage to capture everything that this bond stands for. They are mother, sister, friend, teacher and lover to each other, sometimes all at the same time. What ties them never stops at a superficial level, it is something spiritual. Despite the bad image she has of herself (especially because of the way men have treated her), Celie is capable of offering the purest of love and protection. Her devotion to Shug never fades away; she shows motherly love when the singer is ill and everybody refuses to take care of her (and here we see highlighted the hypocrisy of both men and women who enjoy watching her on stage, but scorn her when the lights go out), she cares for her like a sister would, but at the same time she sees a lover in her. In fact, Shug is the one who liberates Celie from the malign part of innocence, who helps her accept and embrace her body and sexuality; while some kind of innocence remains an innate part of Celie, ignorance is cleared away as she manages to find her voice and identity.

Dacă am început în română, să încheiem la fel. Despre relaţiile dintre femei putem scrie numeroase pagini: despre Shug, Celie şi Nettie, despre Sofia (nora lui Celie) şi despre femeile din triburile africane (care împart un soţ şi îşi cresc copiii împreună). Ideea principală transmisă de Alice Walker este că acestea supravieţuiesc şi îşi găsesc identitatea într-un grup în care bărbaţilor le este interzis accesul. DAR… de ce culoarea purpurie? Pentru că poate fi culoarea violenţei, dar şi a frumuseţii. Pentru că atrage atenţia şi vrea să fie admirată. Pentru că, aşa cum spune Shug la un moment dat, Dumnezeu vrea să împartă cu noi ceea ce este frumos şi se aşteaptă ca o persoană să nu treacă indiferentă pe lângă ceea ce ni s-a oferit: Praise God by liking what you like -…- it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it (p 178).  

by Elena Atudosiei

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One Response to The Color Purple

  1. Opposite Books Tag | eLitere on March 14, 2015 at 6:49 am

    […] you won’t regret it. For female protagonist I’ll go with Alice Walker’s The Color Purple; I didn’t really know what to expect when I was given this book, but I needed to read […]

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