Our first book review is the Pulitzer prize for fiction winner, Alice Walker’s, The Color Purple. An acclaimed novel that has won the National Book Award for Fiction and has been adapted into a play and musical. The Color Purple is set in rural Georgia, southern United states in the 1930’s and primarily focuses on the life of women of color during this time in history. It explores controversial issues and pushes the reader to question concepts such as sexuality, gender roles, racism and sexism. All these themes are explored through the letters of Celie, the protagonist of the novel.
Alice Walker skilfully explores gender roles through creating characters who do not conform to society’s expectations. Harpo, a son of Celie’s husband, who is referred to as Mr____ , and Sofia, who is married to Harpo, both deviate from what was expected of both genders in the 1930’s. Sofia is strong, sassy and outspoken, in contrast Harpo who struggles to take care of his family is insecure, weak and financially unstable. The juxtaposition of these two characters highlights the disrupted gender roles as they go against traditional gender norms.
I found this to be a great read because of the way Walker presents sexuality as ambiguous and, at times, irrelevant. In 1982, when the book was published, Alice Walker received criticism for the relationship between Celie and Shug Avery, two black women. Their relationship presents the idea that being able to love is more important than who you love. Celie, who is broken due to losing her sister and suffering severe abuse and oppression in her previous relationships, faced the challenge of being able to love. Ultimately, she is able to achieve this with Shug, and this appears to be the main message which is expressed through their relationship.
Lastly, this book not only brings to light the inequalities that were faced by people of African descent in America in the 1930’s, but it also highlights the injustice inflicted upon African-Americans by one another, something which is often difficult to comprehend especially in a book based in a time of severe racism and prejudice from one race against another. In this novel, Walker highlights the tension between men and women and blacks and whites and brings it to some form of resolution.