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Alice Walker’s The Color Purple: A tale of every Black Woman’s life

The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a novel that will tug at the strings of your heart and leave your mesmerized. It is the story of a black teenage girl, Celie, born in poverty and segregation of the 20th century South. It narrates her gradual growth as a human being as she begins to define her own self worth and finds joy in her life with the help of other strong women in her life. Despite being abused and neglected by her father and husband, she finds a new meaning to her life by overcoming the oppression of the world who is against her.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker is one of those books that will leave you mesmerized at the sheer power of the words and force you to think on profound questions about the human society we have made.

The novel paints a poignant picture of Celie, a black girl born in immense hardship in Georgia. Facing discrimination and neglect, she is sexually abused by her own father and gives birth to two children; both of whom are snatched away from her. She is forbidden to tell anyone except God about her abuse and hence she narrates her trauma in painful letters written to God.

Celie is a meek girl who is trampled over by everybody. The only person who cares about her is her sister Nettie, but she runs away soon thereafter. Trapped in an ugly marriage with a man who is left unnamed and his children who treat her like a servant. Celie’s only support is Shug Avery, a carefree singer who lives life on her own terms. Although their relationship is frosty at first, Shug and Celie become close together and eventually lovers. Shug inspires Celie to rebel and believe in herself. For the first time in life, Celie feels alive and valid because of Shug.

Credits: Alamy Stock Photo

The novel is a reminder that millions of black women like Celie stay invisible their entire lives living in poverty, segregation and abuse. Although Celie has a “happy” ending as she learns to stand up for herself and makes her own choices, many women are still shackled by racism and patriarchy. Their beautiful souls underneath are never revealed or set free but instead their lives are reduced to mere roles they must play.

Looking at Celie’s life from the perspective of intersectionality, Alice Walker narrates the life of a woman who learns to love herself despite the society shunning expression by women. Women in the novel form each others’ support system as they face the same oppression and neglect. Celie’s journey of self discovery leads her to realise her own self worth. Purple which represents freedom, courage, dignity and femininity is realized by Celie as she learns to fight for herself. The novel was the first of its kind and has had a profound socio-cultural impact. Although the story is fictional, the novel is still real because it is a truthful account that mirrors the experiences of black communities in the South. The Color Purple is a timeless classic that is a must read for everyone.

Gunjit Verma is a student pursuing Chemistry Honours from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Ambrisha Zubeen

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Written by Gunjit Verma

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