The Color Purple

I was probably in middle or late elementary school the first time I read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. My mom suggested it based on the sole knowledge that classic books were good books, not having read it herself. My only lasting impression of the book was how scandalized I felt by all the rape, violence, and sexual euphemisms, and I retained nothing of the broader themes that earned the novel its recognition.

Truly reading the book for the first time as a twenty-something year-old, my heart aches for Nettie and Celie, whose faith and devotion to each other serve as a spiritual lifeline across decades of silence, distance, and hardship. On top of the raw and exquisite storytelling that champions womanhood and resilience, the book challenges so many aspects of our core existence— love, interdependency, spirituality, and self-actualization. It’s an honest confrontation of how life is often messy, yet there’s still a beauty that pervades the chaos and pain.

Walker’s novel outlines the answers to the complex questions we begin to ask as adults, but does so in a non-prescriptive, anti life help book sort of way. Following Celie’s journey from an abused girl who lives solely for the sake of survival, to a woman who finds her identity as a sister and lover and takes her life by the reigns, Walker portrays so artfully how the experience of living is what gives life meaning, and that we’re merely here to wonder, ask questions, and love. Walker writes,

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

By rendering the image of God a creation of man rather than vice versa, and thus learning to redefine spirituality around purpose in oneself, others, and the natural world, The Color Purple offers a hand to those searching for guidance and sheds light on the process of finding meaning through being present in oneself.

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