Arts Reviews

Black History Month – Book Review: The Color Purple

Hayley Lawson

In recognition of Black History Month, Impact‘s Reviews’ section are running a series of articles to showcase the world of film, TV, literature, etc. this important month. Hayley Lawson shares her thoughts on Alice Walker’s iconic and poignant book, The Color Purple.

The Color Purple has won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction, and rightly so. This stunningly written novel addresses the treatment of African Americans in the early to mid-20th century, through the means of letters (first written to God, and then the protagonist’s sister). This approach allows the reader to become invested in Celie’s inner narrative , giving women of race the voice that they deserve.

The novel conveys themes of race, hope, religion, love, and family in such an emotive way, that it has unequivocally touched hearts for decades, and will continue to do so. Walker reminds the reader that all every human craves is love, no matter what their background is; “Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.” This is beautifully striking, and evokes empathy from the reader, something that Walker does frequently in this novel.

The people who stand up for what is right are punished

Walker effectively depicts the injustice in a world dominated by white people, through the empathy created for the black characters in the novel. The people who stand up for what is right are punished, and the Africans in the village that Nettie recalls are disregarded and made to feel inadequate and invaluable, whilst the English workers destroy their village, their culture, and their history. In bringing light to these issues, Walker allows the reader to consider the influence that white people have had over the years, and I found myself longing to make change in the society we live in today.

The characters have limited opportunities

Even though years have gone by since this novel was written in the 80s, and since it was set, there is still so far to go to reach full equality. Throughout the novel, you notice things that make life so valuable are lacking for Celie, and it is blatant that much of this is a result of her race; the characters have limited opportunities, and are essentially trapped in a life of despair because of the foul treatment by white people.

Celie is made to feel ugly because of the colour of her skin, which is undoubtedly heart wrenching. But as the novel progresses, she notices her worth; “I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here.” Despite the suffering and hardships that Celie has endured, she is kind and hopeful before anything else. This patently makes her a character to admire and adore.

Hayley Lawson

Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.

In-article image courtesy of @riscyss via No changes were made to this image.

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