Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Color Purple

By Alice Walker

Celie is a black girl in rural Georgia in the 1930s and she has a hard life. She was raped by her step-father and had two babies by him. He then gave the babies away, without her approval or knowledge. She was then given in marriage to a widowed man who needed someone to help raise his kids. Celie did not care for this man but she wasn't given any choice in the matter. The man, who she calls in the story Mr. _____, beats Celie, mainly because she is not Shug Avery, the woman Mr loves. Celie's sister Nettie lives with her and Mr briefly, in order to get away from the attentions of the cruel step-father. But Mr starts bothering Nettie too and she leaves, promising Celie that the only thing that can stop her from writing is death. But Celie never receives any letters and assumes Nettie is dead.
Nettie, meanwhile, has found refuge with the minister and his wife who adopted Celie's two lost babies. Nettie and the minister and family head off to Africa to start a mission. She writes to Celie, but never receives a reply because Mr has been hiding her letters. When Celie finds out what he has been doing, she wants to kill him. But Shug, who had been staying with Mr and Celie and who has become very close to Celie, talks her out of it.
Eventually Celie and Shug leave Georgia and move to Tennessee. Shug is a successful singer and, under her sheltering wing, Celie is able to start her own business. She even forgives Mr, who has seemingly changed his evil ways, acquiring some wisdom and grace with age. At about this time, the long lost Nettie and the two babies, who are now grown, come back to Georgia and the two sisters are reunited after decades apart.

This was a pretty good story, especially the part about Celie and the other characters in the Georgia part of the story. The letters from Nettie to Celie about her life in Africa were not quite as captivating as Celie's story, but still added a different and informative perspective. And everything seems to work out for the best despite all the suffering endured, so the book ends on a high note, which is what I prefer. I always like a happy ending and this book provides that. It won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

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