Alice Walker‘s The Color Purple is not a novel to be shoved aside for later! I tried to read this in middle school, but after a chapter was too scarred by Celie’s sexual history to continue. Reading it now, I can safely say that The Color Purple is one of my all-time favorite novels!
The story starts with Celie, a fourteen year old black woman, whose father beats and rapes her. Celie bores two children from this incestual rape, both of whom are given away by her father. Celie allows this abuse to continue in order to protect her younger sister, Nettie, who is the most important person in Celie’s life. A man known as Mister comes to the house to marry Nettie, but their father refuses and offers up Celie to marry Mister and tend to his spoiled children. Mister accepts and treats Celie badly.
Soon after the marriage, Nettie runs away from home and arrives at Mister’s house looking for refuge. After Mister makes unwanted advances at Nettie, she is forced to search for refuge elsewhere and Celie suggests a rich woman she met in town who had unknowingly adopted Celie’s children. Nettie disappears, to Celie’s disappointment. Celie assumes her sister is dead and mourns her loss.
Mister’s children grow up and his son Harpo marries a strong, young black woman named Sofia. Sofia is a fighter and when Harpo tries to control her through brute force, Sofia beats Harpo into submission. Sofia eventually moves out!
Shug Avery, Mister’s mistress, comes to visit and becomes ill. Celie is enamoured with Shug and nurses her back to health. The two become very close.
Sofia ends up in prison after rudely refusing to be the mayor’s maid! Six months before the end of her sentence, Sofia is released to work as a maid in the mayor’s house… a job she absolutely detests.
Shug returns to Mister’s house and engages Celie in a sexual relationship, despite being newly married. She helps Celie discover her sister Nettie’ letters, that Mister has been hiding away all these years. Celie angrily leaves Mister and moves to Tennessee. She begins her own clothing line, which instantly gains popularity! When her father dies suddenly, Celie inherits his land and returns home. She and Mister rebuild a friendship and become close friends.
In the end, Nettie returns home to meet Celie after over twenty years apart!
I may have gone into too much detail, but there is SO MUCH TO THIS STORY. It’s interweaved and intense and Celie is such a stand-out character. These are strong black women who stand up for themselves and fight the good fight! I can’t get enough of strong women and this novel is chocked full of them! Even Celie is an incredibly strong heroine, where you don’t expect to find one. This novel really got to me and I strongly suggest you pick it up if you haven’t already. The subject matter is somewhat harsh and hard to read at times, but it’s well worth the pain!