Book Review: the Color Purple
The Color Purple, a novel published by Alice Walker, is a feminist-based book about an abused and uneducated African American woman and her struggle for empowerment. The novel creates a strong in-depth look into the female characters and is strengthened in its use of black English vernacular.
The book is told through many letters to God, written by the main protagonist, Cecile. Cecile is a fourteen-year-old who is often succumbed to abuse from her Father, Alphonso. Cecile has a twelve-year-old sister, Nettie, who is also a victim of her Father’s abuse. The abuse the children experience from Alphonso is often violent, including the fact that Alphonso often rapes Cecile.
This abuse results in Cecile giving birth to two children; Adam and Olivia. Following the birth of the two children, Alphonso immediately takes the newborns away to unknown disclosed location that Cecile does not know. Following this aftermath, Cecile’s young sister, Nettie, hears from a man only known under the alias as “Mr. __”. Intends to marry Nettie because he needs someone to look after his children. However, Alphonso hears of this plan and convinces Mr. __ to marry Cecile instead. Mr. __ and Cecile end up getting married and the situation for Cecile does not improve. Both Mr. __ and his own children treat her horrendously. Mr. __, like Alphonso, beats and rapes Cecily on a daily basis. During this time, Nettie runs away from home and flees to where Cecile lives. Mr. __, who originally wanted to be with Nettie, begins to make sexual advancements towards her, which makes Nettie promptly leave. After this very brief visit between the sisters, Cecile does not hear from Nettie and presumes that she is dead. Time continues to pass and Mr. __’s son, Harpo, marries a woman named Sofia, even though Mr. __ insists that his son does not marry her. Harpo and Sofia end up together and having six kids. Throughout this time, Cecile continues to be abused by Mr. __ and seems to become somewhat numb to it. However, Cecile notices and is surprised at the fact that Sofia is resistant to Harpo’s abuse and advices Harpo to physically beat Sofia, so she’ll submit to him. However, Sofia continues to resist Harpo’s beatings and ends up discovering that Cecile advised Harpo to beat her. Sofia angrily confronts Cecile about what she has done, but Cecile explains that she did it out of jealousy.
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After this brief explanation, the two women spark a friendship. Sofia explains to Cecile that she does not have to endure the abuse she experiences from Mr. __ ad even suggests that Cecile should fight back. Shortly afterwards, Sofia leaves Harpo and takes their kids due to the constant abuse. Following this, Cecile discovers that Mr. __ has been having an affair behind her back with a Jazz musician named Shug Avery. She discovers that they had three children together and when Shug becomes ill, Mr. __ allows her to stay at the house. Cecile shows no hesitancy to this, and even begins to take up an interest in her. At first, Shug is openly rude towards Cecile. However, over time and the fact that Cecile has helped take care of Shug, they become close friends and would eventually develop a sexual relationship. During this time, Shug discovers the abuse that Cecile endures by Mr. ___ and does her best to protect her. Eventually, Shug tells Cecile that her sister Nettie, has been sending letters to her but Mr. __ has been hiding them. Shug ends up showing Cecile the letters and discovers that her sister is not only alive, but that she is living with a missionary couple: Corrine, the Woman Nettie had met at the store, and Samuel who is a reverend. The couple had adopted Cecile’s kids, Adam and Olivia without knowing who their biological mother was. Nettie has suspicions that the children are Cecile’s.
Cecile returns to Alphonso and questions him about the truth and discovers that her sister’s suspicions are correct. Cecile also learns that Alphonso is not her real father. Rather, Alphonso is her step-father. After Cecile’s real father passed away, her Mother had a severe mental breakdown, which allowed Alphonso to take advantage of the situation. Following this, Nettie confronts Corrine and Samuel about the fact that their adopted children were her sisters. Afterwards, Cecile embraces the truth and find the courage to finally leave Mr. ___. Following this, Cecile and Shug move to Memphis where Cecile starts a business as a tailor. During this time, Shug has affairs with other people, which bothers Cecile, but ends up not leaving her. Shortly afterwards, Cecile learns that Alphonso has passed away and moves back to Georgia to inherit her Mother’s house. During this time, Nettie and Samuel get Marries since Corrinne has passed away. While Cecile is getting settled into life back into Georgia, Cecile learns that Shug has fallen in love with a member of her band Germaine. This news hits Cecile very hard as she is still in love with Shug. Time passes and during her time in Georgia, Cecile reunites with Mr. __, who has drastically changed since she last saw him. She ends up calling him by his first name, Albert. Albert explains that he has been living with regret by the way he has treated Cecile.
Albert apologizes for all of the abuse she endured and proposes that he wants to marry Cecile. Although Cecile refuses to marry Albert, they do end up developing a friendship. Following this, Cecile and Shug reconnect after Shug and Germaine have been traveling for quite some time. It is after this that Cecile does not need Shug to experience happiness and comes to terms with Shug’s affairs with other people. Meanwhile, Sofia and Harpo have recanted their relationship and Sofia begins to work at Cecile’s seamstress shop. Following this, Nettie and Samuel return home and Cecile and Nettie reunite. It had been over thirty years since they had seen each other. Cecile finally meets her children. The novel concludes with Cecile and Nettie thinking that even though that they are old, they have never felt younger.
This book certainly personally hit me very hard. It certainly gave insight into the fact that all people, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, etc. endure all sorts of travesties in life. It certainly makes me think in terms of my Social Work profession, how I would handle this situation. As Social Workers, we are advocators for social justice. The main protagonist, Cecile has endured countless acts of abuse and pain that have expanded throughout most of her life. In terms of Social Work, it would be our job to be advocators for people like Cecile. In our profession, we must realize and stand up for those who do not have the power to do it themselves. In the end, Cecile did have the power to stand up for herself and leave her abusive relationship with Albert. However, many woman do not have the power and it is our job as social workers to give power back to vicitms.