The Color Purple is an epistolary novel written by Alice Walker in 1972 which was later made into a film by Steven Spielberg in 1985, gaining her even more recognition for her work. The Color Purple is a story that follows the life of Celie, an impoverished, uneducated African American woman who struggles to escape from the brutality and degradation of her treatment by men.
The story is told through letters she writes to God in moments of desperation, weakness and pain, all of which she suffers in solitary. When Celie started to view God as a “distant white man” who disdained women of colour, she implicitly accepts the white and masculine dominance that has been imposed on her and makes the assumption that her voice can never be heard. Due to this, she stops writing to God and starts writing letters to her sister Nettie instead, which marks the point of her newfound strength and resilience in battling the perpetual racism and sexism that surrounds her.
Over the course of the novel, the progression of the way by which Celie chooses to live her life drastically changes. She goes from living a life that is achromatic and futile to adoring and relishing in the creation of life which is otherwise known as the concept of the color purple.Whether it be from hearing stories about her grandmothers that were consistently getting beaten up by their husbands or watching her mother pick up a coconut and smashing it on her father’s head, Walker had develop a keen interest in wanting to understand the concept of violence. She had previously stated that her family comes from a history of ‘slave-owner’ ancestry which instills a ‘slave owning’ mentality in the men in her family, thus constantly being surrounded by sexist and abusive men from her childhood. Due to the environment she was surrounded by, Walker felt compelled to write stories that address the themes of female assault and oppression, especially in the African American community. American writers in the 1970s placed a large emphasis on the community and its revolutionary future especially during the point of time in which the black nationalist movement was at its peak.
Walker decided to highlight the importance of the notions of black unity and revolution by showing that their utopian ideals would not be achieved without acknowledging the pre-existing damage in relationships between black men and women which addresses the specific issue of black women’s lives. Walker shows how violence, especially in domestic spheres, fractured female subjectivity as it not only posed a threat to both women’s wholeness and the establishment of a whole black nation. The plethora of violence in the form of harsh economic, social and emotional crisis facing the blacks, especially women in tracing the life of one woman, Celie, from the early 1930s to the mid 1940s.