Slow Reads: The Color Purple Week 4

The idea for this recurring posts is to read a book over the course of 4-6 weeks, and each week to delve deeply into what has been read the previous week. This will allow for a more interesting analysis of the meaning of the book, and allow me to make predictions, in a way that isn’t possible with book reviews. Reading over a number of weeks also lets you read along at home at the same time, which will hopefully enrich the discussion.

Spoiler warning obviously

I know I’m late again this week. I feel really bad about it, but preparing for my interview is more important in my eyes. However, that shouldn’t be a problem for next week at least.

This week’s section started off with a scathing criticism of British colonialism. It was such an uncomfortable topic that, I am ashamed to say, I had to put the book down for a bit afterwards. It is extremely disturbing to think about what Britain’s current position in the world was built upon, but even more so that some people see no problem with it.

I was not expecting the twist at all. Celie’s Pa is not her biological father, because he was lynched for having a business that was too profitable. I’m still not sure why he brought up two daughters who weren’t his, considering he doesn’t seem to have an altruistic bone in his body. This news also changes how I view the rape and abuse from the very beginning of the book. In some ways it reduces the shock, since there is no incest. On the other hand, it makes this man seem more like a predator, since he took advantage of girls that he brought up like his own daughters.

The other disturbing reality that came out of this is that to survive, black people had to play the game. Pa is only able to have a profitable business because he makes sure that he gives about a third of his profits to white people. Slavery might have ended, but black people still fear for their lives if they don’t put money in the hands of white folk. I think the most horrifying part of the whole exchange, though, was the nonchalance with which Pa accepted this fate.

However, despite all the horrors that came this week, there was hope too. Celie stood up for herself, challenging Mr —— and proving his weakness to everyone around. The transformation happened subtly, but Celie now feels like a real person, with her own thoughts and opinions. Most of all, she seems happy. It seems that Mr —– hiding Nessie’s letters was the final straw.

During Celie’s self-exploration, she tackles what it means to be religious. She feels God has abandoned her, but Shug opens her eyes to the idea that God is all around. That she doesn’t need to be in a church, singing hymns to find him. Also, that God doesn’t need to be male, or white. It is a very radical idea for that time period, but I think it helps Celie to find inner peace. She now appreciates the little things in life, like the wildflowers in a field, or the colour purple.

The very end of this week’s extract saw Harpo and Sofia arguing about whether half of the pallbearers carrying Sofia’s mother could be women. I feel this set a hopeful tone for the future, since no-one even bat an eyelid at the funeral. The contrast between this small moment of progress and the other horrors was stark, but I think we might see this hopeful note continue to the end of the book. It was also a moment of revitalization for Sofia, as it felt she was making strides back towards her old, determined self (another moment of hope)

I’m going to finish the book next week. This also means that I need to start thinking about the next book for Slow Reads. I’m thinking of reading Catcher In The Rye or Grapes Of Wrath, but I’m open to other suggestions. Let me know what you would like.

Do you think this hopeful tone will last? Will Celie ever see Nessie again? Have you been just as horrified as I have? See you back here again next week.

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