Slow Reads: The Color Purple Week 5

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

The book came to its crescendo this week and it brought a tear to my eye. All the misery that it caused so far only served to strengthen the hopeful note that it ended on.

Redemption was the theme of the week for sure. Harpo and Sofia reconciled, as did Celie and Mr —-. There was even a small amount of redemption for the white child that Sofia acted as a nanny for. Celie’s Pa (or technically step-pa) even left her his house when he died (although not of his free will, so I guess he remained as twisted as he started – no redemption for him). However, the best part of these redemptions were they didn’t feel forced in any way, nor did the new nature of the relationships ignore all the history of the characters. Mr —- asked Celie to marry him again, this time in spirit as well, but she turned him down. It was a credit to how far she’d come.

The scathing rebuke of colonialism continued. This time the book paints the missionaries as complicit in the atrocities committed. It has really got me questioning the ignorance of society today, and whether the reason we still look down on Africa is because we never really excepted culpability for colonialism as a nation. It definitely places this book as extremely relevant today.

The exploration of what religion means to different people also continued. The way the Olinka people appropriated the missionaries teachings and slotted them with ease into their own world view was particularly interesting. Their ideas about how Adam was not the first man, but the first white man was especially noteworthy in my eyes. The books comments on the whiteness of Christianity was not something I’ve ever considered before.

Shug left Celie for a while this week, to have a fling with a much younger man. I felt like this symbolized the last stage in Celie’s journey to independence. She relied on Shug to become a strong woman, and now she is able to function without her. I think it also really brought Celie’s sexuality to the fore, since, while Shug still likes men, she only has an eye for women.

The final piece of the puzzle this week was Miss Eleanor Jane. She embodied the well-meaning yet naive white person. In my eyes, the personification of white ignorance, which is still prevalent today, if to a lesser extent. Her relationship with, and need to be valued by, Sofia was very reminiscent of the dependence on black caregivers detailed in The Help.

Having reached the end of the first book in the ‘Slow Reads’ experiment, I must say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I hope you have too. The Color Purple was a really tough read in places, but being able to break down a section every week was a very rewarding experience, which I think amplified its messages for me. let me know what you’ve thought about the book or the series of posts as a whole.

Join me next week when I begin to discuss The Catcher In The Rye. Luckily this book has chapters, so it should be much easier to follow. I’m going to read chapters 1 to 6 for next Friday.

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