Celebrating Black History Month at the VCU Libraries
Reviewed by Monique Prince, Undergraduate Services Librarian
The Color Purple is one of Alice Walker's most celebrated novels. Its main character is Celie, an African American in the south who writes of her heartache and misery in a series of letters—first to God, then to her sister who is a missionary in Africa. A striking characteristic of this novel is its portrayal of African American men and how they treat African American women. Celie and other female characters are often raped, beaten, treated like mules, and degraded by their husbands, fathers, and lovers. In Celie's case, she goes from growing up with an abusive stepfather to a bad marriage with a much older man who treats her like a servant while spending much of his time with his lover, Shug. Despite their connection to the same man, Shug and Celie forge a unique and loving relationship that allows Celie to transform from being passive and submissive to being independent and self-confident. Her transformation also creates a positive change in her husband, Albert, and despite the tragedies and hardships Celie faced over the years, the reader is left with a sense of optimism about her fate. The Color Purple won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award for fiction.