This week we wandered through the works of African American writers since the Civil War. One of authors we looked at was Pulitzer Prize winner, Alice Walker. I read her third novel The Color Purple when I was about 16 or 17 and recall being horrified and feeling desolate by the graphic abuse portrayed. A few years ago I re-read the book and while the violence was still shocking, was that I could see this time around was the splendour of Walker’s storytelling and how she brings her characters to life.
The story of Celie is told through a series of short chapters, written as letters to God and later, as letters between Celie and her sister. Walker uses literary tools such as poor grammar and colloquial language to tell the story. Despite Celie’s lack of education, she tells a powerful story. Her letters to God and Nettie are very honest and heartfelt. She does not shy away from the hard times she has been through, nor does she feel embarrassed or ashamed. While it can be tough to read at times, the novel is about the power of love. In spite of everything, Celie has a heart that can hold love. Walker shows the force of true strength and self belief can never be taken away from you.
In 2005, a musical version of The Color Purple, based on the film version, opened on Broadway. It was later revived in 2015 and was an even bigger hit than the orginal and won the Tony Award for Best Musical (Revival). The last song before the finale shows Celie walking home, free from Mister and realises that life has not destroyed her and for the first time, she feels a deep love for herself. Celie sings `I’m Here’. Cynthia Erivo won a Tony Award for Best Actress (Musical) for her poweful and touching performance as Celie. Here is a clip from the production.
That walk at the end of the song gets me everytime!!!