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Reader response journal for Alice Walker’s The Color Purple

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Entry 1

“You better not never tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy.” Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, begins her novel with an ambiguous threat. A fairly powerful, yet unexplained, quote begins a very powerful novel. Before opening this book, I had no idea how it was written or what it was about, I chose it solely by recommendation. I soon noticed that the whole story was to be told through letters written by the protagonist and addressed to God. I was actually very pleased to be reading something formatted different; I thought it would be more interesting. I did not know what I was in store for.

Alice Walker wastes no time to shock the reader right off of the bat. The very first letter describes the rape of the protagonist by her stepfather. Uneducated language is used to bring more depth and realism, but also adds a sort of crudeness to it. This is nothing you would expect a first page to consist of. A turn of the page begins with, “My mama dead. She die screaming and cussing. She scream at me.”

No concern with being vivid in unpleasant details is found as Alice Walker begins her novel. Above all, this way of writing creates a much more powerful effect. The messages and themes are intensified. I was a little disturbed at first, but I really believe that this style of writing was very compliant to the piece as a whole. However, who is the protagonist and why isn’t the letter signed?

Entry 2

“Dear Nettie, I don’t write to God no more, I write to you.” The letters have again changed and are now Celie addressing Nettie. Celie briefly explains that she has given up on writing to God, “What God do for me? I ast.” This is a very understandable decision and the reader has a chance to really reflect and see how horrible of a struggle that the protagonist has been through since that very first page.

However, Shug disagrees strongly. This leads to a long sermon-like discussion about God, race, and life. I was expecting, and almost hoping, for a rejection of God from Celie. I found it humorous how she found God to be like any other man I her life, “Trifling, forgetful and lowdown.”

Celie has given up on her God; after having such a strong relationship with him, she decided that he doesn’t listen. I really enjoyed this chapter, the conversation did nothing but make me think. Alice Walker seems to be questioning the reader’s views thru her characters. What your God looks like and why? Where you find your God? Who is your God? The author forces us to take a good look at our own beliefs.

Race and racism is intertwined into their conversation, quite appropriately. Shug, instead of believing in the white, church going God, believes in a different form of God. Not a black one, or a more racially neutral one, but one that is inside of everything and everybody. Alice Walker, through her character Shug, opens the reader’s eyes. God wants us to notice that he is trying to please us; we don’t need to spend so much time trying to please him if we would just be grateful. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”


Entry 2

Throughout the novel The Color Purple, one very prominent issue is addressed: internalized racism. Celie, the main character of this incredible book, faces extreme internalized racism and sexism. She does not believe in her own personal worth as a person. However, the story consists of many characters with the same issue. Tashi was a character used to very bluntly and obviously acknowledge the problem.

“The bleach their faces, she said. They fry their hair. They try to look naked.” Tashi gives her reasons for choosing not to marry Adam and move to America. She had seen magazines and recognizes that in America light-skinned African

Americans are valued over those with darker skin. This is just a hint that the author gives so that the reader would look a little deeper into the story and see how abundant this theme is.

Not only is this problem very harmful to the female characters, such as Celie and Sofia, but also the causing factor of this sort of self-hatred; the repression from others. White racism causes a hatred for anyone from African American descent, which makes them second-class citizens in society. In addition, the fact that they are woman and dominated by their fathers and husbands makes them second-class citizens in the home. This is truly not living.

This story of triumph is centered around a protagonist who lives under triple oppression; she is being tormented by poverty, racism, and sexism. Worst of all, she contains all of it inside at first and still fails open up for the most part of the story. However, maintaining herself, she finally does unlock and express her love. Unfortunately, Celie concludes the novel expressing her overdue happiness, along with her old age. Nevertheless, the final words from Nettie are, “Matter of fact, I think this is the youngest us ever felt. Amen”

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