On Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple

colorpurpleIf I said I liked the book, that would be dishonest. It seems I need to find fault with revered and iconic works like a disgruntled ape, immune to finer emotions and subtle unspoken thoughts, seeing only the words on the page and nothing more. I admit there is a kind of spiteful pleasure, a schadenfreude, in railing at ‘canonical’ works. However, I am not decrying the novel completely; it is a gripping read, startling, enlightening. Celie’s sorrows are saddening and her narrative endearing. Nettie’s memoirs are informative, her style apposite for an educated, practical, in-the-world-kind-of person. The contrast between different narrative, linguistic styles is the chief highlight of the book, in my view.

Moving on to the more exciting part, the mudslinging, I figure the book lacks something–something that holds the whole together. The novel’s appearance of unity seems a strained one, especially more so, with its ‘neat’ closure. Wrong is righted, evil repents, lost ones are reunited, sorrows give way to exuberant happiness. So what is my point? Am I an instinctive hater of happy endings? Whatever, but still the fact remains: the denouement is too tight. All loose ends are knotted, the inextricable knots are unraveled, and like Eleanor Jane and her baby are shut out by the coloured group, the firmness of the novel’s conclusion is depressing, alienating.

Nevertheless, this could be in tune with the novel’s sustained concern with spirituality; nature redressing wounds, history erasing grudges, the cycle of life restoring, reversing, and redeeming. Even so, this tale of self-righting sorrow which promised an experience so harrowing simply vanishes into thin air, leaving you flummoxed and a suspicion of somehow having been tricked. You had got so far out of your way to empathize with and inhale the heavy air of sadness that permeate Walker’s language, when the dream-like pace of the rest of the story–where you abruptly come across the characters in their old age, chatting tranquilly about past events–unsettles you at the least. You ask incredulously, That’s it? Whatever happens, everything will turn alright at the very end?

Rating: 3/5

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