Flashback Review: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

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Walker's novel explores poignant issues and themes relevant to 21st Century life, despite its publication being in 1982.

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Published in 1982, Alice Walker’s The Color Purple showcases perfectly what there is to love about literature. Combining emotive themes, unique writing style and intriguing characters, The Color Purple is a book that will undoubtedly stay with you after reading it.

Walker is a poet, novelist and essay writer and The Color Purple was her third novel. Receiving a number of awards over the years, such as a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, it’s no surprise that Walker’s writing style is extremely distinguished, especially in The Color Purple.

This novel is particularly memorable for its structure. Consisting of very short chapters, all documented as diary entries or letters, readers get a direct insight to the characters’ thoughts and feelings, and therefore gain a deeper relationship to them than in most other books.

The change in perspective in the middle of the book is also memorable. Our attention turns from Celie towards Nettie, and the short chapters make it incredibly easy to get through. The use of dialect and idiolect is also intriguing, as readers are transported into the world of a young girl who lacks the traditional education which Western readers would expect. Furthermore, its mention of rape in the innocent setting of a 14 year-old girl is extremely poignant and immediately suggests the painful emotional story readers are about to unravel.

Just like any good novel, Walker’s The Color Purple delves into issues of gender and the patriarchy, and also the issues concerning masculine dominance over others, both privately and publicly. The theme of sexuality is also explored, and its combination with youthful innocence is simultaneously intriguing and somewhat disturbing for readers to witness.

In summary, Walker’s The Color Purple should be considered a literary classic for everyone to read. In her explorations of femininity, sexuality, family and youth, poignant messages are portrayed and the story-line is simply addictive. Also, its short chapters make it incredibly easy to pick up and put down, allowing you to start at any point in an uninterrupted manner.

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Live Editor 2019/20 & second year English student. Can usually be found procrastinating my degree at a gig, or trying (and failing) to complete my Goodreads challenge

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