Friday, December 12, 2008

Banned, Censored, Challenged: The Color Purple

A meek black woman overcomes sexual and physical abuse to find spiritual awakening.

The Color Purple is an epistolary novel told from the point of view of a woman named Celie. Set in early 20th century Georgia, the story begins with a violent rape and Celie's subsequent marriage to an abusive husband, referred to through-out the novel as "Mr.___". Celie is separated from her beloved sister Nettie early in the novel and never loses hope that she will see her again. She lives as a silent drudge, cleaning Mr. ____'s house, caring for his children and taking his beatings, until one day, she meets the sassy rebellious blues singer known as Shug Avery.

The language of the novel is raw, but changes as the heroine herself changes. Characters in the Color Purple don't always say a word like "shit" just to be profane, but because they are uneducated and have so few words.

In 1984, the Oakland, California Board of Eduction challenged the book because of "sexual and social explicitness" and its "troubling ideas about race relations, man's relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality." In 1992, the Souderton, Pennsylvania book Nazis called it "smut" and refused to allow tenth graders to read it.

The book has also been targeted by black activists who claim that the book presents a negative image of black men.

Personally, I love this story. I love it as a novel and a film. I am dying to see the play. What I admire most about it is the way it draws a line between the many forms of abuse that human beings can suffer- child abuse, rape, imperialism, racism- linking them together. It's all chained to the same violent act that destroys Celie in the beginning.

I do not care for the spirituality in this novel because I think it's bullshit. But since that's how I feel about most 'spiritual' things, I can overlook it.

The 1984 ban is interesting in it's choice of words, since its clear that the Oakland B.O.E wanted to weed out 'troubling' ideas, like lesbianism and unorthodox religious views. But ideas should not be troubling to you simply because they are in opposition to your own. And if those ideas (which are so prevalent in society) are wrong, why is it a bad idea to explore them as part of an education?

As for the image of black men, I get tired of the idea that all black people are responsible for any single depiction of a black person. Besides, there are male characters in the story who have great qualities. Somehow, critics of the novel always overlook these characters.

I believe that literature is conflict. It is meant to disturb your way of thinking. A good book will make you cry, laugh, cringe, shiver- anything but stand still. It is not there for you to approve or disapprove of- it's there for you to consider. You may or may not agree with the author's intended meaning. That's the whole point of reading.

1 comment:

Guest said...

i think books can persuade or manipulate a person's way of thinking. but, that could just be what educating yourself does ;)