The Color Purple

Since receiving a Kindle as a gift, I’ve been keeping it filled with books to read. Amazon is good about offering old books for free or reduced prices. One of them was Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

I’ve seen the movie, but never read the book. It was too soon to start the book club selection, so I picked up The Color Purple. I was happily surprised. I think the movie version was very well done — in fact, it might have been better. The movie version telescopes a large amount of time into under two hours, so something has to be left to the imagination.

In the book, Celie leaves Mister and makes her own life, sewing pants to sell in her father’s store and living in the house that she didn’t know was hers all along. She also makes peace with Mister, to the point where she actually calls him Albert, too. They spend evenings on the front porch, sewing and talking. You get the feeling that a lot more time has passed.

When Nettie and her family finally come back to America from missionary work in Africa, they are all old. Adam has married and brought his bride with him. They are both marked by tribal scars on the face. Nettie has married the widowed preacher and finally told the two children that they were adopted. Their mother is her sister, Celie.

All this time — 30 years in the book — Nettie and Celie have been writing back and forth. Celie never received the letters, because Albert hid them from her out of spite. Celie has been writing to God, but when she finds out Nettie is alive and well in Africa, she starts writing to her instead. The sisters’ story is told through those letters.

In the movie, Celie leaves Albert and sets up her store. Nettie and her family come back to America in a much shorter time span. The children are grown, but I don’t think Adam is married. We don’t hear about all their adventures in Africa — only that the preacher’s wife died and Nettie and the preacher are married.

Also in the movie, I don’t get the feeling that Celie and Albert are on speaking terms. Remember that Celie was ready to kill Albert when she found out he was hiding her letters from Nettie. Another larger difference between the book and movie is Celie’s sexuality. In the book, Celie comes to terms with her homosexuality, while in the movie it’s more implied than stated directly.

Alice Walker gives more background on Celie and Nettie’s mother in the book, and talks about African Americans going to Africa to be missionaries. She also includes the rape of the African jungle by businessmen planting cash crops and building roads. The book encompasses a lot more territory — which is both good and bad.

The movie concentrates more on the plight of Celie, rather than mix in a bunch of other issues. Celie is so downtrodden that one wonders if she’ll ever rise above her oppressors. It’s truly a joy when she reunites with her sister — an ending that strikes a chord with me since I have two sisters with whom I’m close.

Now, my next choice: Do I read The Hunger Games first or watch the movie?