The Color Purple

“You better not never tell nobody but God.  It’d kill your mammy.”

The Color Purple is another book to film adaptation that is next on my list.

The Color Purple is set in rural Georgia between 1903 and 1936.  Its protagonist is Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) who as a young black woman is at the bottom of the social hierarchy.  She is constantly abused by her stepfather until he marries her off to Mr Albert Johnson, a much older respectable man with unrespectable intentions.  

Albert only marries Celie so that she can tend his home and family and satisfy his sexual desires.  Celie suffers under his abuse for years until she finds comfort and escape in two independent and strong women: Shug Avery (Albert’s Mistress and a club singer, played by Margaret Avery) and Sofia (Albert’s son’s first wife played by Oprah Winfrey)

I was glad to see that the film followed the book’s structure.  The book is told through letters written by Celie and addressed to God.  As such, Celie also narrates the film giving it a very personal feel.  The film also did well conveying the violence and prejudice present within the novel.  Even though violence doesn’t happen in the film, when it does, it is very shocking and disturbing.  For example, on a number of occasions Albert reprimands Celie by slapping her.  Also, the scene where he effectively rapes her was also particularly disturbing.  

However, my favourite scene is when Celie’s sister Nettie is walking to school and Albert follows her and tries to force himself onto her.  Albert’s predatory advances are punctuated by his sinister laughs and Nettie’s timid protests that she has to go to school.  For me, this scene really epitomised and exacerbated just how evil men can be.  I’ve always like Whoopi Goldberg for the naturalness and authenticity that she bring to acting.  This is present as ever in her breakout role.

Even though the film stayed faithful to the novel’s structure and shocking examples of violence, there were a couple of things it changed that I didn’t like.  Within the novel, there are two major characters who we don’t see much in the film.  Firstly, there is Celie’s stepfather whom other than appearing in the film’s shocking first scene, but hardly appears after this.  

Secondly, there is the character of Harpo’s (Albert’s first son who married and was left by Sofia) new girlfriend Squeak, whom despite having a major role in the novel, is largely left out of the film to such an extent that I questioned why she was there at all.

This is a brutally honest and graphic depiction of what life could have been like for young black women at this time, yet I didn’t fell the film used some characters as well as others and this is why the film is only “good.”

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