What makes a life good – The Colour Purple PR

No book we have read so far has impacted me like The Colour Purple has. At first, i didn’t think I was going to like it, but I can honestly say that it is one of my favourite books I have read in this course. “Good literature doesn’t send messages, it raises questions.” This is a phrase you have all heard over and over and over, it probably haunts you in your sleep. I can honestly say that The Colour Purple is the first book to make me actually question what I had just read. The main one being “What makes our life good?/What makes life worth living?”

In The Color Purple by Alice Walker, the concept of what makes a good life is explored through the experiences of the characters, mostly the main character Celie, as they go through various challenges and personal transformations. Meaningful relationships, especially those of love and friendship, are the building blocks to a good life in the novel. Celie’s connection with Shug Avery, her sister Nettie, and her friends Sofia and Squeak play pivotal roles in her growth and happiness. These relationships provide emotional support, validation, and a sense of belonging.

“Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?”

The quote suggests that humans, in the chase for love and attention, will partake in various expressive and creative activities. For example singing, dancing, making faces, and giving flowers are ways in which people try to garner love and positive attention from others. These actions show our own fundamental need for human connection and validation. Furthermore, it compares human nature to actual nature, in this case trees. Despite the fact that trees are an inanimate object, and thus cannot sing, dance, or make faces. They still have their own little way of trying to capture attention using their natural beauty, they may bloom flowers in the spring, grow fruits in the summer, turn beautiful shades of red and orange in the fall, and the snow lining their limbs in the winter. The desire for love and affection is a universal trait not just exclusive to humans. So in this case, I would argue that love and affection from others whether it be family, friends, or your pet is an important factor in having a good life

Another main theme mentioned in the novel that I believe contributes to a good life is self-expression and self-identification. Could you imagine being forced to live in a world where you weren’t allowed to do the things you love? This was Celie’s reality in the beginning of the novel when living with Alfonso. She was silenced and oppressed and married off to a man she barely even knew. However as she started writing letters to god, and eventually Nettie, she begins to find herself.

“I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here.”

This quote shows Celie’s journey to fully accepting herself for who she is. Despite her own negative perception of herself and others negative perceptions of her, she acknowledges that she is here and that her value as a person is not based off her attractiveness, her race, her cooking skills, her financial state, or if she fits within the gender role assigned to her. She exists, she has a life, she has a purpose and she is important. She is asserting her presence in the world, and in doing so defying those oppressive forces she faced throughout her life. Her declaration of “But I’m here” acts as a sort of statement to the world that she has the right to take up space and exist freely. It highlights her resilience too, despite the horrific situations she is put through and all the rude comments made about her, she’s still her and present. It shows Celie’s inner strength and her determination be able to express herself in order to live a good life.

A sense of community and solidarity yourself and others is a large part of what makes life good as well, and we see this in the characters in the novel. They join forces and support each other, giving a sort of “found-family” feel to the novel, providing love and affection (which as I mentioned before is another factor of a good life) . Having this sense of belonging contributes to our overall well-being. We get this from our friend groups, our families, sports teams, school peers etc. However, we also experience connections to things that aren’t human, such as nature.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the colour purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it”

This quote said by Shug Avery, suggests that there is a definite beauty and meaning in the natural world that is often overlooked. Even simple things, like the colour purple in a field, are beautiful. By failing to notice or acknowledge this, you are upsetting god. In the context of the novel, this is a metaphor for the importance of being aware of the beauty and value in people and the community. In the story, the characters, mainly Celie, experience transformation and a sense of belonging when they become more aware of the strengths and value of themselves and those around them. Not noticing the “color purple” in others, metaphorically speaking, represents a failure to recognize and appreciate the unique qualities and beauty in individuals within their community. When individuals in a community take the time to notice and appreciate the beauty and worth in one another, it fosters a sense of unity and solidarity. The act of collectively appreciating and valuing the diversity and unique qualities of community members  strengthens the bonds between them. In the novel, as characters like Celie and Shug learn to appreciate each other’s uniqueness, it leads to deeper connections and a sense of solidarity.

I absolutely loved this book, and I loved the characters too. I admire Celie’s ability to persevere and to love unconditionally. I admire Sofia’s ability to defend herself both physically and mentally, and stick to her morals even if it gets her in trouble. And I admire Shug’s independence, her ability to challenge taboos, and her creativity. The most important thing I learned from this novel is that a good life is not just about success or wealth. It is also about forming loving relationships, self-expression, and having the freedom to be your authentic true self.

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