Why The Colour Purple is still relevant

If you’re reading this, I assume you would have read The Colour Purple by Alice Walker published in 1982. Written in the form of letters to God from protagonist Celie and to Celie from her sister Nettie, the novel brings to forefront social issues faced by African American, especially women. It’s an intersection of themes of racism, sexism, questioning the existence of traditional gender roles, and a slight reference to homosexuality.

Today, this world faces much of what has been depicted in this book. These themes have stood the test of time, unfortunately. Let’s take a look at what’s actually in this novel that is still pertinent. While reading, you may be able to draw similarities between the reality of then and now, though I’m sure there has been a certain degree of change.

The novel explicitly brings out the above-mentioned themes, leaving us to question the morality of traditions that do more harm than good to the society. Violence and discrimination against Blacks in those times went to the extent of Whites lynching them for their good. The superiority instilled in the consciousness of Whites is clearly exhibited. Slavery may have been abolished, but its seeds still persisted in the minds of people. It became the way Blacks were perceived and treated.

What’s interesting is the way the protagonist transforms from an abused, raped teenage girl to an independent woman standing up for herself. With various female characters exhibiting different nature, the novel throws light on the suppression of women through violence and abuse. The induced social superiority of man over woman is questioned by showing different lives. Women who refused to give in, who stood up for themselves and fought for their right, who didn’t let men dictate their life empowered and inspired the protagonist, who was buried under ignorance, which led to teenage pregnancy and abuse.

In the days when colour dictated the terms of social relations and established norms biased to a certain community, questioning the traditional ideas cannot be labelled as a radical attempt. The novel does a good job of highlighting the confusion of illiterate, teenage mind conforming to brutal ways of the world only to realise her own worth with the release of built up emotions.

Walker doesn’t go into much detail of clearing the confusion of protagonist regarding her sexuality, which could be interpreted as an effort to mean that whatever be the sexual preference, it’s people’s right to explore and figure it out for themselves rather than be told what is right or wrong. While this may attack the conservatives, it also instils the belief that people should be allowed to be themselves regardless of race, colour, gender and religion. She does do justice to dissecting the gender roles to question if women really should be relegated only to the domestic sphere and men to the public.

I do believe we’re all evolving. I do believe that we’re on a road to progress. However, if you look around, you are going to find some people still struggling with the above-mentioned issues as well as many others. Both women and men face the social challenges of the world in varying degree.

Today, The Colour Purple stands as a metaphor of struggles each one of us goes through no matter how big or small they are. It stands out for its explicit depiction of truth, which does need to be put out to realise the need to change the reality. 

We don’t need to change the world. We need to change ourselves and impact people around us and the world will change automatically.

Start today. Start now. 

Advertisements

Insight into 13 Reasons Why

Let us first establish the fact that we’ve watched the series and some of us may have read the book too. One word that would aptly describe it is complex. I’m not going to talk much about what the series/book is about. I’m going to talk about what I understood from it. I’ll talk about two perspectives to it.

Before beginning, I’d like to clear one thing. I’m not a professional who can talk about mental health and I’m not someone who knows how it feels to be in a situation like Hannah’s.

Hannah’s story is significant. So is everyone else’s. Some of the reasons that Hannah mentioned were extremely horrifying. She had to go through bullying, abuse, harassment. She witnessed a brutal crime and couldn’t do anything about it.

The first perspective is that the show, unintentionally I suppose, ends up depicting that suicide will end your suffering and that people you consider responsible for it will eventually realise they’ve done wrong. It has portrayed that they’d be held accountable by law and justice may be served. This depiction is hazardous. Hannah should have approached the authorities earlier and reported bullying and assault of her friend that she witnessed and one that she went through herself too. Suicide, harassment, bullying, assault and many other social issues cannot be justified on any grounds.

What her friends did to her wasn’t right in any way. They didn’t realise how their actions were affecting her. Reasons, small and big, kept on piling up one after the other and inflicted complex emotions that she couldn’t deal with. All that was needed was one trigger that’d break her completely and more than ever. She decided to die and she figured she had reasons to justify her action. It seemed as if she was justifying her decision by holding others responsible for it. While I do believe that her friends should have been held accountable for what they did to her while she was alive, I do not believe that suicide was the way to end her suffering and make them realise their mistakes.

There’s also another perspective that we have to take into account. We all must understand that this show depicts Hannah and her friends’ story. They do not talk about suicide in general but portray a specific, unfortunate case. Everyone is different. So is their experience. We cannot measure their pain and experience to say they weren’t hurting much. In Hannah’s case, she had gone through a lot and she needed help. She was in a turmoil, she was drowning and she needed someone to help her come out of it. Every instance of pain was pushing her more towards the edge. All of this again doesn’t justify suicide, but only provides an angle to understand Hannah.

She didn’t think of her parents when she decided to die, she didn’t think of a future with hope, of all that she could have achieved in life. All she wanted was an end. But the question is: when you’re on an edge, do you really consider logic? Do you really think of what is right and what isn’t? Can it all be generalised and applied to everyone? Did she suffer from some mental health issue? Did she think she was suffering from some issue? More importantly, did she want to live? Because if she didn’t want to live, she could not have been stopped without professional mental health expert’s intervention. If only she could have tried to seek help in the beginning from a psychiatrist, talking her heart out to him/her about her life and all that she went through instead of going to the school counsellor at the very end, the story may have turned out differently.  All those alternatives can only be imagined.

People around her were either mute spectator or couldn’t figure out she needed help. If 13 reasons why she thought she should take her life were her friends’ actions or inaction, the 14th and the main reason was Hannah herself because she had the power to take the decision of her life.

The actors and the show have done a brilliant job in portraying raw emotions and tried to make it look as real as possible. What still doesn’t change is that we never know how it may affect some people, especially those suffering. It may turn out to prove dangerous in case of some people while in the case of others, it may push them to seek help.

13 Reasons Why did one job right. It got everyone to discuss this issue, even if it meant talking about what was the right or wrong portrayal in the show.