Day 14  February 20, 2003


1. Names. Midterm—distribute and discuss. Be sure to get names of those not there.


In the News: as usual, various things going on. Embargo on Michael Jackson news today.

How about this one?


And what do we think about this?


New York economy:

2. Last day on Color Purple. “My first response to this book is that I'm surprised I actually read it.” Gotta love it. Side note, perhaps, on reading . . . college is a lousy time for recreational reading, I know; professorial life isn’t a whole lot better. But if you can work some books into your life, summers, vacations, whenever, whatever kind of books you find yourself drawn to, you won’t be sorry.

First, let’s take a little time for questions about what happens. Some journals indicated a little confusion about events . . . everybody clear? In the great tradition of cliffhanger novels, we think Nettie is dead, but she’s just missing . . .

Next chapter, 180 ff: showdown #1 with Albert.  “It’s time to leave you and enter into the Creation.”  He tries to put her down again, but this time she has an answer.

Aside on Harpo trying to rule over Sofia. It was part of her getting into the fight, she says.

Albert tries to slap Celie, she sticks him with her case knife.  What will people think?  Shug; “Why any woman give a shit what people think is a mystery to me.”  They laugh at the men.  Sofia’s youngest, Henrietta, isn’t Harpo’s.  Squeak will go North too. . . and Sofia will take care of Suzie Q, Squeak’s daughter with Harpo.

(One of the fascinating things about this book is the way “family” keeps being defined and redefined.  It’s much more a matter of who loves who than who is legally or formally bound, hmm?)

The turning point might be on 187: Celie’s curse: Albert says “you nothing at all.”  She says, “But I’m here.”  She’s possessed, it seems; the winds come to her aid.  She finally decides not to be a victim, though not without help.

Celie comes to her strength partly as she becomes a writer, as she learns to express her feelings and her human worth.  The centrality of speech and communication to this novel: from being so isolated that she has to write to God, to talking to Shug, writing to Nettie, talking to Albert openly and on the same level, not him giving orders. Her cursing him is a big step, claiming the right to speak and to power.

193: work, money, friends, love, time.  One sort of “happy” ending would stop somewhere around here, or jump from here to Nettie and the children returning. But no. The plantationizing of the Olinka; Nettie and Samuel marry; so do Adam and Tashi; they go to England, find no help there. Nettie writes about how God is different to them too, after all their time in Africa, 227.

And Shug takes off with Germaine, for one last fling, leaving Celie. It’s hard for her, but it does allow her to form some kind of relationship with Albert. (238). And Eleanor Jane, the white woman who hangs around Sofia because her own family’s such a mess, ends up cooking for Henrietta.

247 Albert says: “I think us here to wonder. . . . The more I wonder, the more I start to love.”

Also, a longstanding quasi-literary theme that goes back at least to Keats and Shelley: the duty of hope.  Walker wants to believe in the possibility of human change without ignoring the awful things we continue to do.  Maybe a touch idealistic, but so what.  The movie goes even further this way, with the last big production number and the honkytonk and the church folk all dancing together.  Personally I prefer the more restrained ending of the book.

As I just read in Kathleen Norris’s The Cloister Walk, despair is itself a sin, traditionally—the idea that the world is just doomed and we can’t do anything about it, which sometimes passes for knowing sophistication, she argues is just a lame excuse for idleness. 128-129.

In what ways does the book play against stereotypes or predictable outcomes?  Celie’s reconciliation with Albert?  Her drifting away from Shug?  The book doesn’t end with a re-formed nuclear family, does it?  Or does it? 

And think about a key issue that we’ll be talking more about: where do we locate responsibility? If people have tough lives, how much do we expect them to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, how much do they need help from “outside,” formal or informal? The set of questions at the AAWN website, fascinating in what they suggest.

Do you think it treats men unfairly?  Which men in particular?  Certainly it focuses on some black men’s attitudes and behaviors as a problem for black women.

What allows Celie to develop?  Love and work, Freud said, were the secrets of adult happiness . . .  she develops relationships, confidence, she makes money, she finds out she can do things others value.

*Where and how does it suggest liberation and transformation come?  What are the stages that Celie goes through?  What resources does she discover?  What changes for her, and what has to change within her?  How do others change around her?  Margaret Atwood, “to refuse to be a victim.”  Shug can’t liberate Celie without her help.  Celie forces Albert to confront his actions, and he turns out to be less than completely worthless after all.

Walker’s a civil rights veteran; the steps toward nonviolent resistance in the Gandhi/King mode:

1.  Recognize the oppression.

2.  Learn to hope.  The need for models: Shug, Sofia.

3.  Avoid violence as vengeance, Sofia: needle, not razor.

4.  Love and solidarity: Shug, others

5.  Work and independence: positive action away from victimization.

6.  Forgiveness and reconciliation as equals.  Refusal of hatred, recognition of the humanity of the adversary.  Albert and Eleanor Jane need liberation as much as the oppressed.

What makes it possible for Albert to change?  “You know meanness kill.”  He gives her the last letters.  He starts to treat her like a human being, rather than a possession.

How might we connect this book with other things we’ve read and discussed? What about J/H and the possibility of change without or with lessened violence?  What does it suggest about possibilities for working things out, for changing attitudes and behaviors, for mending the disastrous inequalities that blight so many peoples’ lives? 



Student Responses


Erin Weber


I really have enjoyed reading the Color Purple. It really touches on many

aspects of life. And the greatest impact I had from it was that no matter

what the hardships and turmoil one has been through, you can rise above and

find yourself.

One can see a link between Miss Celie’s life and the entire Civil Rights

movement. Here we have two oppressed objects, dealing with life and putting

up with whatever is thrown their way, ranging from rape, beatings,

injustices and a basic miserable life with no meaning or hope for a better

future. In the end however Miss Celie stands up to Albert (Mr.), in a

triumphant confrontation that you can tell has been held up tight inside her

for so long just waiting to get out and make a difference to better her life

and to show that she has the strength to rise up against this oppressing

power that was held over her for so long. And that is similar to the Civil

Rights, finally action was put into place, people were tired of being

oppressed and treated as if they were the scum of the earth, when the only

thing that made them different was the color of their skin. After Celie has established her new found life and has risen above, you can

see how everyone now looked at her different and now had a respect for the

women that she was and really what she had always had been… a survivor. And

when she is reunited with Nettie and her children, the story can close with

the hope of the future looking remarkable and full of promise.


In the News:


The New York Times:

Economy Is Tough All Over, but in New York, It's Horrid



This article really informed me of something I really didn’t know what was

going on. In NY, the recession is going strong and is even in danger of

getting worse. As the rest of the country begins to rebuild itself up from

the recent recession, NY has an all time low unemployment rate, and business

is just not getting better. New York City has lost almost 176,000 jobs in

two years — more than the population of many cities. The unemployment rate,

which in the spring of 2001 had fallen to 5.3 percent, has been climbing

steadily and jumped to 8.4 percent in December. Many jobs have been

eliminated due to a chain reaction of larger corporations closing, which

leads to their food service departments, janitorial and other staffing needs

being out of work. The number of households not on welfare but receiving

food stamps, which some analysts cite as an indicator of a bad economy, has

risen 20 percent in the last year, to 124,000.Over the years other

surrounding states have been in similar situations with NY, but this time NY

stands alone and the hope for the future is not looking bright.




The book really strikes me in many ways.  The book has some really graphic detail that I am not used to in any of the books I have read for either fun or for school purposes.  The format of the book is new to me as well.  I am not used to the whole book being letters, but to be honest it is not as bad as I thought it would be.  I will say that the book has caught my attention and does keep me interested, this is something that is hard to do.    I sometimes find myself questioning what I have read due to the graphic nature, I have never encoutered this before in any book.   But I do find the book enjoyable. 


Zach Simpkins


Getting though the book was an overall good feeling.  I really enjoyed the reading novel.  While I heard some talking about the dialect of the writing being hard to get through, I wasn't too bothered by it b/c I had to read Huck Finn for Survey of Am. Lit.  and compared to trying to read through Jim this wasn't so bad.  The part of the book when all the letters from Nettie come into play I was confused as too why they were in there, I kept thinking: this could be another novel in itself.  The end seemed to bring them together alright, but I did seem to think there were alot of the letters from Nettie.  I really enjoyed the part of the book when Celie up and told Mr. Blank off... It kinda gives a good feeling to the reader to finally Celie stand up for herself.  I also enjoyed the part where Celie teaches Mr. Blank how to sew, I found that to be really humorous.  I almost laughed out loud when Mr. Blank told Celie that when he was younger, he spent alot of time with his mom and would sew. It just seemed funny b/c of how Mr. Blank's character is portrayed through out the novel.


This article is about  the idea of a hydrogen cel car.  The author spoke about the problems involved with having hydorgen as a fuel source.  The first problem is about how hydrogen doesn't appear on earth in its natural form, and that inorder to get it we must use energy, usually fossil fuels to get it.  He stated that this creates a double problem because most of the time scientist get their hydrogen from separating the atoms of natural gas, which is a fossil fuels, so there for we are using double the fossil fuels to create hydrogen.  He later said that we could use wather, but siad that water requires an incredible amount of energy to separate.  He then went through and discussed the problems invovled with using fossil fuel, solar energy and necular power to separate water and get hydrogen.

Laura Prickett


I actually really enjoyed reading “The Color Purple”.  Even though I had

read the book previously, I still found a lot of the story line very

interesting and I think that I understood and interpreted it differently

this time when I read it.  It had been a while since I had read it the last

time and I was surprised how much I had forgotten about.  It is kind of hard

to respond to the entire book at once, and I almost wish I could have

written different responses as I read, because the book covers so much

information and so much of a time frame that it is hard for me to think back

to all the different parts of the book.

      I think that it was very interesting how the other started out the

characters in the book, and it was intriguing to see how they adapted and

matured at the story progressed.  Celie came along way from the beginning of

the book to the very end.  I also found some of the situations between Celie

and Shug really interesting, and at some points they were just plain weird. 

I guess it is just hard for me to think of women in that time period

exploring into what could be considered homosexual tendencies.  I don’t know

if I was too young to understand the last time I read the book, or if I just

don’t remember that being such an important factor in Celie and Shug’s

relationship.  I think that it is very unfortunate for Celie’s character

that she felt the way she did towards men, not that she can be blamed for

those opinions.  Stories like this are what shows how deeply affected

children can be when horrible things like that happen to them as a child.

      I really enjoyed reading about how Celie grew and progressed as a

character, and I like that she learned to stand up for herself and her own

opinions with Shug’s help.  I almost got the impression at the end of the

book that Celie really ended up learning to love and appreciate Albert in a

new and different way.  I found it really interesting how their relationship

evolved through the story and by the end turned into a genuine friendship.

      I thought that the letters between Nettie and Celie were very touching, and I loved how they still felt as though they had a connection although they

hadn’t seen each other for years.  I have a sister of my own, and I do feel

that there is a special bond there that can never be broken, and I found the

faith they had in each other very inspiring.  I wish that there would have

been more to their reunion at the end of the book, but I think one reason

the author kept it short and slightly vague was because the reader already

knew who special and spiritual their bond really was, so she didn’t need

stress it at the end.  I kind of feel that it was just to give the story the

last bit of closure that it needed.

~Amy Rodabaugh



 Ryan Whitaker

Response to letters 70 –82

      In this section, Alice talks about how a strong belief in religion is a major component of having a strong sense of self.  Celie has always seen God as a distant figure that does not really listen to her prays. Celie sees God as a white man who behaves like all the other men she knows and who does not listen to here poor colored self.  This image that Celie holds of God strangely enough Nettie, Corrine, and Samuel even though they are doing mission work also see God in this way also. Celie ends up accepting white masculine dominance and comes up with the assumption her voice will never be heard.

     Shug’s concept of God is a lot different from Celie’s.  Shug is more personal and empowering.  Unlike Celie Shug does not describe God as a white man really Shug does not put any type of race or gender with God.  Instead Shug believes that people see God in their own way.  Celie’s recognition that she has control over who she think God is and does not have to like the religious viewpoints that she gets handed to her and is an important step to find herself respect.

     Celie’s assertion comes out in this section.  The moment that defines her as a person is the speech she gives to Mr. Blank, which contrasts with her silence and the assault on Mr. Blank contrasts the years of agony that she took when she was a slave. He tries to tell her that she is a weak helpless and ugly black woman, but Celie resists the hurt he tries to inflict on her with the words he says. Basically the speech she gives in reply to what Mr. Blank says gets him to rethink things that he has done and helps him to turn his life around and starts trying to do well in the eyes of people.

Is the above story for real?  Whatever notions this man has about Christianity, he is crazy!  How can any person possibly think that by killing someone, they are doing God's work...especially when the victims have done absolutely nothing wrong!  I would have to say that D'Aundré Banks is insane. However, that would not be a good plea in court because then he would get off on insanity.  But, really, and truly, he must be crazy if he honestly thinks this way!  I don't know much about "The Onion", so I am wondering just how much of a stretch has actually been put on this story.  Just reading it makes me mad. What kind of an example is this man presenting to the world about Christianity?  He is a reason that non-Christians remain non-Christians.  They see the acts of "Christians" and think they are no different.  Unbelievable. 

As for "The Color Purple", the book itself is very disturbing...However, I was glad to see everything pan out for the better in the end.  I was beginning to wonder whether or not Nettie was really going to be coming back.  A few parts of the book were slightly the explanation of how Samuel got Adam and Olivia and how that related to how Alfonso was not Celie's dad.  Perhaps I just need to read that part again.  I took pity on the people in Africa.  There minds were closed to the Word of God because of the hard times that had befallen them.  That is when people need God the most.  I was glad that Celie finally got some self-confidence and was able to stand up for herself.  Also, I think that eventually, she would get back to liking men again, and if so, I think she would go back to Albert.  It is only too bad she didn't accept his proposal to an honest marriage. 

Miranda Thorn


I really liked the ending of the book, The Color Purple.  It was very empowering, because we’d read this whole book about Celie living this horrible life – however, as the end of the book drew closer, she gained more power and more confidence in herself.  I also really enjoyed the scene where she, for the first time, stood up to Mr. ­­______.  I thought when she started making pants too, that it was very empowering for her.  She now had a purpose in her life – a profession.  One thing that I found very interesting was near the end when Celie and Mr. ____  started talking and having a good relationship for once.  I thought that was really, really neat.  Celie didn’t just get out of that bad situation of living with him, but ended up starting a new, healthy relationship with him.  The religious part of the book was also neat – how Nettie ended up becoming very religious, and I think that rubbed off on Celie in the letters, and led Celie into really believing in God – not just writing to Him because He was the only one who would supposidly listen.


One article that I looked up was from the New York Times, and it was about how the antiwar protests that were held all over the world haven’t swayed Bush’s plans for war against Iraq.  In his first comments after the protests, Bush said the main goal was to protect the American people and that since he is the leader of this country, sometimes not following a huge opinion is important in being that leader.  I understand that just because many people feel strongly about something, that is doesn’t mean Bush should follow, but it doesn’t seem from what the press has put out, that he has even considered this an option.  I was surprised that he said he plans to reach a decision within weeks, for whether he plans to use force or not.  Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of Britain, said that Saddam Hussein’s government is one of the most barbarous in history.  That is frightening, but I don’t see why the only resolution could be through force.  Bush thinks “peace through strength” has been successful in the past and will be successful now, as well.  I really wonder what is going to happen with this country.


Erica Wiebe


When I first started reading the Color Purple I had a hard time getting use to the style it was written in.  After a while it got easier to read and it went very fast.  It really got interesting when Celie found the letters from Nettie that Mr.________ had been keeping from her.  It was really interesting to see how Nettie fit into the story.  I was wondering how the author was going to tie the whole book together by writing letters.  I think that it ended up coming together very well.  It was interesting how religion started to play a part in the story with Nettie going to Africa with missionaries and Celie’s children.  I really enjoyed the description of Africa that Nettie uses throughout her letters.  It really helped me to understand the place that Nettie lived in Africa.  I also noticed myself having feelings for the people that had to deal with the destruction of the village.  When Nettie first talked about Africa and the village it was a beautiful place but after the white people had their way it became a sad place that had been ruined.  I felt sorry for the people and tried to place myself in their shoes and how they must have been feeling when they had to leave the place that they called home.  I think it is neat the Nettie found true love and it seemed like she was very happy in her relationship.  Samuel treated her like a true person and not like the men who oppressed women throughout the rest of the book.  The book had a happy ending with Nettie and her family reuniting with Celie.  I am glad that the book ended like this and that Celie started to find out who she truly was and what her place was in the world as a black woman.  I still do not know what I feel about the lesbianism in the book…I lean towards thinking that the only time she felt like she was accepted and could be herself was with Shug.  Was she a “true” lesbian or was she just seeking any kind of connection with a human being?


The article that I read was about drug abuse among welfare recipients.  The former Governor of Michigan introduced a procedure where people that apply for welfare are tested for illegal drugs.  If they were found to have drugs in their body they were not turned away but instead provided with appropriate treatment options.  The only way that they would not get the money is if they refused to take part in a rehab program.  The president said in his state of the union address that he wants to increase the amount of money used to help people overcome their drug addictions.  However, there needs to first be a way to identify those who need help.  There is a need for this testing and rehab programs because a lot of people on welfare buy these drugs.  The Governor’s idea could reshape the welfare system and how to give people more than just money but also a way to change their lifestyle.


Kristen Washington