“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker has been banned in schools all over the country since 1984, due to its graphic sexual content and situations of violence and abuse. While “The Color Purple” contains a lot of controversial content, it’s necessary to the story and is what makes the book so real and unique.
The story is about an underprivileged 14-year-old African American girl named Celie, who is writing letters to God because her father abuses her. Celie already has two kids from her father, and he continues to physically and sexually abuse her.
Her father ends up marrying her off to an unknown man, who Celie only refers to as “Mister,” who also doesn’t treat her well. The story follows Celie as she deals with being the wife of this man while discovering more about herself along the way.
When the book was first released, it was assigned by many high school teachers for class assignments. Parents were unhappy, saying it was far too inappropriate and offensive for high schoolers because of the violent and sexual content.
The book was also banned originally because parents said it went against God, due to the lesbian relationship Celie develops with the character Shug. Parents claimed the detail in their scenes together was obscene and unnecessary.
There is a specific scene in the book that caused a lot of uproar because it explicitly describes a sexual scene. In this scene, Shug encourages Celie to explore her own body, and Celie begins to experience sex in a personal way, which is a milestone considering how painful and traumatic her past is.
While I understand the content in this book is inappropriate for certain ages and is graphic, there is a literary purpose behind Walker’s writing and attention to detail.
Walker’s purpose in her graphic content isn’t to promote violence or be erotic. The details in this story are more raw and honest than in many other books I’ve read. Celie’s a very young girl who has been raped and abused her entire life. How else would Walker accurately portray a story like that other than with detail? The quote above, for example, shows Celie finally having control over her body and sexual pleasure, allowing her to accept herself. There’s a theme of lost innocence throughout this story. The graphic scenes are made to make that believable. “The Color Purple”is an important novel because it breaks silence and censorship regarding abuse, a serious issue that most other media platforms refuse to openly talk about.
Walker is a very important author. “The Color Purple” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award. Walker was the first African American female to win these prizes. This also shows that while many parents and school officials have dismissed this book as simply inappropriate, it’s both critically acclaimed and important.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.