This book was definitely something new for me. Within the first page I was introduced to life from the perspective of Cellie, who is a victim of sexual abuse from her father. It is because of this rape and incest Cellie has given birth to two children by the age of fourteen. To start a book with an idea so horrific as this was certainly off-putting. But this historical time and setting meant that there were many off-putting subjects touched by the book. These included rape, lack of education, and domestic abuse from almost every male character. Cellie’s father later marries her off to an older man who’s wife was murdered. Her maternal instincts with his children were disturbing too, considering that they were roughly her same age. If I had one main criticism of this book it would be how truly depressing it is. It covers a time when women and black people were treated incredibly poorly. Cellie’s friends and family are lynched, beaten, and forced to work for racists, while Cellie herself is raped and forced into a marriage.
The idea of “fighting back” against ones oppression is used to prove how truly powerless some people feel against their oppressors. For example Cellie’s stepdaughter in-law, Sofia, beats up her husband after he uses tries assert his physical dominance over her. Whereas Cellie, who has been abused her whole life, envies Sofia for this ability, stating, “…I say it cause cause I’m jealous of you. I say it cause you do what I can’t. What that? she say. Fight. I say” (46). One of the most heartbreaking elements of reading this book is seeing how both women are misused by the world, and how hopeless Cellie feels to the people who hurt her.
However, at the half way point of this book I felt exposed to a new set of struggles that I had not yet seen from my school reading. For other readers like me who have not read many black female authors I would recommend this as a good starting point for the genre. In addition to the character’s unique struggles, the entire book is written in what Walker describes as “black folk language.” Because it is told from the perspective of Cellie who has spent her life around black people and is not well educated, the language used is very conversational. Additionally, words are often written by the way they sound rather than their correct dictionary spelling. This thoughtful use of language gives background to Cellie’s life and makes the book more authentic.