Is it Celie's or Alice Walter's voice? Is it a postmodern deconstruction of the tradition novel-letter?
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Celie never gives us her husband’s last name. She writes his name in her letters as Mr. ______. We know his first name is Albert, but Celie never uses that name for him and is only reminded of this name later on when Shug addresses him. This consistent elision or blanking out of his name denies the written report of their union; we are never told what name Celie and Albert share, their marital surname. Not only that, but where Celie’s candid personal language usually illuminates her characters and her story, Albert is hidden behind a fog of blank space, reinforcing how alien he is to Celie and thus how alien he is to the reader through Celie’s narrative. In this novel, Celie’s language is dominant. When she disempowers, another in her text, she does so through language, such as literally denying Mr. ______ a name. Similarly, the Reverend is The Reverend Mr. ______ until Nettie forges her own relationship with him and his family, when he becomes Samuel. Where Celie might be wary of a dominant male figure whom she has no confidence to communicate with, Nettie is able to personalize the Reverend in our eyes as Samuel. Using a blank line to signify a name is not unique to this novel, but Walker does so in a unique way.
In her preface to the Tenth Anniversary Edition of The Color Purple, Walker explains: “This book is the book in which I was able to express a new spiritual awareness, a rebirth into strong feelings of Oneness I realized I had experienced and taken for granted as a child; a chance for me as well as the main character, Celie, to encounter That Which Is Beyond Understanding But Not Beyond Loving and to say: I see and hear you clearly, Great Mystery, now that I expect to see and hear you everywhere I am, which is the right place.” Clearly, this novel is Walker’s spiritual journey as well as Celie’s, which unites the two women as comrades on the journey. In fact, the whole novel focuses on the journeys of its women. Although Walker wrote the novel in 1982 and Celie’s story takes place in the early 1900s (probably 1909–1947), these women fundamentally share a common path.
As you can see in the above excerpt from gradesaver, the narrative voice belongs to both Walker and Celie. This type of narrative has been used before........ I believe it to be beautifully utilized here, as the reader may not understand its use at first, but you can't help to eventually realize its true meaning. I've described it as "if I don't say it....... it's not true," I think Celie feels the same way. Sometimes, giving something a name can make it far too real..........