Making the Changes
Rape, incest, sex, forced labor, and a bit of reefer. These are some of the components of a Novel by Alice Walker. These views are illustrated proficiently in Walker s third novel, The Color Purple. These aspects had a lasting impression upon ideals and beliefs of the time period. Her writing s helped to break the racial tension and barrier that was present in some people s minds. One of the ways that the barrier was eliminated was through her depiction of an imperfect black person. If a white person were to write about an imperfect black person it would be considered racist. I think the most chilling thing to me about the response to The Color Purple was that people said this doesn t happen , they said that this was totally an anomaly (Ebony magazine, Walker Confronts the Questions About Her ). With Walker s writing about other blacks that are participating in situations that are immoral and corrupt, the subject is brought into a new frame of mind. These situations are talked about in the open, and the idea that everyone makes mistakes, is easier to understand. Walker combines all of these issues in her story in a deceptive way.
The film and text versions of, The Color Purple, are similar in many ways and yet different as well. Like most motion pictures that have been created through the book, it does not focus on detail in most situations that are described fully in the original writings. The film version also brought out controversy among audiences. The rage-positive among white audiences, negative among black (mostly males) critics and reviewers- over Spielberg s adaptation of, The Color Purple, however has subsided since the film was released in 1985. Now days, it is not time to go over the film s controversy again but to understand its popularity and its differences from the novel. In Walker s short story, Everyday Use, which pokes fun at a character who puts functional quilts she once hated on her walls, showing them off a popular-culture art objects, we first see the symbolic quilt that runs through many of her stories, including, The Color Purple. What happened to the African and Afro- American folkways depicted in, The Color Purple- quilting and face scarring inparticular? Perhaps a certain amount of distortion was a factor for the film s success in American culture.
Walker s novel depicts quilting as a way for women who have become alienated to patch up their differences. At first, main character Celie, tells her stepson Harpo, to beat his proud wife Sofia, who is not listening to his orders and demands. Sofia responds by throwing the curtain Celie had given her at her Celie s feet. After having a short argument and sharing a laugh about busting men s heads open, the two women pick up and refashion this gift into a Sister s Choice quilt. However, in the film, they do not make peace this way. Sofia throws down the curtains and gets angry, but then returns through a field of tall corn where she came from. Still hot, she glares back at Celie several times with her mean eyes and facial expression. Sofia had advised Celie to resist her husband Albert s abuse, but Celie is left looking shameful for bringing abuse upon Sofia, the scene then ends without the two women resolving their differences in any kind of agreement. If this conclusion were different, the film may delay Walker s point that Celie will begin to stand up to men sooner or later, but the film changes the final meaning of their argument within their own relationship. Later Sofia and Celie do seem to be reconciled, not by sewing, but through a change in roles. In the novel Sofia also falls as Celie rises, and vice versa.
The film shows Sofia s strength through the powerful looks she gives when physical violence is occurring around her. The look she gave Celie in the cornfield is nothing when compared to the looks she gives when people try to attack her or her children directly. An example is in Harpo s bar when Squeak, Harpo s new mistress, confronts her and slaps her for dancing with Harpo. A great camera shot then follows with the intention of letting the audience feel what Squeak is feeling and realizing what she had just done. The camera shoots Sofia close up, turning her head in slow motion, and then the action speeds up as Sofia gives Squeak a roundhouse punch knocking her to the floor. Later when Sofia is put in jail for knocking out the mayor, she is hit on the head with a pistol that closed her left up and made it almost useless. Sofia s reopened eye towards the end of the movie is the best evidence that she has reconciled with Celie, showing that this reconciliation has taken place because the positions of the two women had been reversed.
Sewing with Albert is another important change that occurs in the film. The film similarly misinterprets the partial forgiveness of Celie and her husband Albert, which in the novel also occurs through their sewing together. Spielberg eliminates this means for getting together and shows only part of the picture through reversal of fortunes; like with Sofia, filmed through a series of reaction shots to the character s faces. Albert s rehab is shown in three stages throughout the film: first, after Celie leaves him, he is drunk and dirty in his home; another of him showing up at the Immigration office, perhaps to find Celie s relatives; and third sees or imagines she sees him through a window of her store. These scenes are to show that Albert has been thinking of Celie and may need to reconsider his lifestyles. In the novel, Albert and Celie interact in many ways, such as sewing and making outfits, which is not portrayed in the film. Walker originally developed their relationship and their getting back together. When Albert goes to see Celie in her new home, he finds her sewing pants. He then tells her that he used to sew when he was young until he was made fun of. Nobody going to laugh at you here, (275) Celie says, and the two make outfits together. While growing old Harpo begin to care for his father somewhat and the two become closer. Albert starts to love him again. This is another point in the novel where Albert starts to become a new man. The more I wonder, he say, the more I love. And people start to love you back, I bet, he say. They do, he say, surprise. Harpo seem to love me (290). This quote from the novel shows he has realized a valuable lesson in life, that love is a powerful force. Since Albert never talks to Celie after she had left him in the film, she never knows his thoughts.
Spielberg eliminates or distorts the solidarity-affirming aspects of quilting and sewing with Albert, even face scarring, traditions which Walker s oppressed Africans practice in order to save culture or repair trouble relationships. The symbolic point of the quilting is that it is a social and individual way to cope with overwhelming odds. In adapting Walker s African feminist novel, Spielberg did not translate the different folk traditions of the African and Afro- American. Important parts of this folklore were most likely left on the cutting room floor in efforts not to bore the audience. Walker s novel is very unique in regards to style. Her use of black diction is very affective and adds the extra fragment of authenticity to the story line. The story line is very well wrapped up in both versions and there is a fulfilling finish to an entertaining tale. Everyone enjoys a story where there is a happy ending to the like of; they all lived happily ever after, and this story takes that path.