I was ten when I first viewed the film starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey. And, like the fact that Liesl’s virile, rosy-cheeked boyfriend, Rolf in the Sound of Music was actually a card-carrying Nazi, the complex thematic nature of The Color Purple went just a tad over my head.
Still, something about the spiritual undertones (or perhaps overtones) that permeated the film appealed to me. I was moved by the characters’ struggles, and got lost in the ethereally spooky cinematography. I had no clue what I was watching, but I felt drawn to it, and viewed it many times over. One thing I could never understand, however, was the title. The color purple? What does this story have to do with…purple things? I couldn’t comprehend it. No one I asked could give me a straight answer.
And then four years ago I read the book. When I came across the following line, it all clicked into place:
In a letter to her sister Nettie, Celie describes a conversation she and Shug had about God.
“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it” (Walker, 197).
The quote may have been expressed in the film; I honestly don’t remember. But it was the book…the words on the page…that brought it to life for me. I understood at once. How many natural elements in this world are purple? I’ve put this thought into practice. I notice a hearty bunch of daisies, a stark red cardinal in the midst of sparrows, a pond full of multicolored koi. It seems like a trite concept, but something about the way Walker puts it just knocks it dead. Brings it home. Maybe all we actually have to do is notice. Really notice.