Monday, March 28, 2016

Deus Ex in The Color Purple?

Celie made her family. She finally learned to love herself; she learned to love Albert (Mr.____) even if it was only a platonic relationship. She found love in Shug and accepted her back into the house despite her infidelity. She became a well-rounded individual after learning to see God in everything instead of seeing him as the big, judgmental, white man. She grieves for her lost sister and the relationship they never had, but sees that Nettie will continue to live on in and continue to talk to her “in a different way” (260). Then, out of nowhere, Nettie reappears in Celie’s life much like a god being lowered by a crane in Greek and Roman drama in an effort to resolve and untangle the plot—a classic case of deus ex machina.
Celie, in her long talks with Mr.___ learns why he thinks people were put here on the Earth. They are here, he thinks, “To wonder. To ast” (283). The more he wonders, the more he learns to love. And in that love, as Celie also discovers, is a contentment with the hard life they have been given. The most moving part of the novel is when Celie learns the lesson she “was suppose to learn” (283). She learns that if what she wants to happen happens, she will be happy. If it doesn’t, she will be content. The lesson she learns contentment. She has spent the entirety of the novel writing to God and Nettie searching for a sense of belonging, and just when she learns to be content with herself, Nettie comes back.
A counter argument to the idea that Nettie’s reappearance is a deus ex machina could be that God is rewarding Celie for learning this lesson after so many years of struggling with her own self-worth and relationship with Him. This argument does not hold much water, however, if one considers Albert’s idea that people are put on Earth to ask about “the big things” and in asking about the unanswerable questions of the universe learn something about “the little ones” (283). God does not play a particularly active roll in the rest of the novel, so it would seem odd for him to suddenly act in the novel’s last few pages.

Once Nettie comes back into Celie’s life, the reflective women she has become fades away into one focused on her present state of happiness. Instead of the novel ending with Celie feeling whole and content with herself and the relationships she has with those around her, it ends with her feeling the “youngest [she’s] ever felt.” This idea that feeling happy and young is the most important thing in life after overcoming hardships takes away from Walker’s idea stated in the novel’s Preface that people should realize the “Oneness” that is present in the universe in an effort to accept themselves and rise above unjust treatment.

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