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The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Transcript of The Color Purple by Alice Walker
About the Author
Born in February of 1944, Alice Walker lived with her sharecropping parents in Georgia. She was the youngest of eight children. Along with being a writer, she has been a teacher and social worker.
Information About the Text
The Color Purple is set in rural Georgia, where characters are abused and abusive. The main character, Celie, is a black woman living before the Civil Rights Movement. Normally people living in a similar milieu help each other, but everyone feels very oppressed. They take their frustration out on the next weakest person. The men use force against the women and marriage is based more on power than it is on love. Celie is not formally educated and must rely on her cruel husband for survival. Most cases such as this go unnoticed at this time because it was considered unfortunate but relatively normal.
Why is the Text Important?
This text illustrates the hardships that black people, women especially, had before Civil Rights. Those who read this book today and weren't there get a clearer look into the life of someone who went through a tough life. Celie made it in the end, she is arguably the happiest character when the book ends. Walker gave power to the seemingly powerless. This message is relatable, loaning itself to the work and making it even more successful.
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Pocket Books-Washington Square, 1982.
A BB gun accident left her blind in one eye. She felt disfigured and this affected her interaction with other kids.
In her adult life, the Civil Rights Movement inspired early short stories in the 60's and 70's. In 1982, she published her biggest work, The Color Purple.
Set in early 20th century Georgia for the bulk of the novel. The book itself was published in 1982, after the Civil Rights Movement. However, because the 1960's had been recent history, many people identified with the book and Celie.
“...have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.” (Walker, 170)
Celie addresses most of her letters to God, so at the beginning of this quote I was confused. But by the end, I identified with what she was saying. I like the idea that church is for sharing God, rather than praying for a quick fix to their problems. The idea was was presented as a relationship with God on more than just Sunday mornings.
"If there is a weakness in this novel - besides the somewhat pallid portraits of the males - it is Netti's correspondence for Africa. While Netti's letters broaden and reinforce the theme of female oppression by describing customs of the Olinka tribe that parallel some found in the American South, they are often mere monologues on African history. Appearing, as they do, after Celie's intensely subjective voice has been established, they seem lackluster and intrusive.
These are only quibbles, however, about a striking and consummately well-written novel. Alice Walker's choice and effective handling of the epistolary style has enabled her to tell a poignant tale of women's struggle for equality and independence without either the emotional excess of her previous novel "Meridian" or the polemical excess of her short-story collection "You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down."
Literary Criticism Response
Mel Watkins of The New York Times had many valid points. But he made Nettie in Africa a negative point. I thought it was important that Nettie saw a different culture that paralleled one she knew, though not as harshly. Women there were still seen as weaker than men, but men weren't as abusive towards them. I also felt that all of the possible character growth for the men were all shown. One never saw the errors in his ways, one became kinder in the end, and one was born to be a good person-- he just had to become comfortable within himself..