The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Dr. Tanima Kumari Assistant Professor Department of English C.M. College, Darbhanga (L.N.M.U. Darbhanga) “For in the end, freedom is a personal and lonely battle; and one faces down fears of today so that those of tomorrow might be engaged.” —Alice Walker Alice Walker: A Brief Life
Born February 9, 1944 (age 76) Eatonton, Georgia, U.S. Occupation Novelist, short story writer, poet, political activist Alma mater Spelman College Sarah Lawrence College Period 1968–present Genre African‐American literature Notable works The Color Purple Notable awards Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 1983 National Book Award 1983 African American Literature
• African American literature refers to a body of literature written by Americans of African descent. • African Americans launched their literature in North America during the second half of the 18th century, joining the war of words between England and its rebellious colonies. • Despite the enormous outpouring of creativity during the 1920s, the vogue of black writing, black art, and black culture waned markedly in the early 1930s as the Great Depression took hold in the United States. • Declaring that “all art is ultimately social,” Hansberry along with several African American writers like Baldwin and Alice Walker took an active part in the civil rights movement and the freedom struggles of the late 1950s and the ’60s. • A variety of literary, cultural, and political developments during the 1950s and ’60s, including the impact of the women’s movement on African American women’s consciousness, fostered what has been termed “the Black Women’s Literary Renaissance” of the 1970s. Preface of The Color Purple
• The Color Purple, Alice Walker’s best‐known work, published in 1982. • It won a PulitzerProduct A Prize in 1983. • It is a feminist work about an abused and uneducated African‐American woman’s struggle for empowerment. • The Color Purple movingly depicts the growing up and self‐realization of Celie,who overcomes oppression and abuse to find fulfilment and independence. • The Color Purple was praised for the depth of its female characters and for its eloquent use of Black English Vernacular. • It was though not without critics, many of whom objected to its explicit language and sexual content. (continued…) Preface of The Color Purple (cont.)
. In 1985 Steven Spielberg directed an acclaimed film adaptation of the book . It featured Whoopi Goldberg (Celie), Danny Glover (Albert), and Oprah Winfrey (Sofia) . In 1986 the film won Academy Awards in nine different genre . InthesameyearitwonGolden Globes award too for the Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture . The Color Purple was also adapted for the theatre, and the first Broadway production premiered in 2005 Overview of The Color Purple
• The Color Purple documents the traumas and gradual triumph of Celie, an African American teenager raised in rural isolation in Georgia, as she comes to resist the paralyzing self‐concept forced on her by others. • Celie narrates her life through painfully honest letters to God. These are prompted when her abusive father, Alphonso, warns her not to tell anybody but God after he rapes her and she becomes pregnant for a second time at the age of 14. • When the widowed Mr. Albert proposes marriage to Celie’s younger sister, Nettie, Alphonso pushes him to take Celie instead, forcing her into an abusive marriage. SoonthereafterNettie flees Alphonso and briefly lives with Celie. However, Albert’s continued interest in Nettie results in her leaving. • Celie subsequently begins to build relationships with other black women, especially those engaging forcefully with oppression. Of note are the defiant Sofia, who marries Albert’s son Harpo; and Shug Avery, a glamorous and independent singer who is also Albert’s sometime mistress. (continued…) Overview of The Color Purple (cont.) • But the most important of them was Shug, a blues singing, no‐nonsense lady. The two women grow close, eventually becoming lovers. • During this time Celie discovers that Albert has been hiding letters that Nettie has sent her. Celie begins reading them and learns that Nettie has befriended a minister, Samuel, and his wife, Corrine, and that the couple’s adopted children, Adam and Olivia, are actually Celie’s. • An emboldened Celie then decides to leave Albert and go to Memphis with Shug. Once there, Celie comes into her own and creates a successful business selling tailored pants. Her happiness, however, is tempered somewhat by Shug’s affairs, though Celie continues toloveher. • Following Alphonso’s death, Celie inherits his house, where she eventually settles. During this time she develops a friendship with Albert, who is apologetic about his earlier treatment of her. • After some 30 years apart, Celie is then reunited with Nettie, who has married Samuel. Celie also meets her long‐lost children. • The family is whole again. Celie has survived— physically and spiritually. Major Themes • Religion • Family • Race • Love • Marriage • Violence • Sex • Sexual Identity Some Underlying Points
• The Color Purple is not an easy book to read because it is not written in the style of most novels. The author does not tell us everything about the characters and the setting and why the characters behave as they do. • This novel consists of a series of letters, none of which are dated, and in order to have a time frame for the novel, we will have to read through it carefully, watching for clues about social attitudes, clothes, and other telling details. • If we number these letters carefully, we find that Celie writes Letters 1–51. Nettie's letters begin with Number 52. The letters end with Number 90. • Only after finishing the book one realizes that the letters begin in a time when people ride around in wagons, and when the letters end, people are driving cars. Thus, the time span of the novel is about forty years. • Celie is uneducated, and she is writing exactly as she speaks and thinks. Shewritesher letters in nonstandard dialect, what Walker has called black folk language. “Reading The Color Purple was the first time I had seen Southern, women’s literature as world literature. In writing us into the world—bravely, unapologetically, and honestly—Alice Walker has given us a gift we will never be able to repay.” —Tayari Jones “The Color Purple was what church should have been, what honest familial reckoning could have been, and it is still the only art object in the world by which all three generations of Black artists in my family judge American art.” —Kiese Laymon “A novel of permanent importance.”—Peter S. Prescott “A saga filled with joy and pain, humor and bitterness, and an array of characters who live, breathe, and illuminate the world.” —Publishers Weekly Points to Ponder Upon
• In what ways are Nettie and Celie different? In what ways are they similar? Does Shug replace Nettie in Celie's life?
• What justification, if any, do Fonso and Mr. Albert have for treating Celie the way that they do?
• Keeping in mind that Celie's husband, Mr. Albert, has a classic villainous character, how can you explain his hiding Nettie's letters to Celie instead of destroying them?
• How do Nettie's letters differ from Celie's? How are they the same?
• Explain the relationship between the colour of purple and the feeling of beauty. References
• ANELLO, R. "Characters in Search of a Book." Newsweek 99:67 (June 21, 1982). • BRADLEY, D. "Telling the Black Woman's Story." New York Times Magazine 2437(January8, 1984). • Carey‐Webb, Allen. “Novels ‐‐ The Color Purple by Alice Walker” English Journal; Sep 1995; 84, 5 • Christopher S. Lewis. “Cultivating Black Lesbian Shamelessness: Alice Walker's "The Color Purple“. Rocky Mountain Review, Vol. 66, No. 2 (Fall 2012), pp. 158‐175 • COUGHLAN, MARGARET N. Folklore from Africa to the United States. Washington: Library of Congress, 1976. • GOLDSTEIN, W. "Alice Walker on the Set of The Color Purple." Publishers Weekly 228:468 (September 6, 1985). • MAHDI DEHGHANI. “Identity And Religion In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple”. Journal of Research in Gender Studies. Volume 4(2), 2014. pp. 448–454.