The Color Purple

Guide cover image

53 pages • 1 hour read

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Pages 57-112

Pages 113-161

Pages 162-206

Pages 207-286

Character Analysis

Symbols & Motifs

Important Quotes

Essay Topics

Discuss the title of the novel. How does this title evoke important themes in the novel? Be sure to trace out as well how Walker uses the literal color purple to reinforce these themes.

Walker coined the term womanism to describe Black female identity that centers Black women’s experiences. What makes The Color Purple a womanist novel?

Discuss the significance of letter writing and writing in the novel. What impact does the epistolary form have on how you experience the plot and character development? What role do letters and writing play in the lives of the characters?

blurred text

Don't Miss Out!

Access Study Guide Now

Ready to dive in?

Get unlimited access to SuperSummary for only $ 0.70 /week

Related Titles

By Alice Walker

Guide cover placeholder

By the Light of My Father's Smile

Alice Walker

Guide cover placeholder

Everyday Use

Guide cover image

In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens

Possessing the Secret of Joy

Guide cover image

Strong Horse Tea

Guide cover image

The Flowers

The Temple of My Familiar

The Third Life of Grange Copeland

Guide cover placeholder

The Way Forward is with a Broken Heart

To Hell with Dying

Featured Collections

African american literature.

View Collection

American Literature

Banned books week, black history month reads, books made into movies, books that feature the theme of..., colonialism & postcolonialism, pulitzer prize fiction awardees &..., school book list titles, supersummary new releases.

essay titles for the color purple

The Color Purple

Alice walker, everything you need for every book you read..

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Alice Walker's The Color Purple . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

The Color Purple: Introduction

The color purple: plot summary, the color purple: detailed summary & analysis, the color purple: themes, the color purple: quotes, the color purple: characters, the color purple: symbols, the color purple: theme wheel, brief biography of alice walker.

The Color Purple PDF

Historical Context of The Color Purple

Other books related to the color purple.

  • Full Title: The Color Purple
  • When Written: 1981-82
  • Where Written: New York City
  • When Published: 1982
  • Literary Period: postmodernism in America
  • Genre: Epistolary novel; the 20th-century African-American novel; 20th-century feminist writing
  • Setting: Georgia and coastal Africa, roughly 1920-1950
  • Climax: Nettie and Celie are reunited, just before the novel's end, back in Georgia
  • Antagonist: Mr. and Pa
  • Point of View: first-person (epistolary, or a novel-in-letters)

Extra Credit for The Color Purple

White-black relations in the film version of The Color Purple. The film The Color Purple was directed by Stephen Spielberg, a white, male filmmaker. The film itself deals almost exclusively with the lives, troubles, and eventual triumph of African Americans, and some complained, during the film's production and release, that Spielberg did not have a right to direct a film running so counter to his personal experience. But Spielberg's efforts and response, implied in the film, point to the universality of Celie's experience, and to the applicability of the novel to people from all walks of life, and of all gender and racial backgrounds.

The logo.

The Color Purple

By alice walker, the color purple essay questions.

Why was this novel titled The Color Purple ?

Think about when purple is mentioned as a color and as an attribute of something worth admiring. Should all colors be admired equally, all being features of things created by God? Does rarity really make something more precious--purple seems rare in nature, but does this make other colors any more or less valuable? Consider the same question with regard to racial majorities and minorities in Africa and in the United States, which also are often distinguished by color.

Can you find Alice Walker as a character in the novel?

Examine the narrative structure employed by Walker. Remember that ultimately the choices in the narration are all really Walker's. Pay particular attention to the last line in the novel: "I thank everybody in this book for coming." Consider also how Walker might play the role of God in Celie's story, being the one who invests this creation with being and meaning.

How important is it that Nettie returns at the end of the novel?

Consider the ways that Nettie is important to Celie and for the whole narrative in terms of female solidarity, communication, and family struggles. Does the novel require a positive ending for it to be a positive story? Does Celie require such an ending to her own story? Is Nettie's return structurally significant in that once Nettie returns, the letter writing stops and so does the novel?

How do the male characters in the novel shape, break, or have other influence over the females?

A good way to approach such a question is to examine how the choices made by Celie and the other female characters might have been shaped by their experiences with the male characters in the novel. Consider their choices, thoughts, and feelings with regard to independence, family, entrepreneurship, and the other matters of value to the women. Note also that both positive and negative experiences with various men should be addressed.

Celie apparently prefers women to men in general, including sexually. In her case, her terrible treatment by men could be a critical factor. What could be going on in her mind?

There is not necessarily a relationship between Celie's social preferences and her sexual preferences, but there might be. Moreover, there may or may not be a link between her life experiences and her preferences. Use evidence from the text to try out a variety of possibilities to understand why Celie is the way she is. If she has different feelings about different men (likewise for different women), does this mean that we cannot even make a generalization about Celie's preferences? Do her views for or against men and women in general change over the course of the novel?

Sofia goes on quite a journey in the novel. How significant is it that Sofia ends up as a maid in a white family?

A good answer to this question will look deeply into Sofia's character. She is a fighter and seems more independent than Celie, but her journey is far less significant than that of Nettie. Consider also Sofia's relationships with her own family members as well as the portrayal of the white community in conjunction with the black community in Sofia's place and time.

What is the significance of the opening line?

Alfonso's words permeate Celie's life and her writing. Think about the narrative structure and why it is significant that we are reading letters written to God. Also consider the place of family and of males in Celie's life as well as the importance of communication with others.

What is the significance of Nettie's life in Africa?

Consider what themes characterize Nettie's life in Africa and why those themes might be important in Celie's life. Remember that what we know of Nettie's life in Africa is based on what Nettie thought she should communicate to Celie. In addition, Walker might be highlighting significant issues relating to the importance of Africa in black American history and culture.

Although Doris Baines only appears for a brief instant in the novel, she is an interesting and weighty character. What does she contribute to the novel?

This question provides an opportunity for a close reading of the section in which Doris appears. Important features here are her identity as an independent English woman who does not have traditional Christian views, her good work in Africa, her desire to leave her home life, her desire to travel, and her African grandson. More generally, consider how her character develops themes about race, gender, religion, and family in the novel.

Discuss the significance of the written versus the spoken word in this novel.

Consider which medium lasts longer, who the audience is or can be, the usual uses of letters versus conversation, the stylistic choices available in each medium, accuracy, spontaneity, and the role of direct versus indirect human interaction (such as voice inflection and gesture in the spoken word, and other kinds of emphasis and subtleties in the written word). Which characters or kinds of characters may make use of each medium, and for which purposes? How does storytelling in each medium function, particularly with regard to self-assertion and ownership over one's language as a proxy for ownership of one's story and one's life?

GradeSaver will pay $15 for your literature essays

The Color Purple Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for The Color Purple is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

How are Shug and Nettie role models for Celie?

In the letter, Celie notes that she sees Nettie as a moral and intellectual role model, whereas, Shug serves as a sexual and emotional mentor. Both characters act as role models, though they do so in completely different ways.

How does Celie betray Sofia?

Celie betrays Sofia when she tells Harpo to beat her.

How does the author present female relationships?

At the start of the novel, the young, black female is presented as about the most vulnerable person in society. Celie epitomizes this female: she is abused and denied a voice by her (supposed) father and then by her husband. Along with the racial...

Study Guide for The Color Purple

The Color Purple is a book by Alice Walker. The Color Purple study guide contains a biography of Alice Walker, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About The Color Purple
  • The Color Purple Summary
  • Character List

Essays for The Color Purple

The Color Purple is an epistolary novel by Alice Walker. The Color Purple literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

  • The Color Purple: Literary Techniques Employed by Alice Walker to Develop Celie's Character
  • Female Marginalisation Embodied in The Color Purple and The Yellow Wallpaper
  • Edith Wharton, Alice Walker, and Female Culture
  • Internalization and Externalization of Color in The Bluest Eye and The Color Purple
  • Reconciliation Between Public and Private Spheres: Mrs. Dalloway and The Color Purple

Lesson Plan for The Color Purple

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to The Color Purple
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • The Color Purple Bibliography

Wikipedia Entries for The Color Purple

  • Introduction
  • Critical reception
  • Adaptations
  • Boycotting Israel

essay titles for the color purple

Home — Essay Samples — Literature — The Color Purple — The Color Purple: An Analysis of Alice Walker’s Novel


The Color Purple: an Analysis of Alice Walker's Novel

  • Categories: The Color Purple

About this sample


Words: 742 |

Published: Jan 30, 2024

Words: 742 | Pages: 2 | 4 min read

Table of contents

Background and context, literary analysis of characters, themes and motifs, symbolism and imagery, writing style and techniques, critical reception and impact.

  • Association, A. N. (n.d.). Choosing a Title - Organizing Academic Research Papers - Research Guides at Sacred Heart University. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from
  • Walker, A. (n.d.). The Color Purple.
  • Representation of the Southerner in Southern Literature - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature. (n.d.). Oxford Handbooks Online.
  • The boundary between dialect and language - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics. (2017). Oxford Research Encyclopedia Linguistics.
  • The Color Purple Study Guide. (n.d.). SparkNotes. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from

Image of Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Let us write you an essay from scratch

  • 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help
  • Custom essay delivered in as few as 3 hours

Get high-quality help


Prof Ernest (PhD)

Verified writer

  • Expert in: Literature


+ 120 experts online

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy . We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

No need to pay just yet!

Related Essays

6 pages / 2692 words

3 pages / 1406 words

2 pages / 964 words

6.5 pages / 3030 words

Remember! This is just a sample.

You can get your custom paper by one of our expert writers.

121 writers online

Still can’t find what you need?

Browse our vast selection of original essay samples, each expertly formatted and styled

Related Essays on The Color Purple

"It all I can do not to cry. I make myself wood. I say to myself, Celie, you a tree. That's how I know trees fear man," (23) uttered the protagonist of Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Such words of meekness were characteristic [...]

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker tells a story of a young girl named Celie. The book is formatted as an journal so that daily experiences can be shared through the voice of Celie. In the beginning, readers learn that she lives [...]

Celie has been a victim of female oppression throughout her life, never believing in herself, and living in fear of men. However, when Shug Avery enters her life, Celie’s quality of life starts to improve on the whole, and her [...]

In this essay the feminist theories of Virginia Woolf are examined and analysed, as well as connected to the famous novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Woolf introduces the theories of women’s economic and social freedom [...]

Sexism is, at its core, a product of gender roles. In the early twentieth century, discrimination against women through the overt use of gender roles was highly prevalent amongst men and women. In a patriarchal society, women [...]

In order for one to exist in a totalitarian society whose government is successful in its control, one must deal on a day-to-day basis with strong persuasion and propaganda. These totalitarian societies have an iron grip on [...]

Related Topics

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and Privacy statement . We will occasionally send you account related emails.

Where do you want us to send this sample?

By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Be careful. This essay is not unique

This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

Download this Sample

Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts

Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.

Please check your inbox.

We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!

Get Your Personalized Essay in 3 Hours or Less!

We use cookies to personalyze your web-site experience. By continuing we’ll assume you board with our cookie policy .

  • Instructions Followed To The Letter
  • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
  • Unique And Plagiarism Free

essay titles for the color purple

The Color Purple

Introduction to the color purple.

The Color Purple is a letter or epistolary style message. It was published in the United States in 1982. The book met with a lot of controversies due to its thematic strands. Alice Walker , the writer, also hit the new heights of fame when the novel won Pulitzer the very next year followed by National Book Award with various offers for adaptions. The twisted story of Celie and Nettie takes place in the rural areas of Georgia in the United States during the decade of 30s around the Great Depression. The novel has made it to the list of the 100 best novels of all time. In 2003, the book appeared on the BBC’s The Big Read poll of the UK’s “best-loved novels!”

Summary of The Color Purple

Two African American sisters after bearing the impact of the wrath of their stepfather, Alphonso, are waiting for some assistance. Celie, the elder one, hits upon the idea of writing letters to God to save her siblings. All her efforts, however, go in vain as she becomes pregnant with her stepfather, who had already abused her once. Now she gives birth to her first son, Adam, whom Alphonso takes from her, and causes her to be pregnant the second time, giving birth to a girl, Olivia. Yet, Alphonso again appears to abduct the baby, disappearing with her. Later, Celie learns that somebody Mister is ready to marry Nettie, who is just 12 years of age, but seeing them getting out of his clutches, Alphonso flatly rejects the proposal of Mister Albert for Nettie and accepts for Celie. However, it turned out a mismatch on account of the age differences and the brutal behavior of Mister Albert against Celie, who has to take care of his household as well as his children. Celie leads a pitiful life as she has to do everything and also be beaten and raped by Mr. Albert.

Meanwhile, not seeing any other way out, Nettie, too, joins Celie. Mr. Albert asks Nettie to reward him if she wanted to stay in the house. So, Nettie escapes but is followed by Mr. Albert.  However, Celie presumes that Nettie is dead. Shortly after that Mister’s son, Harpo marries Sofia after having impregnated her. Despite his father’s fierce resistance to their marriage, he not only marries Sofia but also has five children from her. Yet, Sofia never becomes submissive before Harpo; rather she makes him dance at her tunes despite Celie’s instigations to Harpo, who finally submits to his father instead of his wife but when he again confronts Sofia, she not only retaliates but also confronts Celie for causing this instigation, making her seek an apology and join hands with her against the brutal duo.

Soon Mister takes another lady, Shug Avery, and brings her home, causing Celie to fall to her charms. Despite his father’s estrangement, Mister succeeds in having her at his house after making his father believe that her children are actually his own. Celie, meanwhile, becomes her nurse and befriends her. On the other hand, not seeing Harpo becoming good anymore, Sofia finally leaves him, while Harpo arranges a juke point for Shug to sing after which she becomes closer to Celie. When Harpo hooks Squeak, a new girlfriend, Sofia suddenly visits and thrashes her despite enjoying life with a fighter. The police attack her brutally after breaking Mary’s teeth, sending her behind the bars for 12 years.

Squeak, taking pity, asks Hodges, the sheriff for her release, but is raped by him after which she takes care of Sofia’s household. Sofia is released after some time. On the other hand, Shug helps Celie know about her sister, Nettie whom Mister has been keeping at a secret place. She comes to know later that she has gone to African with a couple, Corrine and Samuel, after they have adopted her son, Adam, and daughter, Olivia. However, Corrine becomes suspicious about her husband’s relationship with Nettie and tries to place restrictions on her.

On the other hand, Nettie, too, discloses her disillusionment of preaching in Africa after which she again prods Samuel of the adoption of Olivia and Adam after which she comes to know about the reality of Alphonso, her stepfather, and the past of her real father. She, then, informs him about her relationship with the children as their aunt. It soon happens that Nettie starts becoming religious, impacting Celie whom Shug advises about the existence of God. Then all three, Shug, Celie, and Squeak join hands to end patriarchal oppression. Soon Alphonso breathes his last, leaving everything for Celie, while Shug marries Germaine, causing worries to Celie who still loves her.

Meanwhile, Celie learns about the edification of Mister whom she starts calling Albert yet she rejects his proposal. She leaves Albert and curses him while doing so. When Celie comes to know about Shug having left Germaine, she also feels that she can live without him. Celie starts living a financially comfortable life and Shug returns and decides on retirement. Nettie, on the other hand, marries Samuel and comes back to America , while Adam and Olivia, too, become adults after which Adam marries an African American girl. Celie ends the story with a letter on how happy she is at the moment!

Major Themes in The Color Purple

  • Religion: The Color Purple shows its theological thematic strand through the presence of God who is abstract as well as dependable in the beginning but highly ambivalent and unresponsive after Celie does not feel invigorated on account of her marriage. However, this perspective quickly changes when she meets Shug who teaches her how to feel loved by God instead of considering the physical persona of God as in colors; white or black. This divine perspective not only challenges the traditional social thinking about God but also sets a new pattern to see God through the blessings a person is blessed with. Shug’s thinking seeps into her soul so much so that she learns to appreciate her own pleasure and the world around her. Therefore, this transfusion of God from a physical to ethereal personality and then into something spiritual living in her goodness inspires her to learn about things religious in nature through her own understanding.
  • Creativity: Creativity is another dominant theme of the novel. The African American community , considered not intelligent in the matter of spoken or written language correctly, is represented by Celie, Shug, and Nettie using that language efficiently to communicate philosophical and abstract ideas. However, this is shown in their own accent, style, dance, and gestures. Celie expresses this creativity through her letters written to God, while Shug makes her understand the same theological outreach through her songs and dance. Similarly, Nettie continues to write letters to her sister, despite their unresponsiveness. This shows human communication and creativity which does not stay dormant even in the face of discrimination and subsequent oppression and suppression.
  • Hope: The novel also highlights the theme of hope despite the worst circumstances like Celie and Nettie have to go through. Celie thinks that even if she has children from her stepfather, they need to have a good future for which she finds Samuel and Corrine very loving due to their religious zeal. She believes that Nettie’s help in educating them will secure them a good place in society that they could not achieve otherwise. That is why Olivia works very hard, the reason that the theme of hope appears at various other places too, such as through Doris Baines, a white preacher. His passion for educating his family is based on the good hope for the future, while Eleanor Jane’s love for Sofia, too, is based on the hope that she would bring up her son as a good man
  • Femininity: The novel presents the theme of femininity through its strong female characters who were put into very vulnerable situations and shown coming out victoriously with hope and resilience. Celie becomes a paragon of resilience despite being abused by her stepfather and giving birth to two children from him. It is because she does her best not only to save her children but also her younger sister, Nettie. Similarly, she sides with Sofia to hound Harp and when the chance arises, she switches sides to save Sofia or bring Sofia to her side. Also, it shows that the feminine sympathy also wins support when it is anti-patriarchy, the reason that Sofia finally overpowers Harpo. Shug also shows the same resilience as well as dominance when it comes to the assertion of herself. Similarly, Nettie constantly writes to her sister to make her aware of her condition, while Sofia’s sisters assist her by taking care of her kids when she is in jail .
  • Color: TThe theme of color is prominent mostly through the female character of Shug about whom Alice Walker uses colorful terms. She also wears colorful dresses to look seductive, while her gifts comprise yellow and bright colors. This color contrast continues even when both Celie and Kate are on a shopping visit in the case of which Mister’s choice seems dominant to them. Even the songs written by Mary show the dominance of color, yellow, in her tunes and notes. Following this consciousness of colors, Mary Agnes also thinks about them seeping and creeping into her skin.
  • Relationships: The novel shows the thematic strand of relations and forming relations. Celie, though, initially suffers psychological, sexually, and physically at the hands of her stepfather, soon learns this skill and marries Mister, an aged man. When Sofia comes to marry her stepson, Harpo, she forms a deep relationship with her and the same goes with Shug. By the end, she learns to experience love and set up her independent business. Similarly, the story also sheds light on twists and turns in relationships such as Sofia’s fight for dominance over Harp and Shug’s likeness for Celie.
  • Racism: The theme of race and racism is obvious in the title of the novel and also from the background of the characters. Although there is hardly any white character, the life of Celie in the Georgian rural setting and the life of Nettie in the far-off African village show that racial discrimination is marring the social life of Cellie, Nettie, and Sofia as well as Harpo and other male members. The consciousness thinking about being a dark-skinned girl having low status constantly reverberates in the mind of Celie, while Sofia, too, suffers from her low status and ends up in prison for injuring Mary Agnes
  • Violence and Suffering: The book shows the theme of violence and suffering as part of the lives of African American families. Not only the African Americans are suffering at the hands of white people such as in the case of Sofia, but they also suffer at the hands of their co-colors such as Celie becoming the victim of sexual abuse and physical distress of her stepfather, an African American male. Shug, too, faces the same fate, though, both join hands to stand up to this atmosphere of torture.
  • Self-Discovery: The novel suggests the thematic strand of self-discovery through Cellie, Shug, and Nettie. Celie comes to know her power after she gets freed from the clutches of Mister, while Shug comes to know it after becoming friendly with Celie. Celie also helps Sofia while Nettie comes to know the power of familial love through her assistance to Celie’s children.

Major Characters of The Color Purple

  • Celie: Celie is the main character and the protagonist through whose eyes the readers see the world of the novel. As a 14-year old young girly having caught in the clutches of her stepfather, Celie didn’t know how to get rid of this snare until she learns the power of her sexuality yet she has to save her children as well as her young sister, Nettie, from her stepfather. As time passes, she learns to live with Mister, she is wedded with, as well as hopes for the best from God whom she writes directly. After having been awakened by the life experiences, she learns the power of discourse as well as gender and uses it upon Harpo, her stepson, and his wife Sofia, as well as Shug, her female counterpart whom she starts loving. By the end of the novel, she learns about religion, spirituality as well as the power of religion and language in human lives. The journey that she takes from a young and innocent girl to a mature and confident lady, however, does not prove a smooth ride for her.
  • Nettie: Nettie is Celie’s younger sister. She’s loyal, honest, and intelligent girl, who immediately makes her way out of the stepfather’s virtual prison after coming to know his predatory behavior. After exploiting her educational capability and opportunity, she leaves for African for preaching with the passion to help her family siblings even if she is away from her sister and proves a good ward for Adam and Oliva, Celie’s siblings. Although Samuel proves a blessing in disguise for her, she has her independent thinking and experience that she demonstrates in her diary entries.
  • Alfonso: Often referred to as Pa or Fonso, Alfonso appears in the novel in the early pages and becomes an obsession and stigma for Celie as well as Nettie, though both of them call him Pa. As a symbol of an overbearing patriarch, he not only succeeds in raping Nettie during her early years but also succeeds in silencing Celie, stopping her from writing letters. A selfish predator, he marries Celie to Mister, stopping Nettie’s marriage with the obvious purpose of using her later. Later, he marries Shug Avery and enjoys good life when his son, Harop, marries Sofia. Later, it is proved that he is not their real but stepfather when some white person had killed their real father. He dies by the end of the novel.
  • Mister: Referred as Albert in the novel, Mr. ——-or Mister is a handsome person who marries Nettie and loves Shug Avery but never marries her. He has set social and conventional barriers in the domestic life of Nettie by stopping her from communicating with her sister. Although by the end of the novel he comes to his senses of having an overbearing attitude toward women, he still stays almost the same and hands over the letters of Nettie to Celie after taking life seriously.
  • Harpo: Despite his sensitive nature and loving attitude toward Celie, Harpo is obsessed with his mother and does not see her as a replacement. That is why he could not get along with Sofia. Later, Celie has to guide him. His consultation with his father plays havoc with his conjugal life including some advice from Celie after which he loses heart and continues living at Sofia’s will.
  • Shug Avery : Shug is significant in the novel on account of her Honeybee Queen character as she becomes Celie’s mother-in-law but treats her freely as she becomes fascinated with her looks. Outrageous yet courageous, she takes Celie under her wings and impacts her through her singing popularity. Despite some drawbacks in her character, she displays confidence that Celie as well as Harpo like in her. In fact, she proves a fresh gale of the breeze in the dry household of Mister, bringing money and entertainment.
  • Sofia Butler : Sofia Butler is significant character in the novel. She marries Harpo, the son of Mister, and her relationship with Celie and Shug. A domineering lady, she constantly depends on Harpo in a way that Celie has to intervene to advise Harpo on how to handle her. A girl of a fiery temper, she breaks the teeth of Mary Agnes, stays in jail, and comes out again to cause awe and fear among other ladies of the area. What makes her stand tall among other characters is her indomitable spirit and her will to despise white people.
  • Aunt Odessa : Aunt Odessa is also significant. She is Sofia’s sister who has a strong impact on Harpo, Mister’s son, who marries Sofia, and becomes her stooge. She immediately comes to support Sofia when she finds her behind bars after causing injuries to Mary.
  • Mary Agnes: Popular as Squeak, Mary Agnes appears on the scene when Sofia leaves for prison. Sofia knocks out her teeth when she shows her attitude after Harpo shows his inclination toward her.
  • Old Mister: Albert’s father, Old Mister appears only once, and after berating his son, he disappears. It is he, who causes a stir in the household but brings Albert and Celie close to each other.

Writing Style of The Color Purple

The Color Purple is very vague, disorganized, and disjointed on account of the flashbacks from Celie’s letters. However, when the readers reach halfway through the book, they find the storyline connecting the important dots. This makes it a complete story having all the characters related to each other and helping each other. As the characters are mostly African Americans, they use sub-standard colloquial English which also has been used in the letters. Sentence structure, too, suffers due to this use of colloquial language comprising slang , cliché s, metaphors , and similes.

Analysis of the Literary Devices in The Color Purple

  • Action: The main action of the novel comprises the life of two African American sisters, Celie and Nettie, with their stepfather and other relations. The falling action occurs when Pa leaves this world, leaving the house for Celie to take care of. The rising action occurs when Celie comes to know about God and the power of sexuality.
  • Anaphora : The examples of anaphora from the book are given below, i. He took it. He took it while I was sleeping. Kilt it out there in the woods. Kill this one too, if he can. (p. 09) ii. An now when I dream, I dream of Shug Avery. She be dress to kill, whirling and laughing. (p. 13) iii. How good you look. Don’t she look good, Harpo? Harpo stare at me like he never seen me before. (p. 200) These examples show the repetitious use of “took it”, “kill this”, “I dream” and “look”.
  • Allusion : The novel shows a good use of different allusions. Two examples are given below, i. So these Olinka people heard about Adam and Eve from the white missionaries and they heard about how the serpent tricked Eve and how God chased them out of the garden of Eden. (p. 252) ii. But really white white people lived somewhere else during those times. That’s why the bible says that Jesus Christ had hair like lamb’s wool. Lamb’s wool is not straight, Celie. It isn’t even curly. (p. 122) Both of these examples show biblical allusions; the first point to the story of Adam and Eve and the second to Jesus Christ.
  • Antagonist : Pa is the antagonist of the novel as he appears to have tried his best to destroy Celie not only physically but also mentally and psychologically.
  • Conflict : The novel shows both external and internal conflicts. The external conflict is going on between Celie and Pa and then Celie and Mister, while the internal conflict is going on in the mind of Celie about her status in the world, the reality of God and religion, and the role of the male members in the family.
  • Characters: The novel has both static as well as dynamic characters. The young girl, Celie, is a dynamic character as she shows a considerable transformation in her behavior and conduct by the end of the novel. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as Pa, Mister, Olivia, Shug, and even Nettie.
  • Climax : The climax in the novel occurs when Celie resolves to join Shug Avery to leave her husband due to his being involved in hiding her sister Nettie’s letters from her.
  • Epigraph : The below sentence is an example of an epigraph , i. Show me how to do like you Show me how to do it. (Stevie Wonder) These lines occur in the song of Stevie Wonder. They show how Alice Walker uses it as the epigraph of her novel.
  • Foreshadowing : The novel shows many instances of foreshadows. A few are given below, i. I am fourteen years old. I am I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me. (p. 08) ii. My mama dead. She die screaming and cussing. She scream at me. She cuss at me. I’m big. I can’t move fast enough. By time I git back from the well, the water be warm. (p. 09) The use of the words “happening” and “die” shows that Celie is going to confront brutalities in life.
  • Hyperbole : Below are the examples of hyperboles, i. She bout ten thousand times more prettier then me. I see her there in furs. Her face rouge. Her hair like somethin tail. She grinning with her foot up on somebody motocar. Her eyes serious tho. Sad some. (p. 13) ii. She got a fine house in Memphis, another car. She got one hundred pretty dresses. A room full of shoes. She buy Grady anything he think he want. (P. 104) iii. When us went to town to hear the will read yesterday, you could have knock me over with a feather. Your real daddy owned the land and the house and the store. He left it to your mama. (p. 223) Both of these examples exaggerate things as beauty , dresses, and shoes, including the role of a feather, have been exaggerated.
  • Metonymy : The novel has also used metonymy . A couple of examples are given below, i. We will fight the white man, they said. But the white man is not alone , said the chief. He has brought his army. (p. 157) ii. Man corrupt everything, say Shug. He on your box of grits, in your head, and all over the radio. He try to make you think he everywhere. Soon as you think he everywhere, you think he God. But he ain’t. (p. 181) iii. Then the old devil put his arms around me and just stood there on the porch with me real quiet. (249). This example shows the white man has been used for the white people, while the man has been used for all the male members of society.
  • Metaphor : The Color Purple shows a good use of various metaphors. A few examples are given below, i. Harpo so black he think she bright, but she ain’t that bright. (36) ii. So and so is blacker than black, he’s blue black.” They are so black, Celie, they shine. Which is something else folks down home like to say about real black folks. (129) These examples show that several things have been compared directly in the novel such as the first shows comparing black to bright and the second black to blue or blue-black and then to a shiny thing.
  • Mood : The novel shows various moods; it starts with a somber and tragic mood but turns out to be reassuring and hopeful by the end.
  • Motif : Most important motifs of The Color Purple, are skin color, religion, and letters.
  • Narrator : The novel is narrated from the first person point of view , who happens to be Celie, the protagonist of the novel.
  • Personification : The novel shows examples of personifications such as, i. She so mad tears be flying every which way while she pack. (p. 27) ii. I think my heart gon fly out my mouth when I see one of her foots come poking out. (p. 49). iii. Adam has a special aptitude for figures and it worries Samuel that soon he will have nothing more to teach him in this field, having exhausted his own knowledge. (p.52) iv. And words long buried in my heart crept to my lips. (p. 218). These examples show as if the tears, heart, knowledge, and words have lives and emotions of their own.
  • Protagonist : Celie is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with her birth and moves forward as she grows young and becomes a lady.
  • Repetition : The below sentences are the few examples of repetition , i. You got to fight. You got to fight. (p. 23) ii. Your skin. Your hair. Your teefs. Everyday it something else to make miration over. First she smile a little. Then she frown. Then she don’t look no special way at all. She just stick close to me. She tell me, Your skin. Your hair, Your teefs. He try to give her a compliment, she pass it on to me. After while I git to feeling pretty cute. (p. 24) iii. I’ll tell them what to do with their bloody road and their bloody rubber plantations and their bloody sunburned but still bloody boring English planters and engineers. (p. 211) iv. Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees , dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear God. (263) The novel shows a lot of repetitions as shown by these examples such as “You got to fight”, “your”, “bloody”,” and then “dear.”
  • Rhetorical Questions : The novel shows a good use of rhetorical questions at several places. Two examples are given below, i. Plus What about the scandal his wife cause when somebody kill her? And what about all this stuff he hear bout Shug Avery? What bout that? I ast our new mammy bout Shug Avery. What it is? I ast. She don’t know but she say she gon fine out. (p. 13) ii. What about all them funny voices you hear singing in church? Shug say. What about all them sounds that sound good but they not the sounds you thought folks could make? What bout that? Then she start moaning. Sound like death approaching, angels can’t prevent it. (p. 108) This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed but different characters not to elicit answers but to stress upon the underlined idea.
  • Setting : The setting of The Color Purple is a small village in Western African and a rural area of Georgia in the United States.
  • Simile : The novel shows a good use of various similes as given in the below examples, i. But she’ll make the better wife. She ain’t smart either, and I’ll just be fair, you have to watch her or she’ll give away everything you own. But she can work like a man. (p. 8). ii. Well, brother must like black. Shug Avery black as my shoe. (p. 20). iii. The people live like ostriches, never setting foot on the new road if they can help it, and never, ever, looking towards the coast. (p. 157) These are similes as the use of the word ‘like’ shows the comparison between different things.

Related posts:

  • Alice Walker

Post navigation

“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker: Representation of Sexual Identity and Problem of Gender Norms Essay

In her novel The Color Purple, Alice Walker challenges many of the conventions that are related to the sexual identity of a person and gender norms. To a great extent, this goal is achieved with the help of such a character as Shug Avery who exemplifies such values as moral independence and courage.

It is important to show how this woman is portrayed in the book and the screen version of the novel directed by Steven Spielberg.

Overall, it is possible to argue that the film adaptation makes this character less subversive and controversial; nevertheless, in both cases, Shug plays an important role because she helps Celie discover some important qualities such as dignity and self-sufficiency. This is the main thesis that should be examined in greater detail.

At first, Steven Spielberg depicts the intimate relations between Shug and Celie in a different way. One should note that Shug clearly identifies herself as a bisexual person. Moreover, Alice Walker explicitly states that these characters start sexual relations.

This issue is closely examined by the author. In contrast, the film only hints at this possibility. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about their sensual kiss ( The Color Purple ). Nevertheless, this issue is not explored any further.

Therefore, the viewers are expected to reach their own conclusions about the degree of intimacy between these women. This is one of the differences that should be taken into consideration.

Additionally, much attention should be paid to Shug’s relations with her parents. In the book, Shug is virtually denounced by her parents, especially her mother. Shug recognizes that her values and lifestyles are not acceptable to her mother, but she does not intend to reconcile with her.

To some degree, she disagrees with the religious values of her parents. For instance, she says that “God loves admiration”, and in this way, she wants to defend her open sexuality and willingness to start intimate relations with other people (Walker 203). To a great extent, she discards the values of her parents.

This is one of the points that can be distinguished. In contrast, in the movie, she eventually restores relations with her father who is a preacher ( The Color Purple ). By introducing this detail, Stephen Spielberg makes Shug more acceptable to the viewers who might not read the book.

This is one of the differences that may attract the attention of the audience.

Apart from that, Alice Walker shows that Shug’s love affairs can be rather sporadic. For instance, after her marriage with Grady, she starts a love affair with a young man. Similarly, she may initiate an intimate affair only to irritate her former loves.. In turn, this detail is omitted in the movie.

Again, in this way, Spielberg makes Shug more conventional or acceptable to the audience. To a great extent, Alice Walker’s depiction of this person may seem unconventional even by the standards of the twenty-first century. Therefore, the artistic choices of film-makers make this character appear less controversial or subversive.

Moreover, Shug does not appear very arrogant or selfish. These are some of the key points that can be made because they are important for understanding the differences between the book and its screen version.

It should be kept in mind that Stephen Spielberg’s decision can be explained by some external factors. For instance, he might decide to remove scenes highlighting the sexuality of Shug and Celie so that the movie could receive appropriate rating, in particular, PG-13 (Streett and Kishner 148).

So, to some degree, such decisions may not fully reflect his artistic values. This is one of the issues that should be considered by people who compare the book and the novel.

Nevertheless, there are certain similarities between the book and its screen version. In both cases, Shug helps Celie discover her dignity. In particular, she helps the protagonist understand that women do not have to submit to the will of men. Furthermore, she helps Celie realize that she should not be ashamed of her sexual identity.

To a great extent, the protagonist becomes more self-sufficient due to Shug’s encouragement. Moreover, Celie continuously relies on her friendship. One can even say that in many cases, Shug plays the role of her mother.

In both cases, she represents such values as self-sufficiency, self-respect and willingness to follow one’s ethical principles. These are some of the main similarities that can be identified.

On the whole, the comparison shows that Spielberg makes subtle changes while depicting Shug. The film-maker wants to make this character less subversive or outrageous. According to his interpretation, she is able to reconcile herself with the values of other people.

Furthermore, he omits some aspects of her behavior that can be questioned from an ethical viewpoint. However, in both cases, this woman plays a critical role because she helps other people discover courage and strength. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about Celie.

Additionally, she is willing to question the conventions that are taken for granted by other people. Many of these conventions are related to gender norms, religion, and sexuality. These are the main details that can be distinguished.

Works Cited

Streett, Bill, and Jeffrey Kishner. The Astrology of Film: The Interface of Movies, Myth, and Archetype . New York: IUniverse, 2004. Print.

The Color Purple . Ex. Prod. Stephen Spielberg. Los Angeles: Amblin Entertainment, 1985. DVD.

Walker, Alice. The Color Purple , New York, NY: Mariner Books, 2006. Print.

  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2019, June 21). “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker: Representation of Sexual Identity and Problem of Gender Norms.

"“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker: Representation of Sexual Identity and Problem of Gender Norms." IvyPanda , 21 June 2019,

IvyPanda . (2019) '“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker: Representation of Sexual Identity and Problem of Gender Norms'. 21 June.

IvyPanda . 2019. "“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker: Representation of Sexual Identity and Problem of Gender Norms." June 21, 2019.

1. IvyPanda . "“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker: Representation of Sexual Identity and Problem of Gender Norms." June 21, 2019.


IvyPanda . "“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker: Representation of Sexual Identity and Problem of Gender Norms." June 21, 2019.

  • "The Color Purple" Drama by Steven Spielberg
  • Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple”: The Analysis
  • “The Color Purple” by Steven Spielberg: Movie Analysis
  • Lesbianism in “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
  • A. Walker's "The Color Purple" Live Performance
  • Gyn-affection in Literature
  • Celie: Character Development and Perception of God
  • Subversive Comedy vs Social Comedy in Restoration Drama
  • “The Color Purple”: a Novel by Alice Walker
  • Theories of Movie “The Color Purple” by Spielberg
  • Importance of Anne Bradstreet's poem “Contemplations”
  • Orient and Occident: "Orientalism" by Edward Said
  • “Sure Thing” by David Ives
  • The New Employee in the Daniel Orozco’s Orientation
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People


  1. 80 The Color Purple Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

    In her novel The Color Purple, Alice Walker challenges many of the conventions that are related to the sexual identity of a person and gender norms. Alice Walker's "The Color Purple": The Analysis. After Celie's marriage, her younger sister, Nettie, gets the opportunity to leave her father's household and move to Mr.

  2. The Color Purple: Suggested Essay Topics

    3. What role do you think Sofia plays in the novel? Describe her character and how she contributes to the themes in the book. 4. How are Celie's letters to God similar to the African-American slave narratives collected in the 1930s? How are they different? 5.

  3. The Color Purple Suggested Essay Topics

    Suggested Essay Topics. 1. How come we do not know Mr.____'s last name? How does this symbolize the behavior of men in this society? 2. Look at the symbols of education in this section (the ...

  4. Most Interesting The Color Purple Essay Topics to Write about

    Disconnecting the Traditional Gender Roles in The Color Purple. Alice Walker and the Violent African-American Patriarchal Theme of The Color Purple. The Bonds That Break the Silence: Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Does Slavery Still Remain: Leasing of Convicts in The Color Purple. Philomela Speaks: Alice Walker's Revisioning of Rape ...

  5. The Color Purple Essays

    Join Now Log in Home Literature Essays The Color Purple The Color Purple Essays Sofia "the Amazon" and her Role as a Symbol of Resistance Anonymous 12th Grade The Color Purple. A novel of a heroic quest for selfhood against an imposed silence, The Color Purple revolves around the American cultural understanding of feminine and racial mythologies: preconceived notions that Walker goes on to ...

  6. The Color Purple Essay Topics

    Essay Topics. 1. Discuss the title of the novel. How does this title evoke important themes in the novel? Be sure to trace out as well how Walker uses the literal color purple to reinforce these themes. 2. Walker coined the term womanism to describe Black female identity that centers Black women's experiences.

  7. The Color Purple Study Guide

    Full Title: The Color Purple. When Written: 1981-82. Where Written: New York City. When Published: 1982. Literary Period: postmodernism in America. Genre: Epistolary novel; the 20th-century African-American novel; 20th-century feminist writing. Setting: Georgia and coastal Africa, roughly 1920-1950.

  8. The Color Purple Critical Essays

    I. Thesis Statement: The church is used as a symbol for God in The Color Purple. Early in the text, violence and injustice occur near churches in order to illustrate the inequity with which women ...

  9. The Color Purple Essay Questions

    The Color Purple literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Color Purple by Alice Walker. The Color Purple: Literary Techniques Employed by Alice Walker to Develop Celie's Character; Female Marginalisation Embodied in The Color Purple and The Yellow ...

  10. Essays on The Color Purple

    2 pages / 934 words. This paper discusses early american feminism in the 1910s as portrayed in Alice Walker's "The Color Purple". The novel draws strong parallels to Virginia Woolf's theories and introduces the true meaning of the feminist notion. As stated in Woolf's critical essay "A room of one's...

  11. The Color Purple: Study Guide

    The Color Purple by Alice Walker, published in 1982, is a groundbreaking novel that explores the experiences of Black American women in the early 20th century. The story is presented in the form of letters written by Celie, an uneducated and oppressed woman, to God, and later to her sister Nettie. The novel delves into themes of racism, sexism ...

  12. The Color Purple Critical Evaluation

    The Color Purple won the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1983. Alice Walker's novel is unique in its preoccupation with spiritual survival and with exploring the ...

  13. Color Purple Essays: Examples, Topics, & Outlines

    Color Purple. In The Color Purple, symbolism is used to reflect the struggles of the main characters. The main protagonist is Celie, who is a young African-American girl in the South. She is not fitting in with society for a number of reasons. First, she has a very low social standing, being part of the underclass.

  14. The Color Purple

    The Color Purple, novel by Alice Walker, published in 1982. It won a Pulitzer Prize in 1983, making Walker the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer for fiction. A feminist work about an abused and uneducated African American woman's struggle for empowerment, The Color Purple was praised for the depth of its female characters and for its eloquent use of Black English Vernacular.

  15. The Color Purple: Mini Essays

    In suddenly feeling the need to beat Sofia to "make her mind," Harpo succumbs to the pressures and expectations that go hand in hand with traditional notions of masculinity and the role of the husband. However, by asserting their objections and independence, the women in The Color Purple break this cycle of patriarchy.

  16. The Color Purple: an Analysis of Alice Walker's Novel

    Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" is a poignant novel that explores the themes of racism, sexism, and misogyny prevalent in the early 20th century... read full [Essay Sample] for free ... (n.d.). Choosing a Title - Organizing Academic Research Papers - Research Guides at Sacred Heart University. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://library ...

  17. The Color Purple

    The Color Purple is a letter or epistolary style message. It was published in the United States in 1982. The book met with a lot of controversies due to its thematic strands. Alice Walker, the writer, also hit the new heights of fame when the novel won Pulitzer the very next year followed by National Book Award with various offers for adaptions.

  18. The Color Purple Essay

    The Color Purple Essay. Sort By: Page 1 of 50 - About 500 essays. Decent Essays. The Color Purple. 485 Words; 2 Pages; The Color Purple ... The title of my book is The Color Purple and it is written by Alice Walker. The book was originally published in 1982, the publisher is Harcourt, And there are 288 pages in the book. There was an adapted ...

  19. "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker

    Exclusively available on IvyPanda. In her novel The Color Purple, Alice Walker challenges many of the conventions that are related to the sexual identity of a person and gender norms. To a great extent, this goal is achieved with the help of such a character as Shug Avery who exemplifies such values as moral independence and courage.

  20. PDF A critical analysis of Alice walker's The Color Purple

    The Color Purple was quintessential the flagship text of difference, the literary embodiment of the new 'identity politics' par excellence. (179) The above extract is taken from the critical work Contemporary Women's Writing from the Golden Notebook to The Color Purple, a chapter entitled "To The Color Purple" highlights