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Thecolor purple entails an epistolary novel done in 1982 by Alice Walkerwho is an American author. The novel won immense prizes including the1983 Pulitzer award for fiction. Due to the popularity, or rathersuccess of the novel, it was adapted into a musical as well as filmutilizing the same name (Clarke 6). The setting of the story is inthe rural areas of Georgia with the focus on women’s life duringthe 1930s. It tends to bring out several aspects of women during thisperiod. Additionally, the book elicits various assumptions andappears as one of the most targeted book owing to the contententailed in it (Clarke 6).Inthis novel, The Color Purple, themes of racism,marriage, religion,sisterhood, and gender, which are explored by Alice walker throughthe character of Celie,Alphonso, Nettie, SofiaHarpo,and Shugwere critically analyzed using both feministand historical approaches to get clearly how the characters usedcolor purple as a symbol of protection.

Aboutthe Author

AliceWalker is an America short story writer, activist, poet and novelist.Born in 1944 in the state of Georgia, she is renowned for her workethics (Pernill 33). Among her works include the Meridian, the Thirdlife of Grange Copeland among others establishing herself as one ofthe best. She began writing privately at a tender age of eight whilelistening to her grandfather’s oral traditional stories. Her firstpoetry book was done while she still was in senior school. Herinvolvement in civil rights agendas enlightened her to about thechallenges faced by women within the state and probably the entirecountry. It is probably the reason she came up with “the colorpurple” to outline the various challenges.

Thepaper provides a critical analysis of the novel “the color purple”in various perspectives. All the facets involved in writing the bookare analyzed especially how it came about. The stylistic, power,motifs and theme approaches utilized within the book arecomprehensively discussed.However, before the assessments of thevarious aspects, it is vital to give a summary of the work.


Thispaper utilizes both the historical and feminist critical approaches.In the historical perspective, the novel is based on the realhappenings within rural Georgia during the 1930s. As per the eventsin this period, women were suppressed in various aspects. Asexemplified by the author, being the youngest child girl and a woman,she faced challenges in expressing herself (Pernill 43). It took awhile for people to realize her talents in writing. As portrayed byvarious studies, which states that during this time there werechallenges in empowering women that forms the basis of this novel.

Inthe feminist perspective, this novel portrays women as an oppressedgroup. The themes drawn, language used among other literary aspectsall depicting women as a suppressed group (Ogunyemi 75). Men areportrayed as the domineering figure, battering their women andsexually harassing them. Women are not involved in any major rolesexcept being supportive of their husbands (Clarke 4). Girl childeducation is also not mandatorily adhered to. For instance, Celiedoes not complete school after being impregnated by her own father.Furthermore, the letter used symbolize, she has limited education,not a good communicator, since she dropped out of school. Thesufferings she undergoes through all outline the fate of women duringthis period.


Thestory circles around a 14-year-old girl named Celie residing in theSouth of America. Celie is uneducated and naïve and continuouslywrites to God since her own father unceasingly rapes and beats her.Alphonso, who is her stepfather, impregnated her on severaloccasions. Nevertheless, her ailing mother later died but was notbefore cursing Celie. Celie later married mister leaving her smallersister Nettie only with her father. However, Nettie would later runaway from Alphonso to seek refuge at her sister’s place. The storycontinues with Nettie who leaving the place to seek for a better lifeafter she was advised so by her sister. As portrayed by both misterand Alphonso, there is women suppression within the society.

Harpo,who is mister’s son, marries Sofia who is quite defiant to submitto Harpo’s control. This aspect amazes Celie who in turn advisedHarpo to try a less domineering approach towards his wife. ThoughHarpo tried this for a while, he could not withstand it long. In hisattempt to beat up Sofia, Harpo faced retaliation that end upinjuring him. Sofia defended herself well and advised Celie to do thesame against Mister. Tired of Harpo’s behavior, Sofia decided tomove out taking the children with her. During this time Shug,Mister’s mistress was sheltered in their place after she felt sick.Cilie and Shug grew fond of each other with time.

Inone instance, while Sofia was enjoying a day out, Miss Millie, themayor’s wife approached and physically abused her children. Sheaddressed them in a manner reminiscent of slaves, an act whichdisturbs Sofia. The mayor’s wife goes further to ask Sofia to beher house help. Her reply made the mayor to intervene and who evenslap Sofia. Sofia retaliated by knocking the mayor using her fist.The police intervened and brutally beat up Sofia injuring her badly.She was later jailed for 12 years.

Afterrecovering Nettie’s letters, which were hidden by Mister, Celielearnt about her sister’s whereabouts. While she was working as amissionary, Nettie befriends Corrine and Samuel who we later learntlater parented Celie’s children unknowingly. In the latter stagesof the novel, Celie went back to her childhood home after her fatherAlphonso passes on. Nettie her sister came back to America and itended with them embracing each other after missing each other formore than 30 years.

Thenovel entails various other happenings trying to insinuate differentthemes. It is a reflection of events that occurred within the stateduring the 1930s including, women suppression, racism among others.As portrayed by several instances, power was also used to oppress theless fortunate (Layli 61). Though the novel is not entirely circle ofCelie, her experiences provide the focal point for drawing variouslessons. How her own father, Mister, mistreats her and to some extentshrug, all depict a troubled character. It exemplifies the plight ofwomen during this era.


Sexismis one of the most evident themes within this novel. There tends is ageneral discrimination against women in the entire novel. First,Celie was mistreated her own father and later by Mister. Due to thisupbringing, she misadvises Harpo to beat up Sofia. Another aspect ofsexism is depicted by Celie’s mother treatment to daughter. Insteadof protecting Celie from her father, she blamed her and even cursesher before death. These aspects portray women suppression within thesociety. Further examples are seen when police beat up Sofia aftertrying to defend her children.

Theauthor in this case tried to enlighten the public on gender issuesand how women are mistreated in various sections within the society.Gender sensitivity is not a common aspect among differentcommunities. Women are deemed inferior to men hence ought to besubmissive to them. Cases of disrespect could lead to fightsespecially women being beaten up whenever they show any act ofdisrespect (Layli 49). Men are depicted as the domineering species,leaving women to play second fiddle. In many instances, men have thefinal say. These aspects are still common in the current world. Asthe author evidently suggests, women oppression goes along way back.The most challenging aspect is that the stereotype which is alsoshared with other women. In other words, women are their own enemies(Layli 41). Instead of backing each other, they mostly indulge inacts that tend to suppress their counterparts. For instance, themayor’s wife treatment of Sofia, Celie’s advised Harpo to beatingup Sofia. Most of them are brought up in that manner hence believethere place in life is already fixed no matter how bad they aretreated.

Racismis also quite evident within this novel. The mayor’s wifeshamelessly sexually assaults Sofia’s children. She even goesfurther to invite Sofia to work as her house girl. This sentimentsangers Sofia arrogantly responds “hell no”. The offer in thiscase is a reflection of racism. Additionally, as entailed in Nettie’sletters, American blacks tend to have racial views about the Africanpeople. Generally, during this era, oppression in the perspectives ofrace were quite common (LarGrone 70). People were judged inaccordance to their race leading to various mistreatments. Sofia inthis case suffered because of racism. She was beaten up by policesimply because she defended her children categorically affirms racism(LarGrone 50).

Thesisterhood bond is widely portrayed within this novel. It does notnecessarily mean blood sisters instead, it included all the womenwithin the book. The author in this case tries to emphasize on thestrong bonds between women. Celie and Nettie exemplify strong bondsthat assist them counter any detrimental aspects. Celie also formsstrong bonds with shrug and Sofia who assist each other in differentways. Generally, strong relations between women are portrayed as thebest way of curbing women oppression (Pernill 43). As the authortypically suggest in this theme, women ought to support each other tosucceed in their undertakings. Limiting women to women conflicts isalso a major thing to consider. Women tend to deny each other vitalposts even though they have the capacities to take over. It is thecore aim of this theme i.e. sisterhood is a symbol of unity (Ogunyemi65).


Useof letters is a common feature within this paper. It is the core modeof communication especially involving people at a far distance. Forexample, Celie and Nettie used letters to communicate. The author inthis case tries to emphasize on the power of relaying informationusing characters i.e. letter writing. Celie writes to God telling Himof her sufferings praying for guidance (LarGrone 60). Letters are astrong communication media that effectively relays information. Theyput across much emphasis more than many other media. The author triesto elaborate further the effectiveness of letters. Celie could onlyexpress herself through letters to God. Her true desires are entailedwithin the letters. Her real feelings as well as despair could onlybe expressed in terms of words. In her final letter, Celie writes toGod stating that she had forgiven Him. Her story had gone throughlots of circles up to the end. Generally, letters in this caserepresent the best channel of expressing grief and despair (Hsiao28). They represent the best media by which people can totallyexpress themselves.


Emphasison women rights is a recurring motif within this paper. The aspectsof women mistreatments are quite vast within the novel. The examplesrange from Celie own sexual assaults, Sofia assaults among others.The aspects are quite many within the novel and the author tries tooutline the same. In accordance, to the author, women were suppressedso much that they had no chance of making an impact within thesociety (Hsiao 5). The same could be said in some parts of the globehence the need to go curb them. The rights could also be narroweddown to naming rights among others. In that regard, men had morecontrol on naming thus discriminating against women.

Celie’slanguage: characteristics implications

Withnumerous critics on Celie’s letters i.e. extensive monologues,expressiveness, poignancy and color, it still poses great challengeson readers. Readers tend to have problems comprehending thenarrations and take a while to understand the rule governed languageof the speaker. Celine actually depicts the author’s sense ofaesthetics and history. Black English as elaborated by linguists isdistinctive due to its consistency (Harris 1). Regarded as AfricanAmerican English, the language is a mechanism of sentence structure,word, sound, organization of vocabulary and meaning among otherinformation. By utilizing repetition of linguistic facets, the authortries to produce the black voices (LarGrone 70). As the Celie’sletters progressed so did the complexity of the sentences i.e.immense vocabulary, subject matters as well as sentence lengths. Whenshe opens up her own businesses, Celie is advised to improve herEnglish i.e. adopt the “White folks” mechanisms. Though she trieshard to do the same, it does not materialize. She wants to continuewith her own autonomy hence the refusal to adopt another linguisticsystem typically for while people.

Readerscould also realize celie is neither proficient nor confident inlinguistics with numerous verb tense issues as well as reportedspeech. The language aspects of this novel try to exemplify thesituation during that era. Celie progressively improved her languageas well as her self-confidence. With the recognition on hersignificance, Celie traces her own independency and identity. Shebecame self-assured beaming with confidence of recognition of herself[ CITATION PiL08 l 1033 ].

Theentire novel could be clustered within four phases of Celie’s lifei.e. violence, communication, education and independency. Celie’slife at the beginning was full of violence especially from malecharacters. She faces violent and abusive ordeals from her father.She additionally faces degradation from her own mother allexemplifying the detrimental attitudes towards Celie. Her stepfatherimpregnates her leading to removal from school thus closing thechances of learning (Harold 30). Nettie then becomes her tutorhelping in perfecting writing and reading. Even after Nettie left,Shrug comes in to help Celie become more independent. In thatrespect, the aspects of education continue to evolve within the novelall in the aim of making Celie more independent.

Shrugalso helps Celie to communicate through development of the language.As times went by, Celie become more comfortable with the language.She could converse much better and her self-confidence went a notchhigher. Recognition from other people emanated to Celie identifyingherself and becoming more independent. The letters outline theprogress Celie achieved from being violently abused and poorcommunicator to a more confident individual. Especially womenexperience violence, limited education, poor communication and lackof independence in many places. Celie is just a representation of thevarious individuals suffering from the same. The author clearlyelaborates events through this period with a notion that all will beimproved. Though the setting is in rural Georgia, the events could beseen in various parts of the country and the globe at large. Womenempowerment demands proper education that normally leads toindependence (Harris 17). As portrayed by Celie, all these aspectsare achievable if afforded appropriate attention.

Alterationsof cultural gender roles

Asportrayed within the novel, several acts tend to alter thetraditional gender roles. They portray breakage of boundaries betweenthe male and females. For instance, Harpo’s insecurities led tophysical assaults among other effects. Sofia is also depicted asstrong. This is evidenced by her undertakings i.e. knocking the mayorwith her fist, physically outshining Harpo her husband among others.Shug is also portrayed as sexually assertive. All these showdisparity between the two genders.

Inthe traditional setting, men are meant to be strong, sexuallyassertive and domineering over women (Harold 34). Whatever they sayis adhered to and they tend to assert control over women. On theother hand, women are bound to be submissive and less builders ofhomes. Whereas men are allowed to be polygamous having mistresses, itis not the same case with women (Clarke 5). Deeds done to overpowermen are greatly discouraged in the traditional setting. However, thisparticular novel tends to bridge the gap. Women in this case havesome men traits whereas men have women traits. The relation showsdisparities but does not necessarily insinuate change of roles.


Thenovel assists readers to know what the black race faced in theAmerican history. It exposes a lifestyle during certain periods ofthe American history. However, the author does not only describeprejudices against the blacks, but also forced one to be among theoppressed race as the struggle to rhythm is achieved (Clarke 5).Historical fiction, ethnic group fiction and fiction about othercountries should be included in social classes within highs schools.The novel is able to bring to light prejudices faced by Blacks in amanner that the reader feels he/she is there. The reader may want totryout mechanisms of curbing racism. It tends to empower people tofight against racism.


Walkerdoes an excellent work in coming up with an interesting yet intricatenovel owing to the aspects entailed within it. The novel generallycircles around Celie. By basing on Celie, aspects of violence,communication, education and independence are exemplified. Celie isin a violent family she is abused and even impregnated by herstepfather. Her progress is tremendous, gathers some education andlearns how to communicate thereby achieving independence. By lookingat the entire life of Celie, the author elaborated how achievementsare made through considerable progress.

Womenrights is another aspect elaborated within the novel, with womenbeing suppressed in many ways. Women rights are violated owing to theculture that oppresses them. However, the theme of sisterhood bridgesthis gaps. Sisterhood does not necessarily have to be related byblood. Women in this case help each other to improve and attainindependence. The author clearly outlines women suppression acts. Thenovel also outlined the aspects of racism, which affects the society.Though the novel was written a long time ago, aspects of racism stillexist. Racism is also depicted among Black American’s and theirAfrican counterparts.

Severalthemes can be drawn from this novel including sisterhood, racism andsexism. All these themes are entailed within the novel as elaboratedearlier. The author also utilizes letters as a mean of communication.Letters tend to express the actual feelings or despair of individualsthus providing the best mechanism for the author. The book wascritically analyzed based on the themes to understand how the colorpurple was used as a symbol of protection since any character thatneeded to protect others made clothes for them. The primary themesaddressed in this novel are still a challenge to our society todayand they need to be addressed adequately.


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Hsiao, Pi-Li. &quotLanguage, Gender, and Power in the color:Theories and Approaches.&quot Language, Gender, and Power in the color:Theories and Approaches (2008): 1-28.

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