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Explain what is meant by "her accurate rendering of folk idiom and her use of the oral...

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imogen24 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted June 28, 2011 at 5:54 PM via web

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Explain what is meant by "her accurate rendering of folk idiom and her use of the oral story telling tradition" in Walker's The Color Purple.

In the critical reception on the contemporary literary criticism on Alice Walker, this line is in the first sentence.

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted June 29, 2011 at 4:10 AM (Answer #1)

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It's helpful to have an idea of the definitions of "folk idiom" and "oral storytelling tradition."  Folk idioms are words, phrases, and figures of speech that are common a group of people.  This language is bound by culture, place, and time.  The tradition of oral story telling has its roots in ancient cultures when history was passed from generation to generation through a storyteller.  In many African cultures, the griot was the oral historian who passed on stories.

In The Color Purple, the mode of narration employed by Alice Walker calls on both folk idioms and oral story telling.  Celie is the primary narrator in the novel, and in her epistles, Celie uses slang (here, folk idioms) to express her inner thoughts and feelings to God (and later to her sister Nettie).  Celie's informal language is common to her area and she uses figures of speech and phrases that are readily understood by others around her, but not so easily understood by those outside the community.  Also, the form of the novel is structured by a series of epistles, and these function to voice the story of the characters in the same way that an oral story would.  Although Celie addresses her letters to God, she is really speaking directly to the reader thus maintaining a similar type of communication that would be created through oral narration.

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