Walker is at home in many literary forms, managing originality and innovativeness in whatever genre she chooses, be it poetry, essay, or long or short fiction.
Walker identifies diverse literary influences as well: Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, Thomas Hardy, Flannery O’Connor, and the nineteenth century Russian novelists among them. Walker’s style is characterized by clarity and experimentation. In particular, the language of her characters marked Walker early in her career as a careful listener and later as a medium through whom the characters speak.
Walker’s experience with the novel form began with The Third Life of Grange Copeland, a straightforward, chronological novel. Meridian moved away from strict chronology, using vignettes as puzzle pieces. Those two novels show the conception of character and language development that bore unique fruit in The Color Purple. Using for that novel a common nonfiction form, a collection of correspondence, Walker functions as a medium through whom two sisters tell the novel, each in changing language that reflects her life’s experience. The Color Purple epitomizes Walker’s control of believable dialogue. Similarly, in The Temple of My Familiar, the characters share narration, which gives the effect of storytelling and reveals much of their personalities through their use of language.
The reader of Walker’s work finds that the common...
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