The Color Purple Questions and Answers
by Alice Walker

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How is loss of innocence reflected in The Color Purple?

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Loss of innocence in The Color Purple by Alice Walker is most apparently reflected in the character Celie, a young girl in Georgia who is frequently sexually abused by her father. Walker's novel is comprised of letters written from Celie to God, the first of which is written when Celie is fourteen. Celie shares with God that her father raped her while her mother was ill and would no longer respond to her husband's sexual advances. Celie becomes pregnant—twice—while she herself is still a child. Later on, Celie is forced to marry "Mr. ______," a man who is primarily interested in marrying Celie's younger sister. This marriage forces Celie to discontinue her schooling and fully commit to a life of maternity and further physical and sexual abuse.

Despite her young age, Celie seldom gets the chance to write and think about topics most young girls her age might—attending school, spending time with friends, and socializing with boys her own age. Instead, Celie's letters are riddled with tales of woe and the unreasonable responsibilities she must bear as both mother and wife.

Textually, we see Celie's loss of innocence most profoundly in the sentence, "I have always been a good girl." This sentence occurs in her first letter to God, while she is pregnant with her father's baby. This sentence demonstrates Celie's sudden and devastating transition from "girl" to "woman." The language Celie uses reminds the reader that Celie is still very much a child, as the phrase "good girl" is childlike and reflects the behavior that is expected of her by her surrounding adults. However, according to Celie, she is no longer a "good girl"—this title, this identity, has been taken from her by her father. Her father has stolen Celie's innocence.

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