The Color Purple Study Guide
Introduction to The Color Purple
The Color Purple is a novel by Black American author Alice Walker. It was published in the United States in 1982 and won the National Book Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983. The Color Purple is told in epistolary format, with its protagonist, Celie, telling her story in a series of letters addressed to God. Celie describes the harrowing circumstances of her adolescence and follows her life’s journey over several decades as she achieves greater independence, well-being, and wisdom.
Despite gaining substantial critical acclaim and several awards, the novel also caused controversy and was censored due to its sexual and violent content. It was later adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg in 1985 and into a Broadway musical in 2005. The Color Purple is considered by many a touchstone of Black American literature.
A Brief Biography of Alice Walker
Alice Walker (born 1944) was the eighth child of sharecroppers. Despite the economic hardships of her childhood, she was remarkably dedicated to her education and graduated with degrees from both Sarah Lawrence College and Spelman College. While attending school, Walker became frustrated with the lack of literature on the culture and history of the Black American experience, so she challenged educational institutions to create a representative curriculum. In the 1960s, Walker became involved in the civil rights movement, and her experiences became the basis for her 1976 novel, Meridian. Her best-known work, however, is the 1982 novel The Color Purple. Critics and audiences alike have praised its richly drawn female characters and seemingly effortless use of Black vernacular. Having produced a significant body of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, Walker remains active politically, championing women’s issues and women’s work.