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.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Color Purple

The Color Purple

Nettie travels to Africa after meeting two missionaries, Samuel and Corinne. The missionaries have adopted Celie's two children, Olivia and Adam, and Nettie comes to stay with the missionaries and...

Latest answer posted February 28, 2021, 2:43 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Sofia leaves Harpo because he starts to beat her. In another sense, she leaves him because he has been influenced by his father to feel a need to physically dominate his wife, which is at odds with...

Latest answer posted February 28, 2021, 1:40 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

To best understand this question, it's important to understand what caused a separation between Harpo and Sofia. Early in their marriage, Harpo gets upset that Sofia does not obey him. Many women...

Latest answer posted March 1, 2021, 2:57 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Sofia is sentenced to twelve years in jail for striking the white mayor and "sassing" the mayor's wife. The mayor's wife, impressed by how clean Sofia's children are, offers Sofia a job as a maid....

Latest answer posted February 28, 2021, 9:39 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Sofia gets sentenced to twelve years in jail for sassing—talking rudely—to the mayor's wife and for hitting the mayor. As Celie puts it in a letter to Nettie, Polices lock her up for sassing the...

Latest answer posted March 1, 2021, 6:21 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Alphonso, the man Celie thinks is her "Pa" or father, although he is actually her stepfather, is the father of her children. Alphonso had the role of a father to Celie and was supposed to protect...

Latest answer posted March 2, 2021, 12:02 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Albert, Celie’s husband, never married Shug Avery, because his own father would not allow him to do so. Albert has loved Shug for a long time, but when he was a young man, his father forbade him...

Latest answer posted March 2, 2021, 2:33 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Celie's reason for wanting Nettie to marry an older man can be summed up in the following statement: Just the thought of anybody getting pregnant make me want to cry. Celie loves Nettie dearly...

Latest answer posted March 2, 2021, 1:38 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Celie says that her sick, dying mother curses her because I'm big. I can't move fast enough. By time I git back from the well, the water be warm. By time I git the tray ready the food be cold. By...

Latest answer posted March 2, 2021, 12:47 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Celie is fortunate, given the misery of her early life, that she has never had high expectations for her life to be happy. She is sustained by her faith in God. She develops a relationship with...

Latest answer posted March 2, 2021, 1:11 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Celie addresses her letters to God because Alphonso, the man she believes to be her father, has begun to rape her, and he tells her, "You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your...

Latest answer posted March 1, 2021, 11:56 am (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Nettie comes to live with Celie and Albert not long after Celie and Albert get married. Alphonso, the man the girls know as Pa (though he is not their birth father, as they find out later), is...

Latest answer posted March 1, 2021, 11:43 am (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Nettie deeply values Celie, the sister she loves unconditionally, but in terms of her life's work, Nettie most values what she calls in a letter the uplift of black people everywhere. Nettie...

Latest answer posted March 1, 2021, 12:26 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

As the title indicates, an important symbol in the novel is the color purple. Celie first wants to buy a piece of purple clothing for herself, because it is a royal color that she identifies with...

Latest answer posted February 28, 2021, 12:10 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Mr.__ is a widower with children who needs a wife to run his household. He wants to marry Celie's pretty younger sister, Nettie. However, their father has his eyes on Nettie for himself and refuses...

Latest answer posted February 28, 2021, 12:37 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Celie and Shug first become acquainted when Shug comes to stay with Celie and Albert, and Shug is very ill. Celie is sort of fascinated by Shug, as Shug is an incredibly glamorous singer and a...

Latest answer posted February 27, 2021, 1:38 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

Shug's illness is never specified. Celie hears various rumors. Some say Shug has "two berkulosis" (tuberculosis) or a "nasty woman disease," which could be in reference to some sort of venereal...

Latest answer posted February 27, 2021, 12:34 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

In The Color Purple, Celie marries a man she calls Mr.__, though she learns that his first name is actually Albert. Albert was married once before and has a few kids, and he is basically looking...

Latest answer posted February 27, 2021, 1:07 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

The Color Purple is a work of fiction, and it is not based on a particular true story. However, in examining Walker's notes and journals, scholar Salamishah Tillet, author of In Search of the...

Latest answer posted February 27, 2021, 2:07 pm (UTC)

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The Color Purple

For a novel with a very grim beginning, The Color Purple has a redemptive message, leaving readers with the hope that it is possible to transcend a traumatic start in life and find fulfillment....

Latest answer posted February 27, 2021, 5:50 pm (UTC)

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Summary