The Color Purple Suggested Essay Topics
by Alice Walker

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Suggested Essay Topics

Letters 1–9
1. How come we do not know Mr.____’s last name? How does this symbolize the behavior of men in this society?

2. Look at the symbols of education in this section (the books, Miss Beasley...). How are they connected with the sisters’ desire for a better life?

Letters 10–12
1. Examine the mannerisms of the reverend’s wife and compare her to Celie. What do you think makes her more confident than Celie? What does she have that Celie does not?

2. What insight do we get from Mr.____’s character after seeing him attempt to flirt with Nettie?

Letters 13-18
1. What insight does Harpo receive about Mr.____’s character? Look at what Mr.____ says to him in this chapter.

2. Why does “a shadow” go across Sofia’s face in her argument with Mr.____? What is Harpo’s role in this argument?

Letters 19–21
1. Why wouldn’t Harpo want Sofia to visit her sisters? Use examples from the text to support your answer.

2. How would Mr.____ react to Harpo’s excuses? Construct a dialogue in which Harpo tries to explain to his father why his face is bruised.

Letters 22–27
1. What symbols of security are present in this section of the novel? How does Celie use such symbols (the bath, food) to comfort Shug?

2. Compare the relationship Mr.____ has with his father to the one that he has with his son. Is there any real difference in these relationships or is it a cycle of abuse from father to son?

Letters 28–31
1. What are some of the chores that Harpo does? What insight does the reader receive into Harpo’s character with respect to these chores?

2. What role does food play in this section? What is it a symbol for? Use examples from the text to support your conclusion.

Letters 32–36
1. What is the significance of Harpo’s weight? Compare this to the time he tries to gain weight in order to fight Sofia.

2. How does Shug’s knowledge that Mr.____ had beat Celie change their relationship? Can you predict the changes that will take place in the future?

Letters 37–41
1. How does Walker use Sofia’s beating to illustrate the danger of being a woman in a male-dominated society?

2. Use examples from the text, including Squeak’s dialogue, to show her transformation in character.

3. Have you ever had a personal experience when a tragedy proved to be beneficial in the long run?

Letters 42–44
1. What does Miss Millie’s car symbolize in this novel?

2. Why is Miss Millie always “scared” to come in contact with Sofia?

Letters 45–48
1. How does Shug’s idea of music compare with her character? Look for examples of music and songs as symbols in this novel.

2. How has Harpo diminished in his role as husband and as a male in this society? Compare his dialogue in this section to earlier sections.

Letters 49–51
1. Comment on the behavior of Shug’s and Albert’s parents. How does it compare with the behavior of Mr.____ as a father and Celie’s parents? What sort of cycle is being perpetuated?

2. What is found in Mr.____’s trunk? What is symbolized by the trunk and the objects found inside?

Letters 52–60
1. What does England symbolize in this novel? Compare and contrast England and Africa and their effects upon Nettie.

2. Do you find Nettie’s attitude (and the attitude of the missionaries) toward Africa condescending?

Letters 61-63
1. How does the difference in setting contribute to the atmosphere of Nettie’s story? Compare and contrast symbols of weather and climate with those that exist in Celie’s story.

2. How does the story of the roofleaf establish the plant as a symbol of protection? Analyze the legend.

Letters 64-69
1. How has Celie’s “father” changed over the years? Do you feel that his cruelty has gone unpunished? Use examples from the text to support your decision.

2. How do...

(The entire section is 955 words.)