BACKGROUND OF THE AUTHOR
Alice Malsenior Walker is an African American author and poet. She has written at
length on issues of race and gender, and is most famous for the critically acclaimed novel The
Color Purple for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
She was born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia, the eighth and last child of
Willie Lee and Minnie Lou Grant Walker, who were sharecroppers. After a childhood accident
blinded her in one eye, she went on to become valedictorian of her local school, and attended
Spelman College and Sarah Lawrence College on scholarships, graduating in 1965.
Her first book of poems came out in 1968 and her first novel just after her daughter's
birth. Alice Walker's early poems, novels and short stories dealt with themes of rape, violence,
troubled relationships, sexism and racism.
She then wrote The Color Purple in 1982 in which she became known to an even wider
audience. Her Pulitzer Prize and the movie by Steven Spielberg brought both fame and
Her works are known for their portrayals of the African American woman's life. She
depicts vividly the sexism, racism and poverty that make that life often a struggle. But she also
portrays as part of that life, the strengths of family, community, self-worth, and spirituality.
Her other works are Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems, Meridian, To Hell With
Dying, and By the Light of My Father’s Smile. Among her numerous awards and honors are the
Lillian Smith Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rosenthal Award from the
National Institute of Arts & Letters, a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, and the Front Page Award
for Best Magazine Criticism from the Newswoman's Club of New York. She also has received
the Townsend Prize and a Lyndhurst Prize.
BACKGROUND OF THE NOVEL
The Color Purple by Alice Walker is an acclaimed epistolary novel, taking the form of a
series of letters written to God by an African-American woman. It received the 1983 Pulitzer
Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award. It was then adapted into a film and musical of
the same name.
The Color Purple is often used as an example of a woman’s novel because it not just
deals with the oppression of African-American women, not only by means of white domination,
but also we meet women who fight against all odds for their survival and also for the survival of
The genre of slave narratives also came about when slaves began to tell the tales of their
experiences. Walker’s novel and slave narratives reveal the oppression of the speaker, unearthing
horrific treatment that had previously gone unchallenged.
Both also stem from the African oral traditions of storytelling and song. The Africans
taken to America as slaves were usually prevented from speaking in their mother tongues, so
they often devised alternative means of communication, particularly acting and singing. These
stories were passed on from generation to generation and quickly became the core of much
African-American storytelling. Through her storytelling, Celie ensures that her experiences as a
black woman in early twentieth-century America are heard and retold for generations to come. In
addition, this novel uses the African-American dialect as used by the characters specifically
The Color Purple is set in the first half of the twentieth century in Macon County,
Georgia. It covers the span of a woman's life -- from adolescence to old age. It is set primarily in
the African-American community of a small town, though minor parts of it are set within an area
of a town, which is dominated by white people.
ANALYSIS OF THE CHARACTERS
“I don’t even look at mens. That’s the truth. I look at women, tho, cause I’m not scared of them.”
The main character and protagonist of the novel. She is an African-American woman
who is treated badly, especially by men. In spite of the hardships she endures, she maintains a
beautiful spirit of perseverance and love. Throughout the book, Celie writes letters to God and to
her sister Nettie, revealing all of her struggles and longings.
The three dominant attributes of Celie's personality are strength and endurance, the
ability to love unconditionally, and the constant search for truth. From adolescence into
adulthood, Celie endures sexual, physical, and emotional abuse; still she remains a caring and
gentle soul who finds it easy to love when she feels loved.
Celie also maintains a friendly love for Sofia. She also visits her often during the years of
her confinement, encouraging her and giving her strength. Celie learns the power of women's
solidarity through her bond with Sofia.
Lastly, Celie's constant search for the truth may be her most amazing trait. From early in
the novel, Celie looks for ways to stand up for this unfair system. As a result, she finally leaves
her abusive husband, and goes with Shug to make a life of her own. By the end of the novel, she
has built a successful business, largely because she never gave in to the reality of her life, but
searched for the truth beyond it.
She also never forgets that Shug taught her to enjoy and appreciate the little things in life
- like the color of purple in a field. Celie also learns from Shug the life-enabling philosophy of
believing in herself. It is this philosophy of self-sufficiency that brings the novel to a happy
ending for Celie.
“I don’t say nothing. I think bout Nettie, dead. She fight, she run away. What good it do? I don’t fight, I
stay where I’m told. But I’m alive.”
She is Celie's sister. She moves with a missionary couple to Africa, where she eventually
marries the minister. Nettie and Celie write letters to one another during the years of their
Nettie is an important character in the novel, for the news she gives Celie about Olivia
and Adam help keep the children alive in Celie's heart. Her explanations of African life and
philosophies also aid in Celie's growth. Nettie's return at the end of the novel brings the plot of
the story full cycle, allowing for a totally happy ending.
“Shug Avery standing upside a piano, elbow crook, hand on her hip….Her mouth open showing all her
teef and don’t nothing seem to be troubling her mind…. Lord, I wants to go so bad. Not to dance. Not to