The Color Purple by Alice Walker Analysis
How it works
The overall structure of this novel comes in the form of multiple written letters. As critic Marc Christophe puts it, “The story unfolds through the many letters that the lonely and despairing Celie writes to God and later to her sister Nettie, who is a missionary in Africa” (Christoph, 280). When in the perspective of Celie, these letters are being written as a cry of help to God. Since she is stuck in such a tough situation in her life at the time, she feels that there is nobody else to confess these feelings to except for God.
When the novel switches over to the perspective of Nettie being the narrator, these letters are directed back home to tell everyone about how her adventures in Africa are going.
The time frame of these letters is what really gives the novel a strong build for its structure. It begins with Celie and shows the reader how horribly the African-Americans are being treated and what life is like for them at the time. Then, we see a transformation over to Nettie and how she, as an African-American woman, is being treated completely different based on her color in Africa. This structure allows the reader to see that not all African-Americans were discriminated against and had to go through a lot of enduring times during this period however, that there were still a significant amount of them who did.
Although the lives of Celie and Nettie, and the events that comprise them, did meet up in the end, the reader is not able to see the link between the two differing stories right off of the bat. Many of the events revolved around a single, unifying event: being the lives of people of color. However, the plot of the novel is really strengthened when the audience is able to take a glimpse at two sides that are provided and how similar, and different, each of them is.
One large theme present under the overarching theme of African-American discrimination is female oppression. In a critical analysis by member of the Johns Hopkins Press, Jacqueline Bobo, it is written that “In works by these writers, recurrent themes surface: that the black woman, historically, and as a figure in mainstream creative works has been sorely abused” (Bobo, 335). Bobo could not have put it any better. Through the representation of Celie, a young black girl who is constantly being raped, abused, and taken advantage of, we slowly see the unraveling of a larger story of her oppression. The reader then sees the same thing when her sister, Nettie, becomes the narrator of the story and begins to speak about her experiences as a black woman, even in their ancestors country of origin: Africa.
Throughout the course and unraveling of the novel, the reader is able to sift through the conflicts of racism, discrimination, and oppression to get a real feel for the theme of female oppression at the time. The way the little girl, from which the perspective of the novel is told, is treated, both mentally and physically, sheds a bright light onto this topic, in the most negative of ways. Not only does the reader become attached and feel for Celie, they also become disgusted and begin to detest those who are treating her the way they are. This is what ultimately pulls the novel together into a truly powerful and moving piece.
Overall, The Color Purple, written by renowned author Alice Walker, serves as a symbolic novel that explores the issues of discrimination and oppression towards not only minorities, but also towards different genders. Ultimately, it surrounds the large theme present: female oppression. Walker’s delicate use of structure, diction, and setting, along with the delicate representation of her characters builds the novel towards this theme and expresses it to the reader in a way that no author has done before. It explores the two aspects of black people at the time: in America and in Africa and how they were similar and different. Lastly, it shows the desperate call of a young girl and how she felt that nothing would save her from what she was feeling aside from writing letters to God. These are the reasons why Walker’s work of The Color Purple is so loved, and many times critiqued with much controversy, among many.