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The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple

Rue, March 30, 2012

The Color Purple

The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, tells the story of two sisters, Celie and Nettie, one living in rural Georgia and the other in Africa during the 1920s. The epistolary structure of this novel develops the characters through the point of view of Celie and Nettie. The reader learns about Celie’s difficult life through her letters to God, which are later addressed to Nettie. The reader gains insight about Nettie’s travels once her letters are discovered. The epistolary style of this novel effectively uses different levels of diction, portrays the importance of strong female relationships, and makes a statement about the treatment of women in the 1920s.
The Color Purple consists of letters addressed back and forth from the two sisters, even though all are read through Celie’s point of view. This allows for a very personal touch on every event in the novel because it is through the perspective of either Celie or Nettie. Celie’s letters allow her to have a strong voice, “Dear God, I am fourteen years old. I have always been a good girl.” (1). This structure allows the characters to speak directly to the reader. The letters allow the reader to switch between the sisters’ stories and experience two settings at the same time. Since this novel only consists of novels, it does not have much setting description, rather it is overflowing with descriptions of feelings and emotions. The letters build off of each other and slowly intertwine more, and more.
The diction in The Color Purple reveals certain aspects of the character’s lives. Celie is uneducated and not allowed to go to school. When Celie is young Pa tells her, “You too dumb to keep going to school” (9). However, Nettie is allowed to be educated because their father believes she is “the clever one in this bunch” (9). It is apparent that Celie is uneducated through her use of low diction, “Not much funny to me. That funny. I laugh. She laugh. Then us both laugh so hard us flop down on the step” (42). Nettie is much more educated and the reader can see this through her use of middle diction, “Rain came down in spears, stabbing away the mud of their walls. The wind was so fierce it blew the rocks out of walls” (153). The way Nettie speaks is very comprehensible and even descriptive. The character’s level of diction informs the reader of the extensiveness of their education.
The Color Purple illustrates the importance of female relationships. Celie is verbally and physically abused by multiple men in her life, but she is able to fall back onto stable and loving relationships with women. One strong relationship in Celie’s life is the one she has with her sister, Nettie. Over the span of many years and miles the sisters stay loyal to each other by writing letters. Celie also has an enduring relationship with Shug, one of her husband’s friends that she becomes very close with. Celie and Shug’s relationship becomes so strong that Celie opens up to her about the difficult past. Despite the rough relationships that Celie has with men, her strong ties with women keep her grounded.
The ambiguity of the name of Celie’s husband, Mr. _____, makes a statement about the treatment of women in the 1920s. Mr. _____ treats Celie badly, “Dear God, Harpo ast his daddy why he beat me. Mr. _____ say, Cause she my wife.” (22). Mr. _____ represents the majority of men in the 1920s and how they disrespected their wives. Men dominated their wives and perceived them as keepers of the children and house. Walker makes a generalization of how women were treated.
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker, successfully makes a statement about the treatment of women and the importance of sturdy female relationships. Walker conveys these messages through creating a novel with an epistolary structure and utilizing different levels of diction. The letters in this novel slowly intertwine more, and more, until they seemingly become one.
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