PR to “The Color Purple”

It is safe to say that during my reading of the first few of Celie’s letters in Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple, I considered reading the novel a chore. I regarded the plot and characters to be completely relatable to my own experiences. However, soon after, I realized that I did not need to possess shared experiences with Celie or any other character in order to appreciate and enjoy Alice Walker’s masterful storytelling and composition techniques. One such composition technique is Alice Walker’s deliberate authorial choice to write her an epistolary novel, in other words, to write The Color Purple through a series of personal letters, which are addressed both to other characters and to God. This authorial choice creates a more intimate mood throughout the novel, as it allows us to see into the inner workings of many of the close interpersonal relationships in the novel, most notably between sisters Celie and Nettie. Moreover, the novel delves into themes of resilience and perseverance in the face of extreme and prolonged adversity.

One such example of resilience and optimism in the face of a formidable adversary can be found on page 132, in a letter written by Nettie and addressed to Celie, “But on the other hand, if you can believe I am in Africa, which I am, you can believe anything.”(pg. 132). One of the first letters written by Nettie and read by Celie and Shug convey a sense of optimism and resilience that is both uplifting and engaging for the reader. Moreover, not only does Alice Walker masterfully utilize diction and register in this quotation, but also uses the structural form of her novel to invoke such a powerful yet personal response. The epistolary nature of the novel allows a more intimate and personal perspective of each of the characters. This grants us perspective into the psyches of Nettie and Celie. In the above quotation, Nettie demonstrates optimism that she and Celie will reunite after her time in Africa as a missionary is finished. It is important to note that Celie and Nettie have been forcefully separated for more than a decade at this point of the novel, with this letter being one of the first Celie has read from Nettie during that period of time. Therefore, the intimate nature of a personal letter, despite years of no communication, Nettie’s optimism in her future and her reunification with her sister Celie, has revealed that she has held onto hope that she and Celie will be together again. This is why Alice Walker’s compositional choice of using an epistolary format is so effective in evoking this sense of resilience.

As I have mentioned, Alice Walker’s deliberate authorial and compositional choice to use an epistolary format in her writing of The Color Purple has a profound and lasting literary effect on the reader, especially regarding the themes of optimism and resilience demonstrated by Walker’s characters. However, this authorial choice also left a profound mark on me as a reader, especially with regard to the tone and attitude that Nettie employs while living life as a missionary in Africa. The resilience and optimism displayed by Nettie provokes questions regarding the influences of happiness and fulfillment, as well as what it means to be fulfilled.


Leave a Reply