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The Color Purple

The Color Purple


by Alice Walker

The Color Purple Theme of Race

The Color Purple has a lot to say about race in America. At the beginning of the novel, Celie is extremely downtrodden—almost to the point of being defeated. As an African-American female living in the pre-Civil Rights South, she sees nothing in her race to be particularly proud of. Remember, these were the days of legal segregation and Jim Crow laws; African-Americans were frequently the targets of bitter discrimination. Black women in this book are far too often victims of violent crimes committed by white men. However, as Celie learns about the rich cultures and civilizations that existed in Africa and reimagines her own vision of God, she gains some pride in her ethnic heritage. And you know what? So do we. You go, Celie.

Questions About Race

  1. Is race or gender a more important factor with respect to prejudice in this book?
  2. Think about the white characters in the novel. Are they portrayed positively or negatively?
  3. How do the characters grow in their understanding of race and ethnicity? Which ones come to new understandings? Is that important to the novel?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Though whites have made Nettie’s life difficult, it is African attitudes toward African-Americans that affect her most because she realizes there is no universal brotherhood among people of the black race.

Though many characters in The Color Purple experience racial oppression, Celie’s life is separate enough from whites that she never does.

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