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The Color Purple

The Color Purple

by Alice Walker

Race Theme

At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist is an extremely downtrodden character. As an African-American female living in the pre-Civil Rights South, surrounded by other poor, uneducated blacks, she sees nothing in her race to be particularly proud of. In fact, black women in this book are often victims of violent crimes committed by white men. However, as the protagonist learns about the rich cultures and civilizations that existed in Africa, she gains pride in her ethnic heritage.

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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