Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
The Color Purple is intended to be like the unedited thoughts that go through a person’s mind. And while there may be one or two humorous moments in the novel, this is not a funny story. This is a novel about utter hardship, sadness, tragedy—and a woman who finally figures out how to beat the odds no matter how badly they are stacked against her. Celie, the primary narrator, takes a serious look at her life via letters to God, expressing the sadness of her life in the healthiest way she can. Her letters to God, and later to Nettie, are very honest. She doesn’t hide the hardship that she’s been through, her embarrassment, or her shame—and that's why we love her.