African American Annotation
Title: The Color Purple
Author: Alice Walker
Publication Date: 1982
Setting: Rural Georgia; Western Africa in a small village
Time Period: Early 20th Century
Genre: African American
Summary: Celia is a black, poor and uneducated fourteen year old girl living in rural Georgia. She starts writing letters to God because her father Alphonso rapes and beats her. She is also tasked with cooking and cleaning for her brothers and sisters. She is pregnant (again) and her mother is dying. The first one was taken away and thought to be dead. Once her mother is dead, her father continues to abuse her. He takes the second child away and then starts focusing his attention on her younger sister Nettie. Alphonso remarries. Celia marries a widower who mistreats her. Nettie runs away from her father’s house to Celia’s and her husband (“Mr.”) who originally wanted to marry her but got Celia instead tries to initiate an encounter and she runs away. Celia thought she was dead. “Mr” has a mistress, Shug Avery who is a lounge singer and Celia is fascinated with the picture she found of her. “Mr”’s oldest child, Harpo married an outspoken and defiant Sofia who is also pregnant. Celia admires her spirit and “Mr” tells his son to treat her like he treated Celia which results in Harpo getting beat up! Shug is suddenly ill and Mr. takes her into the house and has Celia take care of her. They ended up being friends and lovers. Sofia moves out with her children because of Harpo attempts to subordinate her. He opens a juke joint where Shug sings nightly. Sofia ends up being the mayor’s wife maid for twelve years because she told him she wouldn’t be her maid and the white mayor slapped Sofia who consequently slapped him back. Shug asks Celia’s about her sister, Nettie and Celia tells her she thinks she is dead because she promised to write but never did. They discover letters from Nettie that Mr. has hidden over the years. She is in Africa with a missionary couple named Samuel and Corrine who have adopted two children, Olivia and Adam. It’s discovered that those two children are Celia’s and Alphonso is there step-father. After confronting Mr., Shug and Celia move to Tennessee. Sofia comes home also. Celia has a business there sewing and designing pants. Celia returns to Georgia for a visit, and Mr. is a better person. The step father has died and the house and land is Celia’s now. She moves in there. She reconciles with “Mr” and her sister comes back to America with Celia’s children.
Subject Headings: Domestic Fiction; African American women-Fiction; Sisters-Fiction
Appeal: This book appeals to anyone that who has been either witnessed or been the victim of abuse (mentally, physically or sexually). This book is proof of the resilience of the human spirit.
Tone: Bittersweet; bleak; and moving
Writing Style: dialect filled; stylistically complex
3 Terms that best describe this book: Sisterhood, Painful, and Hopefulness
Read-a-likes: Ruby by Cynthia Bond, Bastard out of Carolina by Dorthy Allison, Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote