Sample questions

  1. Apart from Celie herself, in what other ways do women ‘wear the pants’ in The Color Purple?
  2. How do the female characters in the novel determine their own lives?
  3. Organised religion does not appear to be very supportive or helpful to many of the characters in The Color Purple. Does this mean that Walker presents a negative view of religion as a whole?
  4. How does Alice Walker address issues of gender and sexuality in The Color Purple?
  5. Walker gives some of her female characters masculine attributes that make them stronger than the men in their lives and some masculine characters attributes that are unexpectedly feminine. How effective do you find these role-reversals and how do they illustrate Walker’s ‘womanist’ philosophy?
  6. Outline the ways in which Walker examines love, self-acceptance and forgiveness in The Color Purple.
  7. Walker presents Celie and Shug’s relationship as part of a normal life trajectory that is neither unusual nor subversive. Discuss.
  8. The Color Purple has been described as ‘a celebration of the independence of Southern black women and black sexual equality’. How far do you agree with this description?
  9. Examine the significance and effectiveness of Walker’s use of place and the natural world in The Color Purple.
  10. Walker’s novel examines not only violence against women, but also racism and imperialism in America and Africa. How does the correspondence between Nettie and Celie highlight differences and similarities in the two places?
  11. Walker's use of language, especially black idiom, adds poignancy and depth to the narrative. The Color Purple is convincing because of the authenticity of Celie’s ‘folk voice’. How far do you agree with this statement?
  12. How does The Color Purple illustrate the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood? Can any of the characters be described as good role models for their children?
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