The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Small Group Presentations

Directions: Answer all parts of your question in writing to be collected at the end of your presentation. Be prepared to discuss/present in any format for about 10 minutes per group.

1. Read Nettie's letters. How does Walker dramatize life in Africa? What are the parallels between the experiences of the Africans and the African-Americans? What ideas is Walker trying to share? Use evidence from the text to support your answers.

2. Read Celie's first and last letters and compare her tone, syntax, and use of language. How does her voice change as the novel progresses? Use evidence from the text to support your answers.

3. Many readers identify Sofia's story as the most compelling challenge to racism in the novel. Why is this? Consider in depth and explain your understanding, using evidence from the text to support your analysis.

4. Many readers feel that The Color Purple is, above all else, a celebration of community. What roles do Shug, Sofia, and Nettie play in Celie's development? Use evidence from the text to support your answers.

5. "Not much funny to me. That funny. I laugh. She laugh. Then us both laugh so hard us flop down on the step" (pg. 42). What role does laughter play in The Color Purple? Use evidence from the text to support your answers.

6. Many critics have taken exception to the utopian ending of the novel, arguing that romance* triumphs over reality. Make cases for and against this argument.

*Romance - a fictional story in verse or prose that relates improbable adventures of idealized characters in some remote or enchanted setting; or, more generally, a tendency in fiction opposite to that of realism.

7. Shug tells Celie that "God love everything you love -- and a mess of stuff you don't" (page 196). What role does religion play in the novel? What forms does spirituality take? How does Celie's relationship with God change? Use evidence from the text to support your answers.

8. Identify and compare the different kinds of family and homes represented in the novel. What do they suggest about notions of "home" and "family"?

9. Many readers and critics have criticized Walker's representation of African-American men. Justify this point of view with evidence from the text if you agree. Or if you disagree, defend Walker's treatment of masculinity in The Color Purple. (Your group can do both.)

10. Research the critical acclaim related to the book. How might its place in the cannon of Western literature be justified?

11. Research the "blues." Look especially at the work of Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday. To what extent, if any, was Shug based on these women? Explain.

12. Find several of Alice Walker's poems to share with the class. What are her favorite themes? How do they relate to similar themes in The Color Purple?

13. The Olinka tribe practiced scarification and female genital mutilation (FGM). Alice Walker went to Africa to research FGM. She wrote articles and co-produced a documentary called Warrior Marks and published a book on the experience. Research FGM (what is it? how widely practiced is it?) and consider Walker's inclusion of the topic in the novel. (Remember "circus mission" referred to by Ruth May?)

14. Research current statistics and trends on violence against women. Is the world a safer place for women than it was in the time of the novel? Explain. A link to start the search.

15. Nettie travels to New York City and encounters the Harlem neighborhood. Research "the Harlem Renaissance." What characterizes this movement? Who are some of the associated artists, poets, writers, and musicians?

16.  Follow the directions on Letters Crunched and share your discoveries with the class, including task 5 for BOTH Nettie and Celie. (Get paper copies from me.)

17. Use this spider diagram and follow the directions to consider the character of Celie but also 2 or 3 other characters of your choice. (Get paper copies from me.)

18. Modify the use of Top Ten Features to encompass the entire novel. Make your decisions and present your evidence to justify your choices. (Get paper copies from me.)

19. Choose any one of the prompts from the list. Write an outline to answer the prompt as follows:

The prompt.

Thesis statement

Topic sentence (main point #1)

    Evidence from text + Explanation of evidence

    Evidence from text + Explanation of evidence

Topic sentence (main point #2)

    Evidence from text + Explanation of evidence

    Evidence from text + Explanation of evidence

20. Suggest a topic that you would like to pursue related to the novel.