The Color Purple

The Color Purple

Paperback(First Edition)

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This is the story of two sisters—one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South—who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156028356
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 05/28/2003
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 6,179
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Lexile: HL670L (what's this?)

About the Author

Alice Walker won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for her novel The Color Purple. Her other novels include By the Light of My Father’s Smile and Possessing the Secret of Joy. She is also the author of three collections of short stories, three collections of essays, seven volumes of poetry, and several children’s books. Born in Eatonton, Georgia, Walker now lives in Northern California.


Mendocino, California

Date of Birth:

February 9, 1944

Place of Birth:

Eatonton, Georgia


B.A., Sarah Lawrence College, 1965; attended Spelman College, 1961-63

Read an Excerpt

You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy.

Dear God,

I am fourteen years old. I am I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me.

Last spring after little Lucious come I heard them fussing. He was pulling on her arm. She say It too soon, Fonso, I ain't well. Finally he leave her alone. A week go by, he pulling on her arm again. She say Naw, I ain't gonna. Can't you see I'm already half dead, an all of these chilren.

She went to visit her sister doctor over Macon. Left me to see after the others. He never had a kine word to say to me. Just say You gonna do what your mammy wouldn't. First he put his thing up gainst my hip and sort of wiggle it around. Then he grab hold my titties. Then he push his thing inside my pussy. When that hurt, I cry. He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it.

But I don't never git used to it. And now I feels sick every time I be the one to cook. My mama she fuss at me an look at me. She happy, cause he good to her now. But too sick to last long.

Dear God,

Mr. ______ finally come right out an ast for Nettie hand in marriage. But He won't let her go. He say she too young, no experience. Say Mr. ______ got too many children already. Plus What about the scandal his wife cause when somebody kill her? And what about all this stuff he hear bout Shug Avery? What bout that?

I ast our new mammy bout Shug Avery. What it is? I ast. She don't know but she say she gon fine out.

She do more then that. She git a picture. The first one

of a real person I ever seen. She say Mr. ______ was taking somethin out his billfold to show Pa an it fell out an slid under the table. Shug Avery was a woman. The most beautiful woman I ever saw. She more pretty then my mama. She bout ten thousand times more prettier then me. I see her there in furs. Her face rouge. Her hair like somethin tail. She grinning with her foot up on somebody motocar. Her eyes serious tho. Sad some.

I ast her to give me the picture. An all night long I stare at it. An now when I dream, I dream of Shug Avery. She be dress to kill, whirling and laughing.

Dear God,

I ast him to take me instead of Nettie while our new mammy sick. But he just ast me what I'm talking bout. I tell him I can fix myself up for him. I duck into my room and come out wearing horsehair, feathers, and a pair of our new mammy high heel shoes. He beat me for dressing trampy but he do it to me anyway.

Mr. ______ come that evening. I'm in the bed crying. Nettie she finally see the light of day, clear. Our new mammy she see it too. She in her room crying. Nettie tend to first one, then the other. She so scared she go out doors and vomit. But not out front where the two mens is.

Mr. ______ say, Well Sir, I sure hope you done change your mind.

He say, Naw, Can't say I is.

Mr. ______ say, Well, you know, my poor little ones sure could use a mother.

Well, He say, real slow, I can't let you have Nettie. She too young. Don't know nothing but what you tell her. Sides, I want her to git some more schooling. Make a schoolteacher out of her. But I can let you have Celie. She the oldest anyway. She ought to marry first. She ain't fresh tho, but I spect you know that. She spoiled. Twice. But you don't need a fresh woman no how. I got a fresh one in there myself and she sick all the time. He spit, over the railing. The children git on her nerve, she not much of a cook. And she big already.

Mr. ______ he don't say nothing. I stop crying I'm so surprise.

She ugly. He say. But she ain't no stranger to hard work. And she clean. And God done fixed her. You can do everything just like you want to and she ain't gonna make you feed it or clothe it.

Mr. ______ still don't say nothing. I take out the picture of Shug Avery. I look into her eyes. Her eyes say Yeah, it bees that way sometime.

Fact is, he say, I got to git rid of her. She too old to be living here at home. And she a bad influence on my other girls. She'd come with her own linen. She can take that cow she raise down there back of the crib. But Nettie you flat out can't have. Not now. Not never.

Mr. ______ finally speak. Clearing his throat. I ain't never really look at that one, he say.

Well, next time you come you can look at her. She ugly. Don't even look like she kin to Nettie. But she'll make the better wife. She ain't smart either, and I'll just be fair, you have to watch her or she'll give away everything you own. But she can work like a man.

Mr. ______ say How old she is?

He say, She near twenty. And another thing-She tell lies.

Dear God,

It took him the whole spring, from March to June, to make up his mind to take me. All I thought about was Nettie. How she could come to me if I marry him and he be so love struck with her I could figure out a way for us to run away. Us both be hitting Nettie's schoolbooks pretty hard, cause us know we got to be smart to git away. I know I'm not as pretty or as smart as Nettie, but she say I ain't dumb.

The way you know who discover America, Nettie say, is think bout cucumbers. That what Columbus sound like. I learned all about Columbus in first grade, but look like he the first thing I forgot. She say Columbus come here in boats call the Neater, the Peter, and the Santomareater. Indians so nice to him he force a bunch of 'em back home with him to wait on the queen.

But it hard to think with gitting married to Mr. ______ hanging over my head.

The first time I got big Pa took me out of school. He never care that I love it. Nettie stood there at the gate holding tight to my hand. I was all dress for first day. You too dumb to keep going to school, Pa say. Nettie the clever one in this bunch.

But Pa, Nettie say, crying, Celie smart too. Even Miss Beasley say so. Nettie dote on Miss Beasley. Think nobody like her in the world.

Pa say, Whoever listen to anything Addie Beasley have to say. She run off at the mouth so much no man would have her. That how come she have to teach school. He never look up from cleaning his gun. Pretty soon a bunch of white mens come walking cross the yard. They have guns too.

Pa git up and follow 'em. The rest of the week I vomit and dress wild game.

But Nettie never give up. Next thing I know Miss Beasley at our house trying to talk to Pa. She say long as she been a teacher she never know nobody want to learn bad as Nettie and me. But when Pa call me out and she see how tight my dress is, she stop talking and go.

Nettie still don't understand. I don't neither. All us notice is I'm all the time sick and fat.

I feel bad sometime Nettie done pass me in learnin. But look like nothing she say can git in my brain and stay. She try to tell me something bout the ground not being flat. I just say, Yeah, like I know it. I never tell her how flat it look to me.

Mr. ______ come finally one day looking all drug out. The woman he had helping him done quit. His mammy done said No More.

He say, Let me see her again.

Pa call me. Celie, he say. Like it wasn't nothing. Mr. ______ want another look at you.

I go stand in the door. The sun shine in my eyes. He's still up on his horse. He look me up and down.

Pa rattle his newspaper. Move up, he won't bite, he say.

I go closer to the steps, but not too close cause I'm a little scared of his horse.

Turn round, Pa say.

I turn round. One of my little brothers come up. I think it was Lucious. He fat and playful, all the time munching on something.

He say, What you doing that for?

Pa say, Your sister thinking bout marriage.

Didn't mean nothing to him. He pull my dresstail and ast can he have some blackberry jam out the safe.

I say, Yeah.

She good with children, Pa say, rattling his paper open more. Never heard her say a hard word to nary one of them. Just give 'em everything they ast for, is the only problem.

Mr. ______ say, That cow still coming?

He say, Her cow.

Dear God,

I spend my wedding day running from the oldest boy. He twelve. His mama died in his arms and he don't want to hear nothing bout no new one. He pick up a rock and laid my head open. The blood run all down tween my breasts. His daddy say Don't do that! But that's all he say. He got four children, instead of three, two boys and two girls. The girls hair ain't been comb since their mammy died. I tell him I'll just have to shave it off. Start fresh. He say bad luck to cut a woman hair. So after I bandage my head best I can and cook dinner-they have a spring, not a well, and a wood stove look like a truck-I start trying to untangle hair. They only six and eight and they cry. They scream. They cuse me of murder. By ten o'clock I'm done. They cry theirselves to sleep. But I don't cry. I lay there thinking bout Nettie while he on top of me, wonder if she safe. And then I think bout Shug Avery. I know what he doing to me he done to Shug Avery and maybe she like it. I put my arm around him.

Copyright © 1982 by Alice Walker

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

First published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970

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The Color Purple 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 463 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I watched the movie Color Purple and really loved it and when I was required to read the book I kind of didn't want to read it because I already saw the movie, but I think the book helps you better understand the movie if there was some parts that you didn't understand, and I really loved the book almost as much as the movie. So I think everyone should read this book at lease once!
Darsey_spudnick More than 1 year ago
Probably one of the most impressive accomplishments of the Color Purple is the slow pace Alice Walker employed to lay out Celie's letters. With the exception of a few jolts and shocks, the letters unfold themselves leisurely, over many years, with a few shifts of focus and orientation and character, but overall the same in quality and tone. (Of course, as Celie's world expands, so does her world view and vocabulary, and the "outside" gradually becomes a part of her ever expanding horizon.) This makes The Color Purple, a rather mid-sized book by novelistic standards, feel much longer. The epistolary format of the novel, used to great effect, gives the sense that time is unfolding in a far greater sweep than the 295 pages in the paperback edition. But this is only one of the masterful elements of this novel. Walker has complete command of the art of writing a work such as this, and has fully realized its potential in nearly every area of writing: character development, plot, language, style, the presentation of conflict and its resolution. Reading the Color Purple, for those who write, provides ample opportunities to show how well a novel can work when a writer exercises complete command over her materials. Alice Walker, the master of wordsmithing.
HazelSR More than 1 year ago
This epistolary novel is an endearing story about the life and heartache of Celie. This story shows the terrible treatment Celie received from the men in her life. It wasn't until she had an experience with a woman that she began to understand love and acceptance. The Color Purple has some plot elements that are perhaps far-fetched, but it adds to the overall beauty and point of the story. This is a fantastic novel that every student of American literature should read at least once.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The color purple is about two sisters named Celie and Nettie who struggle in life. The setting was in Georgia. Their mom died when they were younger. This meant Celie who was the oldest had to take care of the children. They lived with their Stepfather Alfonso who takes advantage of Celie and abuses her physically, mentally, and verbally. He killed Celie's and his baby she had and sold the second baby. After awhile a man named Mr._____ wants to marry Nettie Celie's younger sister but Alfonso doesn't allow it instead offers Celie as a bride. Mr.______ accepts Celie and they get married. Their marriage is horrible he does the same to her as her father Alphonso did. Mr.______ Celie's husband has a lover named Shug Avery a singer. Nettie Celie's younger sister runs away to a missionary in Africa. Shug Avery Celie's husband's lover gets sick and Celie has to take care of her. Shug Avery treats Celie horrifically. Then Shug Avery finds out that Mr._____ beats Celie. She cares for Celie and they become friends. Celie then starts to be attracted to Shug. Nettie and Celie stayed contact they sent each other letters. Celie then finds that the children of the couple Nettie are with adopted to children that were hers. Celie later moves out and lives with Shug Avery. Nettie and Celie reunite and Celie gets to meet her children. This story inspired me to be grateful of my life because others in this world have it a lot more worse then you. What I loved about this book is that anybody can over come problems and you shouldn't let anyone put you down or treat you like you're nothing because you're someone and you have a heart. Everyone should be treated with respect. What other books I would love to read about Alice Walker In Love and Trouble because its inspiring its about African American woman who share a bond not because of their background its because of what they share in common and life experience they had that the other women did to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The dialogue was hard to follow along in reading.I kept wanting to correct spelling, etc. Once you get into it the personalities of the characters grab you, once you get pass the 'ast' and 'gits' which indicated a lack of education or a familiar way of addressing each other. At times anger rose at the conversations indicating that young girls were being used and had no decisions in what happened to them. The kind of book that can be threatening to someone who has been abused and might cause them to abandon it. Found it graphic in some places referring to sexual matters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book and definitely recommend it to anyone. The characters and storyline are developed so well. The book only consists of letters so the fact that Walker is able to develop all the characters so well is awesome. I have read a few books like this with similar characters, the closest is probably The Bluest Eye but this was definitely my favorite out of any book in this genre. I also LOVED the relationship between all of the women in this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do not think I can get past the first part with the semi graphic rape of the main character by her dad... I understand that it is accomplished and understand the historical and emotional context that was portrayed. I acknowledge its plot in bringing two sisters through very trying times in there lives and that of the other supporting characters while the world goes through significant changes. I am also satisfied with how the book tapered to close. Yet, I was not able to enjoy my read for this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'I don't say nothing. I think bout Nettie, dead. She fight, she run away. What good it do? I don't fight, I stay where I'm told. But I'm alive.' That basically describes Celie, the main character in The Color Purple. She is quiet and rarely speaks up while undergoing traumatic events. It was the most poignant book I have ever read. Alice Walker¿s The Color Purple is a heartbreaking novel with a descriptive setting and well described characters, a thorough and interesting plot, and connections any reader can make. The main character in The Color Purple is Celie. She undergoes many hardships throughout her life, and then ends up loosing her best friend/sister at a very young age. She undergoes many African American issues because of the time period. Alice Walker really reaches into the soul of Celie and her sister Nettie. She writes it with a unique letter format with no chapters.
JimRGill2012 More than 1 year ago
Utterly brilliant and breathtaking. Rarely does an author create a narrative voice so compelling, so poignantly sad and simultaneously strong. The is a story of the triumph of faith and love over racism, misogyny, and economic enslavement. Published 35 years ago, but as relevant and resonant today as it was in 1982.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is a novel based upon several societal issues. The narrative follows the lives of Celie and Nettie as they face domestic abuse, racism, rape, as well as other serious problems down South in the 1940s. The readers follow Celie as she explains her story in journal entries where she describes the mistreatment she faces. Celie also goes on to explain the physical and emotional pain she undergoes because of the cruel actions of others. Celie loses her desire to live because she feels “just miserable” as she wonders “why us have life at all if all it can do most times is make us feel bad” (Walker 289). The effects of her undeserving punishments bear on her mind and makes her question whether her life contains any meaning to it. Thus, the novel should be read age appropriately- teenagers and older- because it sheds light on the seriousness of societal issues such as rape and domestic abuse. Hopefully, people who read this novel gain a better understanding of these problems and the world will join together to stop these practices.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most people have seen the movie but there is so much more depth in the book that I didn't know just from watching the movie.
Jillian_L More than 1 year ago
“The Color Purple” was genuine in its theme for freedom. Celie battles an inner conflict of self-slavery while those around her enslave her body, soul, and mind till she is a mere pawn in day to day life. She is dissected for her race, her physical appearance, and her lack of courage. Her education seemed useless to the men and not being able to master it was only one more failure she had to suffer for. As a sanctuary of safety, the women that surround her soon after her marriage were strong and would never let any man tell them what do to, let alone beat them. Her new daughter-in-law and friend, Sophia showed her what it looked like to stand up to your husband by leaving. To her, women deserved to have a little fun and with it, she got herself locked in jail and maid to the Major’s wife. Celie shuns the notion of running off and “having fun”, but as secrets begin to pop up with no explanation for what is what, her wits seem to pull her through. She finds her sister’s letters after the long belief of her being dead is dismissed by her new friend and interest, Shug Avery. Together, they manipulate Mr._____, Celie’s husband, into releasing Celie to Shug for a better life. Celie began to sew pants, symbolic of her quest for independence while conquering her love for Shug, physical and emotional. Yet when this new life overwhelms her, she returns to her home with her husband in his new sense of appreciation of Celie. The book holds literary merit with its elements of style and symbols. The theme of freedom shows in her letters, the only place she can express what she truly feels and thinks, but then she feels love for the sister she has loved and regained and the women who found her. The scandals in her life had built her up and in the end had made her the woman she most wanted to be; someone that was strong and could just live.
Pretend_Spoon More than 1 year ago
By far, one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. Amazing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have grown up watching the film version of this story with Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover, and I just read this book for the first time ever. The movie is amazing but the book is exponentially more so. The parts of the book that are in the movie are exactly as they were in the movie (good job Hollywood) and the things that were left out of the film add so much depth to the story and make it that much more amazing. I love the way you get to watch the characters grow over time and how things come together. Also, the book is written in the form of letters, which, when I first found out worried me, but it still comes across perfectly. And you don't want to put it down, you just want to keep reading and find out what exactly is going to happen next and how. I will be happy to read this book again many more times just as I've watched the movie many times. It's absolutely beautiful.
astreckenbach More than 1 year ago
The author wrote this book knowing it would be timeless and for any reader. People learn about slavery starting at a young age, so I believe people around the age of twenty could read this book and get a real and powerful perspective, but also an old lady could read it and feel deeply impacted. I believe that my age, a sixteen year old girl, is perfect for this book because Celie is around my age. Therefore, I can best relate to her. The title was well thought out. In the book, Shug Avery and Celie are walking through a path of purple flowers talking about God and Shug says: "God gets pissed off if people walk by the color purple and don't notice it". I believe this title can be interpreted any way, but purple represents violence and pain so I think she is trying to make a point that people are ignorant and don't recognize something so beautiful, like flowers, or African Americans in this metaphor, and what they are doing to them. It's hard to explain but kind of explains my interpretation of the title. It was obviously well thought out and makes me wonder. I do not want to give the end of the story away! But I will say that it was fulfilling and wrapped the novel up beautifully since as a whole it was so moving and powerful. The most interesting part of the book is in the structure. Celie writes "Dear God," but he is a distant figure. It seems as if she recognizes his existence but he never real comes to play. Although she tells only him all of her thoughts and feelings, she never goes deeper to explain any relationship with God. The most exciting part of the book was when Shug Avery was going to live with Celie. It was toward the beginning of the book, so talk of her abusive past was fresh in the reader's mind. The only light in Celie's letters was her amazement in Shug Avery. She looked up to her dearly so it was very exciting that a foreshadowing of Shug influencing Celie was near. It made me love Celie as a character and want to help her in any way so I felt happy for her. The author's style is very much trying to get lost in the character. She is Celie. As stated before, it is in first person and Celie writes in the dialect of her time period and setting. This makes the book even more realistic and meaningful because it makes the reader feel like it's all happening as they read. I loved it personally.
CAPRIEUS More than 1 year ago
To begin, this book is truly amazing! It certainly brought tears to my eyes. Just thinking about how those men treated the women in their life is unbearable. Not only did they abuse them physically, but mentally. One of the main characters began talking to God through prayer and poems asking for guidance. After reading this book I was definitely realized how blessed I am. Not to mention how easy to words are. Although, you may have to go back and reread a couple of line in order to understand exactly which character is doing what. Once you start reading it is hard to put down. I will definitely read it again.
Cloud14 More than 1 year ago
I loved it and read it during every free moment I had. You feel bad for the main character as she lives on in her miserable life but you'll wait patiently for her to gain her courage and make decisions that make her happy. I'd love to reread this book and look at the symbolism found throughout the book that I most likely missed. Not a tear jerker but very moving.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was required to read this book as a part of my humanities literature course at IUP, and at first, I wasn't so sure. I hadn't enjoyed either of the previous novels we had read, so I wasn't sure if this one was going to be any different, but it really was worth reading. Once I began, I found myself zipping through the pages wanting to know what happend to Celie next. The fact that the novel was set up in letters made it easier to read. Although the dialogue was difficult to understand at first, I found myself finding it easier and easier to read as I went on. Amazing book, and I would definitely reccommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a literature class to take and at first i was skeptical because i was obligated to read it. Adapting to the southern dialect took a few chapters but once i began to fully comprehend the lingo i really started to enjoy the book. For those that did or do not understand the opression of females in the early 1900's this book is a real eye opener. It takes you on a journey through celie's eyes all the hardships she encounters and how she continually manages to overcome them is a true test of charecter. This story is mostly sad and could be percieved as inappropriate at times but overall it is a real page turner. this is one book that i definately do not regret having read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even though this story is written in letter format, it is still a pretty slow read. The grammer is hard to understand, and just plain confusing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dear God... The opening line in a book of self discovery and growth. Celie the main character in this book, takes on the responsiblility of taking care of her younger siblings at the age of 14. As she grow she is given to a man known as Mr. ____ who beats her and forces her to take care of his god awful children. She thinks of herself as nothing more than a slave in "her own home." On Celie's walk of life she meets a woman named Shug Avery. Shug is a traveling preformer and a very independent woman. She teaches Celie how to stand up for herself and learn how to live. The Color Purple is a very well written book and comes to all its readers highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Its a good book once you can handle all the damn slang and ebonics, im not hating i just couldnt understand half of what they were saying, but it was worthwhile
Anonymous 8 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Color Purple-Alice Walker-Drama-Classic The Color Purple is a story of two sisters living in a time of slavery and poverty. The first sister Celici is the first one to marry and she is married to Mr.____. Celici is a slave and she and her husband are in a terrible relationship. Her sister Nettie leaves to be a missionary in Africa. Nettie tries and struggles to show the people the ways of the christian church, the people do not take this information, but are grateful for the work that the missionaries do for them. Nettie writes to Celici, but Mr._____ hides the letters and prevents Celici from reading them. The singer Shrug, know for causing husbands to cheat on their wives, ill, and is child like at times, lives with Celici for a long time. Shrug becomes ill and stays with Celici, who knows that Mr.____ is cheating on her with. Celici helps bring Shrug back to good health. Shrug discovers the letters and gives them to Celici. Celici eventually escaped slavery and then starts a custom pants business that is very successful. The book is written in a very unique style, its written in letters and prayers to God. Nettie went to school longer and so her english skills are much better, while Celici’s english is not up to par. When Celici’s side of the story is told it is written with poor grammar and spelling, almost with an accent. Nettie has perfect english and it is easily told when reading her letters. I enjoyed the book, it is very different and the story brings many thinking points. During the book Shrug brings this energy that the rest of the characters have never seen before. Shrug represents all these desires that the rest of the characters have. She made me think. The book also related to my beliefs and experiences through my religion and my experience going on a mission trip. I would recommend this book because of its historical value. It causing one to think about what they would do in the situation. The characters are well described and help express the time as well. The book is also a classic and should be read by everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A deeper understanding of the relationship between the ex and the wife