the color purple book vs. movie

Discussing The Color Purple by Alice Walker & Comparing Book vs. Movie

Hi, friends. Today’s classic is well-known due to its major film adaptation. I’ll explain some background about the book and discuss my reaction to the film version.

Classics: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

the color purple alice walker

The Color Purple (1982) is the story of a young American black girl (in the 1930’s) growing into a woman, told through her letters to God. She experiences heart-wrenching hardships from the start; as an adolescent, she is impregnated twice by her father, and as a young lady, she is forced to marry a hardened, cruel man. Because Celie’s husband acts predatory towards her sister Nettie, Nettie is obligated to move away from the area. Thus, Celie is left alone with an abusive husband and endless work between caring for the man’s children and keeping up the household. Her life seems hopeless, though she still addresses her letters to God.

Soon enough, an ex-lover of Celie’s husband comes to town and stays in their home. Shug Avery is a renowned singer with an unabashed, infectious quality about her. Oddly enough, Shug plays a big-sister-esque, nurturing role for Celie, and as the two grow closer, Celie begins a slow process of feeling human again–experiencing love and regaining self-worth. [Celie even forms a sort of crush on Shug because Shug is one of the only people to ever care for and encourage her.]

Sub-plots are interwoven throughout the novel with family members of the husband and others who live around them. Societal power dynamics due to skin color is the major theme of these sub-plots, and as with Celie’s story, the powerlessness of black women at that point in history is a particular focus.

Comparing the Book to the Movie

The film version, directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1985, holds a score of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film stars Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey. The critical consensus reads, “A sentimental tale that reveals great emotional truths in American history.” I personally enjoyed the film, though I am unlikely to return to it more than occasionally due to its emotional heaviness.

With basically any film adaptation, details of the original story must be trimmed because of time constraints. With that said, I feel that the writers behind the film version used good discretion with the parts they included/excluded. Celie’s main storyline and even most of the sub-plots are faithfully portrayed.

The film adaptation leaves out a large portion of the novel where Nettie writes letters to Celie detailing her life since leaving home. I feel it was wise to exclude this portion of the novel from the film because the long digressions would slow down the film and seem unnecessary to the overall story. The filmmakers also wisely curbed some of what I can only term “weirdness” from the story, such as a bizarre conversation between Celie and Shug about the true nature of God.

Fun Facts About the Book

Alice Walker

The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983, making Alice Walker the first black woman to win the prize.

The title refers to an exchange where Shug asks Celie if she takes the time to notice the little things God does to show love for us. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it,” Shug says.

The novel has been adapted to a movie, a Broadway musical, and a fifteen-episode radio broadcast.

The novel has been frequently banned or challenged over the years for sexual explicitness, explicit language, violence, and homosexuality.

Thanks for reading! Have you read the book or seen the movie? Let me know in the comments.

17 comments

  1. You did a good job on reviewing the movie. No, I hadn’t read the book, but loved the movie. There is no way you could watch that movie without feeling sorry for Ms Whoopi Goldburg. Too bad her real life and politics don’t reflect what she learned about the movie. In essence, great entertainment to learn about a sub-culture many years ago.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree with the last sentence that books/movies like these help educate us on cultures or societies from the past. I don’t know much about Goldberg in real life, but I seem to like actors less any time I read what they are like in real life, so I try to ignore celebrities, haha. Thanks for the kind words, Tom.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I appreciated both the book and the film. Incest, spousal abuse, misogyny and promiscuity are hard subjects but subjects that invade every socioeconomic boundary of our society. There are many things that can be learned from Ms. Walker’s book and from Ms. Goldberg’s performance. Who is to say what Whoopi Goldberg learned from her portrayal? Only she and God knows that.
    Nice breakdown of the themes of tome and movie, Lilly. I agree with Shug, the color purple is one of God’s wonders. It’s special.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Appreciate your encouragement, Pam. I totally agree with your first couple sentences that those hard subjects do tragically invade every socioeconomic boundary. I do wonder what actors take away from extremely emotional portrayals. If I can hardly watch certain scenes, how does it feel to be an actor in those scenes?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can speak to you from experience, Lilly as I was an aspiring actor at one time. I never got beyond the aspiring part, but it is experience nonetheless. For me, it was acting–even though I was trained primarily in the method philosophy. There were a precious few times, when that wall of self blended with the character and there was an out of body experience, but for me, it only lasted for the duration of the scene. The moment I walked backstage, I was myself again and I was glad. So for me, it did not impact me, whatever character I was playing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for reviewing. At first I thought I would like to read the book but I’m very careful about the books I read. My books are collected also for my children since I’m a homeschooling mom. Being abused and experiencing incest throughout my young life I know the struggle and the road to healing is long. But God’s love is powerful. I always feel these stories lack in that truth! God bless you. You have a new follower ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can see why you would hesitate on reading this one with kids at home–it’s definitely heavy and also provocative. You make a good point that stories about struggle often don’t put enough emphasis on how God helps us through our trials when we turn to Him! I’m sorry to hear you went through some of these struggles but am glad to see you still turn to the Lord. Thanks for reading this post and following me! ♥

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have never read the book but I loved the movie and have watched it several times. It’s not a kid movie but I think all adult should see it. I grew up in an abusive home so I applauded when she left her husband and found her sister. By the way my mother had your illness. She was in her 50 when they correctly diagnosed it. she lived till she was 89. I will be back to gleam more from you.

    Liked by 1 person

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