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Posted on August 17th, 2012, by

The Color Purple is a famous novel by Alice Walker. Later Steven Spielberg shot a movie based on the novel. The movie and the novel have a lot in common. Both, the film and the novel give shockingly true depiction of the position of African American women in the American Society in 1990s. At the same time the movie and the book have some significant differences.

The novel belongs to the most controversial novels of our time. The book provoked a lot of controversy after it was published in 1982. A year later, the book got the Pulitzer Price. Alice   Walker explores many important and controversial themes in her novel. She shows racial conflicts and discrimination, poor position of African American women attitude of the society to the problems described. The novel also explores the themes of lesbian relations and family violence and abuse. Celie, the protagonist of the story, has to go through all kind of misfortunes and humiliations only because of her African American origin and low social standing. Alice Walker explores such difficult themes as child abuse and abuse of African American women.  Celie and her sister Nettie are totally dependant on other people. They both cannot make the choice of their own and have to follow the will of other people. Celie has to make a long path before she finally gets confidence in herself and takes control over her life.

Celie is fascinated by free and independent women, such as Shug or Sophia, she meets in her life. Till these meetings Celie does not know that she can resist violence and abuse. She is an obedient and passive victim of he step father and later her husband. Woman and her free spirit help her to realize her true self and gain forces to resist people who mistreat her.

African American women were in really poor position during the time described. In addition to racial discrimination which was present in the society they lived they also experienced sexual discrimination and abuse from men and this is vividly depicted in both, the novel and the film.  African American girls and women were the least defended citizens of the American society. As well as men, they experienced abuse from white men and women but, in addition, had to stand much violence and humiliation from black men as well. After Alice Walker’s book was published it was sharply criticized for controversial depiction of African American men. In the book they are depicted like cruel and self-confident creatures who abuse women and do not care about anything but themselves. The theme of lesbian love deeply investigated in the novel also has become an object of criticism. Love affair between Shug and Celie is an important component of the plot. This love becomes that uniting factor which helps abused women to unite their efforts and gain confidence in themselves. This love shows Celie a new way of life and helps her to discover her sexuality. However, Celie’s lesbian relations and her bisexual nature stays in the shadow in the film.

These relations are practically non-existent. That is another meaningful difference with the book, as these are relations with Shug Avery that make Celie accept her sexuality and be able to resist aggresssion and social pressure.

The novel by Alice Walker was published in 1983 and only two years later in 1985 there was made a screen adaptation of the book. Steven Spielberg shot the film based on the book. As well as the book, the film provoked loud debated and controversy. Starring cast, such as Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey added new meanings to the movie. Loudly debated the movie was nominated for 11 Academy Awards but received none. The film touches almost all themes explored in the novel. At the same time Spielberg gave his interpretations of some events and added some new meanings to the novel. The themes of racism, family violence and poverty are depicted in a new light in the film.

One of the main themes in The Color Purple is Celie, the main character’s innocence and naïve attitude to life. The book starts from such words: I am fourteen years old. I have always been a good girl (Walker, 5). The opening scene depicts little girl, Celie, who is playing peacefully with her sister in the field. However, just in a couple of moments we get to know about the main heroine’s difficult fate in both, the book and the film. It goes without saying that Walker and Spielburg use different means to deliver the main message of their work. Bright imaginary is the main tool in any book and in any film, however, word and visual imaginary differs greatly. In the book, the author describes very thoroughly how the girl is raped and the power of world is so strong that we start feeling the pain this girl feels. On the contrary, in the film there is no scene of rape. Immediately we see Celie giving birth to her first child. It was a difficult birth for such a young mother and we also start sympathizing this girl in the film.

In the book we get to know that it was her father who raped her. Later she has two children, however, they are taken away from her. She was made to marry an old man who is an awful pair for her, Mr_. It is interesting to note that in the book Mister is reffered as Mr_ and instead of his name we can see only blank. One time Shug names him Albert and Celie expalins that she did not know his name. In the film, he is reffered as Albert practically all the time and one time we even see his surname on the mailbox Johnson. In the book this is a styllistic device that helps to create his image.

In the book we get to know fact after fact and we immediately realize what is happening. We feel the spirit of time in the book, while the main character is more lively and active in the film.  In the novel, in contrast to the film, the author shows Celie’s way from a patriarchal to the pantheism belief system in all details. It is an important difference because Celie’s religious development gives the key to the heroine’s individuality interpretation.

To sum up, Walker and Spielberg use different means to create a vivid image of the main character, Celie, and depict the spirit of the whole epoch of that time. The image of Celie differs a bit in the film and in the novel, however, in both cases we see how a weak abused Afro-American girl transfoms in a woman who is able to resist violence and agression around her.

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