SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIALS FOR COLOR PURPLE
Click on the link for a discussion of Segregation and Its Corrosive Effects in the Learning Guide to "A Force More Powerful."
Additional Discussion Questions:
Continued from the Learning Guide...
5. There were at least two occasions when Celie was tempted to kill Albert. In one, Shug came running and restrained her. In another, Sofia warned her not to hurt Albert because the law would come down on Celie and she'd suffer a fate similar to that of Sofia. Would Celie have been justified in killing Albert after what he had done to her? Should she have killed him? Suggested Response: As badly as Albert had treated Celie, he didn't deserve to die. A lot of Celie's anger at him was anger at men in general, particularly her step-father who had sexually abused her, taken her babies away, and then tried to abuse her little sister. In most situations, living well is the best revenge and that is exactly what Celie did. She went off with Shug and finished the process of remaking herself. Moreover, Albert still had in him the potential for redemption, as he did when he paid the immigration fees for Celie's children to return from Africa.
See Question #2 in the Learning Guide.
Themes and Ideas
See Questions 1, 3 & 4 in the Learning Guide.
6. Shug represents pride and freedom to Celie who comments that "Folks don't like nobody being too proud or too free." Yet this pride and freedom is highly admired by many people in the town, including both Albert and Celie. How can you account for this seeming contradiction? Suggested Response: Answers will vary. Students may posit that pride and freedom are always admired but can also be seen as a challenge to those people who lack these characteristics or who are in power. The risks involved in being proud and free in an oppressed culture sometimes bring out resentment.
7. Sofia is an important character whose change from feisty and strong to submissive and weak sends an important message. What is that message? Suggested Response: Sofia is willing to fight, even physically, against mistreatment. When she is jailed and suffers through years of separation from her family, thoroughly dominated by the mayor's wife, she reveals the consequence of risks taken by oppressed people when they try to assert themselves. The effect is to suppress resistance in the minds of all who see Sofia's suffering.
8. What encourages Sofia to regain her spunk to the point that family members declare that she has finally returned? Suggested Response: Sofia is reminded of the strength she once had when she listens to Celie declare herself no longer willing to live under Albert's cruel oppression. Celie's personal declaration of independence is especially important to Sofia since it was Celie who offered her kindness in the market when she first returned from jail. Sofia sees hope in Celie's decision to escape. Sofia says she "knows what it is like to want to sing and to have it beaten out of you."
9. The Olinka tribe in Africa, with whom Celie's children and her sister have been living, faces destruction with the coming of the road. Nettie writes that the white men in Africa are like whites at home who do not want black people to learn. What ideas can be found in this comment? Suggested Response: Responses will vary. Students may see that Africa is no refuge for oppressed blacks. They may see that oppression continues long after slavery has ended through economic exploitation and imperialism. Others may decide that learning is the best tool to use against oppression and that is the reason those in power do not want education to be widely available.
10. In the scenes of Africa and the Olinka culture, what attitude toward tribal culture and the African landscape is created in the viewer of the film? Suggested Response: There are many beautiful scenes of animals and expanses of land that create an aesthetically pleasing vision of Africa. The continent is thus romanticized. The music and beauty of the Olinka people is pleasing as well and this leads to regret that tribal culture is in decline.
11. The color purple becomes clear as a symbol when Shug tells Celie that God is displeased when you walk by a field and do not notice the purple flowers. What message is Shug trying to convey to Celie? Suggested Response: Celie has not been able to experience any pleasure in life and Shug demands that she notice the small things that make life beautiful. Shug tells Celie that everything, including the purple flowers, wants to be loved. She says, "Us sing and dance and holler just trying to be loved." The color purple comes to represent that longing to be loved, the beauty that love brings to life.
Characterization and Foils
12. The major character in this story is Celie. When a character serves to highlight characteristics of the main character by being different, that character is called a foils for the main character. How did the other characters in the story highlight features of Celie's character by being different? Suggested Response: Students will be able to find contrasts with Celie in most characers in the story. The two major contrasts are with Shug and Sofia. Shug represents independence and female sexuality. Sofia represents an aggressive assertiveness which is reckless and excessive. Celie needs to learn from each of these characters and in the end grows and develops her own synthesis of their characteristics by taking what suits her from each.
See also TWM's Discussion Questions for Use With any Film that is a Work of Fiction and TWM's guide to Lesson Plans Using Film Adaptations of Novels, Short Stories or Plays.
Social-Emotional Learning Discussion Questions
See Discussion Question #3 in the Learning Guide.
Question #8 above.
Discussion Questions Relating to Ethical Issues will facilitate the use of this film to teach ethical principles and critical viewing. Additional questions are set out below.
General Question: Did Sofia do the right thing when she knocked the major down after he slapped her? Suggested Response: There are various ways to respond to this question. One is that the mayor may deserve to be socked in the jaw. But it's not that simple. To be ethical, a decision must take into account the interests of all the stakeholders. One set of stakeholders were Sofia's children. They had a right to be raised by their mother. When Sofia allowed her temper to get the best of her, and hit a white man, she was not fulfilling her responsibilities as a mother. After she hit the mayor, she immediately knew that she was in trouble and screamed for her friend to take her children away from the scene so that they would not see the ugliness of what she knew was going to happen to her.
(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don't threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults and disagreements)
1. Certain characters treated Celie with respect. What was the effect on Celie of this treatment? Suggested Response: The fact that people like Shug, Sofia, and others treated Celie with respect enabled Celie to see that she deserved respect from everyone, particularly the men in her life. It enabled Celie to break out of the prison of abuse.
2. Give an example from real life of a person who changed when he or she was treated with respect or an example of how you would change if you were treated with respect. Suggested Response: For students who chose the second alternative, ask them why they are allowing someone else to determine how they behave. They should act that way now.
Bridges to Reading:
The novel, The Color Purple, by Alice Walker is excellent and is assigned reading in many high school English classes.
Links to the Internet:
The Color Purple has been adapted to a Broadway play which is now on national tour. Click here for the official website.
Selected Awards, Cast and Director:
Selected Awards: The film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards. Whoopi Goldberg won The Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Steven Spielberg won the Best Director Award given by the Directors Guild of America.
Featured Actors: Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey.
These Supplemental Materials were created by Mary Red Clay and James Frieden and were last updated on August 14, 2012
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