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The Color Purple
The Color Purple
THE COLOR PURPLE, by Alice Walker
Alice Walker's most famous work, THE COLOR PURPLE (1982), takes the form, unusual in modern-day Western literature, of an epistolary novel. The story is told in letters, many of them addressed to God by the novel's protagonist, Celie, a young black girl in rural Georgia. As the story begins, Celie is 14 years old. Poor and uneducated, she is abused and impregnated by her father. Forced to marry a much older man, she is subject to further injury at the hands of her new husband. The novel charts Celie's progress to self-empowerment and independence. Central to her development is the affair she enters into with her husband's mistress, Shug Avery. Though THE COLOR PURPLE was an enormous popular success, it inspired complaints that it dwelled too heavily on misogyny and male pathology within the African-American community while relatively discounting the effects of racism. The novel, which describes rituals of female circumcision and facial scarring and includes many other details of sex and violence, has also repeatedly been the target of censorship efforts in school libraries and other institutions. There is little controversy, however, about the book's emotional power: it is among the most affecting works of late-20th-century American literature.

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The American Novel