The Color Purple

A Novel By Alice Walker, A Film By Steven Spielberg

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Key Differences

While there were various differences between the book and the movie, some of the most important are as follows:

  • The book opens with a harsh scene of Celie being violated by her own father while the movie begins with Celie and Nettie happily playing a in a field of flowers -- this illustrates how the novel was much more vulgar and provocative than the film
  • Celie and Shug Avery's relationship was not as intense or passionate in the movie as it was in the novel -- another way in which Spielberg toned down the risqué nature of Walker's story
  • Celie's father primarily attacks her verbally in the film while he mainly physically assaults her in the novel -- Spielberg once again limits the amount of visible violence seen in the movie by displaying more fights with words than he does with fists
  • As for point-of-view, the book is told completely through Celie's letters that she sends and receives while the film shows scenes that Celie wasn't directly a part of -- this allows the viewer to witness more than just what Celie sees, hears, and experiences
  • Squeak, Harpo's girlfriend after Sofia leaves, plays a more prominent role in the novel than she does in the movie -- this adaptation highlights one of the main themes that women should be submissive and not given nearly as much respect as men are
  • Nettie's description of her adventures in Africa differ between the book and the film -- not all of Nettie's stories are included in the movie because Celie's story is the main focus
  • Celie and Shug have a deep and meaningful conversation about God in the novel but this scene does not occur in the film -- Spielberg left out quite a few other bits and pieces regarding religion
  • Many relationships are left out of the movie -- Harpo and Sofia eventually remarry, Nettie and Samuel get married after Corrine dies, Adam and Tashi fall in love in Africa, Celie and Mr. ______ ultimately make peace with each other, Miss Millie's daughter and Sofia become friends, Shug has an affair with Germaine (all of these relationships were present in the novel but not in the film)

Key Similarities

Spielberg stayed true to Walker's story for the most part and some of the major similarities include:

  • Celie's letters played a major role in developing the storyline -- she writes to God because she feels no one else cares enough for her to listen
  • Both of the children that Celie has with her father are taken away by him -- highlights the idea that women are to be submissive
  • Celie is given away to Mr. ______ -- emphasizes the objectification of women
  • The shopkeeper is very racist towards the black people in the store -- another form of oppression, but an entire race instead of gender is forced to feel inferior
  • Nettie is forced to leave Celie and Mr. ______'s farm after she resists his advances on her -- another time when women are punished for not obeying men
  • Harpo and Sofia get married and he attempts to prove that he has the upper hand but fails miserably -- Sofia is the complete opposite of what a typical black woman in this setting is thought to be because she is very outspoken and strong
  • Celie and Shug become extremely close -- their unconventional and unusual friendship goes against the usual superior man-inferior woman relationship
  • Harpo and a friend turn his old house into a juke joint after Sofia leaves him -- illustrates the importance of music and entertainment during this time period
  • Sofia boldly declines Miss Millie's offer to be her maid and punches the mayor, landing her straight in jail -- another example of Sofia's surprisingly blunt and opinionated nature
  • Sofia is eventually released from jail only to become Miss Millie's maid -- ironically displays how her reward is nothing but a punishment after all
  • Miss Millie allows Sofia to be reunited with her children for one day -- emphasizes the strong bond women had with the children they raised
  • Shug and Celie discover all of Nettie's letters that Mr. ______ has been hiding -- reassures Celie that Nettie isn't really dead and gives her the motivation she needs to stand up to Mr. ______
  • Celie learns through Nettie's letters that she has gone to Africa on a mission trip with Corrine, the woman Celie ran into at the store long ago with the child Celie believed to be her own daughter, Samuel, and their two children, Olivia and Adam -- fate brought Nettie to her nieces that are really Celie's two children
  • Celie finally speaks her mind at the dinner table one evening where she insults and curses Mr. ______ -- this is only the beginning of Celie's new and independent life
  • Shug announces that Celie will be moving to Memphis with her and Grady -- the second step of Celie moving on without Mr. ______ holding her back
  • Celie discovers that her father has passed away so she inherits her parents land, farm, and house -- Celie now has property of her own and does not have to look after Mr. ______'s disrespectful kids and dirty home
  • Celie starts her own tailored pants business -- further emphasizes Celie's new independence and self-sufficiency
  • Nettie and Celie are finally reunited and Celie gets the opportunity to meet her children, Adam and Olivia -- illustrates the theme that good things come to those who wait

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Spielberg's Approach Towards The Story

What integral scene in the novel was removed from the film? How does this affect meaning?

A majority of the scenes that Spielberg left out of his film had to do with obscene and suggestive parts in the novel. By doing so, the extent to which women were abused and neglected is lessened in the movie because the audience doesn't get to see all of the horrendous and repulsive acts that Celie, Nettie, Sofia, and many other female characters experience.

Why might the director have approached the film the way he did? Is it for the betterment of the work?

Spielberg most likely took these parts out so that the film would be appropriate for a wider range of people. If he were to have accurately displayed all of those scenes, the movie probably wouldn't be anything less than R-rated. While the film is suitable for a decent amount of ages, it kind of takes away from the novel's emphasis on the cruel treatment of women.


For the most part, most critics agreed that both the novel and film were meaningful, powerful, inspiring, sentimental, brilliant, and so on. All in all, they believed it was a superb story.

As for the novel, critics praised Alice Walker for being experienced and learned in the field of novels about race, gender roles, oppression, and independence because it made the story believable. They also said that some readers might be put off at the beginning because of Celie's narrow view of the world and her uneducated, naive dialect but the voice makes the story more realistic and convincing.

Taking the film into consideration, some critics felt that the movie was overrated or that Spielberg wasn't the best choice to direct such a story but they did agree that the actors and actresses provided outanding performances.

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