The Color Purple Discussion Questions



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The Color Purple

Discussion Questions

Letters 1-10





  1. In the second sentence of the first letter, Celie scratches out “I am” and then writes, “I have always been a good girl.” Why?

  2. What is Celie describing in the first chapter? Why is she sick? Why might her father be “good” to her mother now?

  3. Why does Celie say that God fathered and took her baby? What does this say about her relationship with her father?

  4. Why does Celie want her sister to marry an older man?

  5. How does Celie learn about Shug Avery? What does she think of her?

  6. What are the qualities that Celie’s father speaks of when he tries to marry her off to Mr. _______?

  7. What is Celie’s first day with her new family like?

  8. What happens when Celie and Mr. _______ go to town? Whom does Celie see?


Letters 11-21


  1. Why does Celie say, “she doesn’t know how to fight, she knows how to stay alive?” What is the difference? Give examples from Celie’s life thus far.

  2. What was Mr. _______’s first marriage like? How do Celie’s sisters-in-law treat her? What advice does Kate give Celie?

  3. What is Mr. _______’s occupation? What does he do?

  4. What are the circumstances under which Celie and Mr. _______ meet Sofia?

  5. What advice does Celie give Harpo to make Sofia mind him? What is the result?

  6. What does Sofia mean when she says, “A girl child ain’t safe in a family of men?” Give examples from the text.


Letters 22-43


  1. Why does Shug come to stay with Mr. _______ and Celie?

  2. When and how do Celie and Shug start to get along?

  3. Why doesn’t Mr. _______’s daddy like Shug?

  4. How does Harpo’s behavior change after he and Sofia begin to have physical fights? Why?

  5. What does Harpo do when Sofia leaves?

  6. What happens when Sofia comes to Harpo’s juke joint?

  7. How does Sofia wind up in jail?

  8. What was the plan to get Sofia moved from jail to a location closer to home? What was the result?


Letters 44-60


  1. What is Sofia’s life with the mayor like? What is the irony in the situation?

  2. What is the surprise Shug brings at Christmas? How does her relationship with Celie change?

  3. How did Shug refer to the blues? Why?

  4. How do Shug and Celie figure out that Nettie had been writing to Celie?

  5. Why was Shug so interested in Nettie? What do you think Shug’s feelings were about Nettie?

  6. What was the relationship between Shug and Albert? Why does she feel as though she no longer knows him?

  7. Where do Celie and Shug find Nettie’s letters? What do they do with them?

  8. Why hasn’t Celie heard from Nettie since she left? What happened between Nettie and Mr. _______?

  9. Where did Nettie go when she left Mr. _______ and Celie?

  10. What is the relationship of the people Nettie lives with to her and Celie?

  11. What event is foreshadowed by Nettie’s letter about Corrine and Samuel being missionaries?

  12. By what circumstance was Nettie able to go to Africa? What did she learn from reading about Africa?

  13. How did Miss Beasley make is possible for Nettie to learn even when she wasn’t in school?

  14. What does Nettie reveal to Celie about Olivia and Adam?

  15. What did Nettie learn while she was in New York? How does Harlem differ from the South?

  16. What language does Nettie learn to speak when preparing to go to Africa?

  17. How do white missionaries view the African people? How does Nettie view her work with African people?

  18. How did Nettie get to Africa? Where did they stop along the way? Describe her voyage.

  19. How does Nettie characterize the people of Africa? What do you think about this?

  20. What did Nettie think of Senegal and its people?

  21. What did she think of Monrovia? Why did the presidential palace of Monrovia resemble the White House?

  22. What is Celie’s reaction to Nettie’s letters? How does Shug reason with Celie?

  23. How does Shug distract Celie from her grief and give her something productive to do? What do you do when something is bothering you? How do you keep your mind off it?

Letters 61-69


  1. Why does Celie worry about her children’s intelligence? Is this a rational fear?

  2. How were Nettie and the other missionaries welcomed to the village? What can you discern about the culture of the Olinka’s from this passage?

  3. Why do you think the Olinka’s believed that girls should not be educated? Why didn’t whites in the South think African Americans should be educated? How are these reasons similar?

  4. What did the Olinka think about American women? Was that an accurate view at the time? What does this say about the condition of Olinka women?

  5. Why doesn’t Nettie like the Olinka’s attitude toward slavery? Why did Nettie want them to take some responsibility for the slave trade? Elaborate.

  6. Why was an English rubber factory building a road in Africa? From what international policy did this result?

  7. Describe the conversation between Coreen and Nettie in Letter 66. What does Coreen suspect? Why would she think this? How did her suspicions affect her behavior?

  8. What did Samuel tell Nettie about her family? How does this change the lives of Nettie and Celie?

  9. Why does Celie say that God “must be sleep?” What does she mean?


Letters 70-82


  1. What does Nettie mean when she says that “the hurt we cause others unknowingly…is a terrible thing?” Give examples from the book of how someone caused pain to someone else unknowingly. How have you seen this in your own life?

  2. What situation was rectified before Coreen died?

  3. Why has Celie stopped writing to God? How could the events of her life have caused her to lose her faith in God?

  4. What does Shug think about God? Religion? Are God and religion the same thing? Explain.

  5. What does Celie think about God?

  6. What is discussed during the family dinner at Odessa’s house?

  7. Mr. _______ tells Celie, “You black, you poor, you ugly, you a woman. Goddam, he say, you nothing at all.” Is Mr. _______ right? Why or why not?

  8. How was Shug’s dream house similar to Nettie’s house in Africa? Why would the author make the two women in Celie’s life similar? What are other similarities?

  9. How does Shug help Celie find something productive to do? What is the result?

  10. When Celie left Mr. _______ she cursed him. How did her curse come to fruition?

  11. What did “Jared Hunt” tell Nettie and Samuel about her treatment by Africans?

  12. Why did she choose to live in Africa?

  13. What does Alice Walker relate about Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College) in the book? Why would she include this information?

  14. Why is Adam so upset? What has changed when they return to the village?

  15. Under what circumstances does Celie acquire a house of her own? What does she do with it?


Letters 83-90

  1. Who breaks Celie’s heart? How?

  2. In Letter 85, what bad news adds to Celie’s distress over Shug?

  3. How do Celie and Mr. _______ finally resolve their relationship?

  4. How does Celie’s store change the lives of the women around her?

  5. What American tradition with African roots will Celie have to celebrate Nettie’s return?

  6. What other survivals of African culture have you discovered while reading this book?



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