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Thursday, July 15, 2010

"The Color Purple" Read-a-long: Discussion Questions

The Color Purple (Anniversary)Welcome to the discussion portion of THE COLOR PURPLE read-a-long. Feel free to participate or not, whatever you prefer.

If you’d like to join in the discussion, choose a few questions that interest you and answer them in a post on your blog or in the comment section. If you post on your blog, be sure to leave a link in the comments so we can check out your responses. (You may want to subscribe to the comments so you can keep up with the discussion.)

Do you have a question you’d like to ask the group? Post it in the comments and I’ll add it to the top of the list.

As a reminder, Nicole will recap the read-a-long at the end of the month and you’ll be invited to link to your review of the book then.

  • Submit them in the comments and I’ll add them here.

  • What was your perception of this book coming into thee read-a-long? Had you read it before? Seen the movie? Always meant to read/watch it? Did your initial perception influence your read-a-long experience?
  • For new readers: Was the book what you expected it to be? What DID you expect?
  • For rereaders: Did your opinion on the book change after reading it again? In what way?
  • How do you feel in general about epistolary novels (books told through letters)? Did this format influence your enjoyment of this book in any way? Do you think the story would have had the same impact if it were not told solely through letters? What other epistolary novels have you read? Did they work for you or did the format detract from the book?
  • Do Celie’s letters to God and her letters to Nettie have a different feel to them or do they seem the same? What do you think of Celie’s habit of ending her letters to Nettie with “Amen”?
  • Why do you think Celie’s husband hid Nettie’s letters rather than destroying them? Does this choice say anything about who he is as a person?
  • Are there any parts of the book that moved you? Which ones stand out in your mind? Why?
  • Are there any parts of the book that haunt you? Which parts? Why?
  • What is the significance of the title? Why do you think the author chose to use that title? What is so special about the color purple?
  • Is the story believable to you? Why or why not? Does believability matter to you in a “real-life” type book?

ABOUT THE MOVIE (for those who have seen it)
  • How does the book compare to the movie? Was the movie a good adaptation? Did the parts that were left out make a big difference or was the movie a success without them?
  • Did the actors fit the images you had of them from the book? If you watched the movie before reading the book, did the actors match the descriptions given by the author?

QUESTIONS FROM THE PUBLISHER, found at Reading Group Choices and LitLovers
  • In Celie’s first letter to God, she asks for a sign to let her know what is happening to her. Discuss the way confusion and deception become powerful tools for those characters who want to take advantage of Celie. Unravel the layers of lies that are told to her throughout the novel, perhaps making lists that compare the fiction she is expected to believe with the truth about her world. These can be concrete (Celie’s impression that Pa is too poor to provide properly for her, and the later realization that he had more resources than he ever lets on) or abstract (the assertion that Celie is unintelligent, though she demonstrates constant intelligence in planning for her safety and that of her sister). […] When in [your] life has the truth set [you] free?
  • What is the effect of not knowing Albert’s last name? In early novels, it was not uncommon for authors to use a blank in place of a character’s name, to create the illusion that the character was someone the reader might know—someone whose identity had to be kept secret. What does it mean that Celie must call her husband Mr. ____? When does she at last begin calling him by his first name?
  • Why does Albert tell Harpo to begin beating his wife, Sofia? Why is it so important to Harpo that his wife have no will of her own? Is his relationship with Squeak (Mary Agnes) fulfilling? What do these scenes tell us about the nature of abusive cycles? Is cruelty something that is taught—something that is unnatural? In your opinion, what does it take for someone (male or female) to deserve true respect?
  • Just as Celie grew up being told she was inferior, Shug Avery was always told she was evil. What are your impressions of Shug, from the photo Celie sees early on, to the end of the novel, when Celie and Albert have united in their devotion to Shug? What does Shug teach Celie about being loved, and about finding one’s true self? What price does Sofia pay for being her true self?
  • What does it take for Celie to finally reach her boiling point and reject oppression?
  • What is Celie’s opinion of Grady and his haze of addiction?
  • Why is it difficult for Shug to commit to the people who love her? In what ways does Shug bring both pleasure and heartache to them?
  • Nettie’s life with Corrine and Samuel gives her the first semblance of a healthy family life she has ever known, but Corrine’s jealousy taints this. Only the memory of that crucial early scene, when Celie lays eyes on her daughter at the store, absolves Nettie just before Corrine dies. The Color Purple brims with these intricate turns of plot. List the seemingly minor scenes that turn out to be pivotal in the lives of the characters.


Regina said...

I'm very excited about this read-along! I'll ponder these questions and post back soon!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I'm coming to this from the perspective of being a completely new reader. Even though I was really young when the book came out I seem to remember that it was controversial when it first made its appearance on the scene. I thought it was a beautiful book, so I'm not quite sure why that is, but maybe at the time we were a less forthcoming society in reading and writing about abuse and/or women exploring their sexuality.

Heather I loved reading through all the questions and it is fascinating to look at my reactions to both sets of questions. I had a lot of the same questions that you had, and I can't wait to hear more of what you thought of the book.

I loved the way all of the relationships evolved over time. Most of these characters were literally not able to runaway from their circumstances and they had to come to know each other in a different ways in order to change and to start to find peace with themselves. That aspect of the book made me think a lot.

Anna said...

I just started re-reading the book today (my bad). Hopefully I'll have a chance to answer these soon.

Dreamybee said...

Wow, the summer is going by quickly! This totally snuck up on me. I will try to get a copy of this soon and read a long with you.

Welcome back-looks like you had fun in CA!

Donna said...

I'm halfway through the book; but I have seen the movie a few times. I thought one of the questions I could address before completing the book was the one about Albert's last name. . Here's my post; and it contains spoilers. I'm trying to finish reading it by tomorrow; and I might try to answer another question before I do my actual review.

Heather J. said...

Regina – Great! I look forward to your review!

Nicole – I don’t remember this book when it first came out – in fact, I thought it was much older than it actually is. And your comment about not being able to run away … wow, I didn’t think about it like that, but it is very true.

Anna – Thanks for joining us! I’m sure you’ll get through it quickly.

Dreamybee – I hope you can get a copy quickly – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Donna – I just read your answer and it was a great one! Thanks for chiming in.

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