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Race and Class in Alice Walker's Color Purple

Essay on Race and Class in The Color Purple

An important juncture in Alice Walker's The Color Purple is reached when

Celie first recovers the missing letters from her long-lost sister Nettie.

This discovery not only signals the introduction of a new narrator to this

epistolary novel but also begins the transformation of Celie from writer to

reader. Indeed, the passage in which Celie struggles to puzzle out the

markings on her first envelope from Nettie provides a concrete illustration

of both Celie's particular horizon of interpretation and Walker's chosen

approach to the epistolary form:

Saturday morning Shug put Nettie letter in my lap. Little fat queen of

England stamps on it, plus stamps that got peanuts, coconuts, rubber trees

and say Africa. I don't know where England at. Don't know where Africa at

either. So I stir don't know where Nettie at. (102)

Revealing Celie's ignorance of even the most rudimentary outlines of the

larger world, this passage clearly defines the "domestic" site she occupies

as the novel's main narrator.(1) In particular, the difficulty Celie has

interpreting this envelope underscores her tendency to understand events in

terms of personal consequences rather than political categories. What

matters ab...

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Shelton, Frank W. "Alienation and Integration in Alice Walker's The Color Purple." CLA Journal 28 (1985): 382-92.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. "Explanation and Culture: Marginalia." Humanities and Society 2 (1974): 201-21.

Stade, George. "Womanist Fiction and Male Characters." Partisan Review 52 (1985): 264-70.

Tate, Claudia. Domestic Allegories of Political Desire: The Black Heroine's Text at the Turn of the Century. New York: Oxford UP, 1992.

Tompkins, Jane. Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction. New York: Oxford UP, 1985.

Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Harcourt, 1982.
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