Color Purple - More than Meets the Eye

Essay by atstdtftUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, June 2004

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The Color Purple - More Than Meets the Eye

The bitter legacy of American race relations - birthed by slavery, worsened by segregation and institutionalized by culture - is not without hope, a radiant sense that, within the collective rage of an entire group's forced servitude, there is also the strength - the heroism and personal triumph, if you will - to stand squarely upon the soil and proclaim, "No more!" Alice Walker, a gifted novelist with a keen appreciation of the black experience, articulates this sense of freedom and its female identity with passion and integrity. "The Color Purple" is thus Walker's declaration of independence: a feminist's interpretation of spiritual identity, love, family and redemption -- an infusion of American optimism for a people and a person too often denied the promise of the law's protection and the respect of mankind's dignity. Combined with Steven Spielberg's interpretative genius, the film version of Walker's novel is a visual testament - a different realization, to be sure - of the South, liberty and simple decency.

The most striking difference between Walker's imagery and Spielberg's film adaptation is, like many other projects converted for the cinema, an issue of degree and observational fact. That is, a novel's power rests upon its verbal subtlety and personal communication, the ability to absorb various symbols without overt suggestion or blatant emphasis. Spielberg avoids many of these "mistakes" (or more pedestrian errors) by embracing his own brand of directorial diction -- a cast outfitted with authentic clothing and made to recite Southern drawl with a believability that makes Walker's novel seem more like an extended script than a piece of literature. But the differences between Spielberg's film and Walker's novel deserve closer inspection.

Perhaps the film's greatest difference is its cursory examination of Celie's...