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On the attached handout are questions to guide your reading of

The Color Purple

. The questions follow the same order as the narrative with two exceptions: 2 questions are asked in the beginning for which support will come from throughout the narrative; a few questions about the story overall are included at the end. Some questions reference the letters by numbers. To identify which letter is referred to, start with the first letter in the book as Letter 1, and count forward.


Jot down your answers to each question as you read the book. You do not need to worry about grammar and punctuation or format – just express your responses clearly and where appropriate, support them with evidence from the text.

NAME: _________________________
Following are questions to guide your reading of The Color Purple. The questions follow the same order as
the narrative with two exceptions: 2 questions are asked in the beginning for which support will come from
throughout the narrative; a few questions about the story overall are included at the end. Some questions
reference the letters by numbers. To identify which letter is referred to, start with the first letter in the
book as Letter 1, and count forward.
Jot down your answers to each question as you read the book. You do not need to worry about grammar
and punctuation or format – just express your responses clearly and where appropriate, support them with
evidence from the text.
Complete all questions and turn in by our next class meeting on Tuesday, March 13th. You can submit by
email or turn in your paper copy in class that day.
This assignment is worth 25 points. Ten points will be deducted if the assignment is submitted past the due
date. The assignment will not be accepted after Thursday, March 15th.
1. Throughout the story, numerous references are made that illustrate the inequitable
treatment of men and women, the roles they play in society and in the home, and the
way men perceive women and their role and vice versa. The references may come in the
form of a statement from one of the characters, Celie’s observations, or actions and
decisions of the characters. Jot these references down as you read through the book.
2. Identify examples from Letters 1-50 where Celie looks to God, or refers to God as
protecting her
3. What is Celie’s father referring to when he tells Celie “You better not never tell nobody
but God. It’ll kill your mammy,”
4. What happens to Celie’s babies?
5. Why does Celie change her mind about whether Nettie should marry Mr. ____?
6. Why does Celie and Nettie’s father propose that Mr. ________ marry Celie instead of
Nettie?
7. Why does Mr. _______ marry Celie? How does he treat her? How do his children treat
her?
8. Who is Shug Avery and why do you think Celie is enamored with Shug’s picture?
9. In letter 10, Celie says “most times mens look pretty much alike to me” – why do you
think she feels that way?
10. Why was Celie “laughing like a fool” after Celie leaves the dry goods store?
11. Nettie goes to live with Celie and Mr. ___________ for a while – why does Mr. ___________
make Nettie leave?
12. When Kate takes Celie shopping for clothes, what does Celie mean when she thinks to
herself “I can’t remember being the first one in my own dress.”
13. Why does Celie accept the treatment she receives from Mr. __________?
14. In Letter 15 to God, what do you think is wrong with Mr. ____________?
15. In Letter 13, what do you think prompted Harpo to ask his father why he beats Celie?
16. How is Harpo and Sofia’s relationship different than Celie and Mr.’s?
17. Why does Celie tell Harpo to beat Sofia to keep her in line?
18. Letter 21 – why couldn’t Celie sleep?
19. Who or what gives Sofia her strength?
20. In letter 28, Celie says, referring to something she had been told, “this is hard to believe,
but sometime you hear new things everyday. Not me, you understand, but some folk do
say that.” Why does she say “not me”?
21. What causes Sofia and Harpo’s marriage to fail? How is the situation ironic?
22. When Celie sees Shug perform for the first time, she starts to cry. Why does she cry?
What does she realize?
23. What causes Celie to feel “the closest us ever felt” with Mr. ___________? What is uniting
them?
24. How does Shug feel about Celie?
25. How does Harpo react when Sofia visits his Jukejoint?
26. How did Sofia insult the Mayor’s wife? What happened to her as a result?
27. How does Sofia change after going to prison?
28. Why does Squeak go back to using her given name, Mary Agnes?
29. What do you think Squeak means when she sings “They calls me yellow like yellow be
my name, But if yellow is a name why ain’t black the same”
30. What did Sofia mean when she said “white folks is a miracle of affliction” as Celie writes
in Letter 45?
31. In letter 50 we learn about Mr. _______ and Shug’s past. How does Mr. _____ compare or
contrast with Harpo with respect to their relationships?
32. How does Celie start to change after she finds out that Mr. ___________ was hiding
Nettie’s letters for years?
33. What is the difference between the way Shug treats Celie and the way she had treated
Annie Julia? What changed about Shug that caused her to treat Celie different than she
had treated Annie Julia?
34. In letter 52, how does the Point of View from which the story is told change?
35. Why did Mr. ____________ keep Nettie’s letters from Celie?
36. How do Nettie’s letters contrast with Celie’s?
37. What do we find out about Celie’s children from Nettie?
38. In letter 73, how does the Point of View from which the story is told change?
39. What change do we see in Celie’s view on God in Letter 73?
40. What is the significance of the women all giggling together in Letter 74?
41. What do the pants that Celie sews symbolize?
42. How does Shug’s relationship with Germaine bring Celie and Mr. _____ to experience a
moment of closeness?
43. Who is the protagonist of the story? What is the protagonist’s goal(s) and what is the
obstacle(s) keeping him/her from achieving those goals?
44. What are the main conflicts in this story?
45. What do you believe is the climax of the story?
46. How does the story resolve (the resolution)?
47. Who is your favorite character and why?
48. Who is your least favorite character and why?
49. What is your interpretation of any underlying message about God and religion?
50. Draft a theme for The Color Purple.

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