Below you will find three outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “The Color Purple” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for “The Color Purple” offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “The Color Purple”at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: “The Color Purple” as an Epistolary Novel
The Color Purple is a novel that unfolds in a series of letters and diary entries, and as such, it is an epistolary novel. What do you see as the advantages and challenges of such a structure in general, and for this novel in particular? Consider notions such as the establishment of intimacy, credibility, and trust between the narrator / writer and the reader of “The Color Purple”. Also consider how this format allows Celie to tell her story in her own reliable voice, uninterrupted by the oppressive men in her life. How might “The Color Purple” have been different had it not been written in the form of letters and diary entries?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Vulgarity and Violence in “The Color Purple”
From the very first page of The Color Purple, the reader is confronted with intense images, strong words, and morally difficult concepts. What are the purposes and functions of vulgarity and violence in The Color Purple? Are they gratuitous or “too much", or is it important for the reader to learn even the most difficult details of the characters’ lives in order to fully comprehend their situations? What, if anything, might Alice Walker be trying to relate about the world she creates in “The Color Purple” and what might her intentions be by making the reader uncomfortable?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Significance of Shug Avery
Who is Shug Avery and why is she such a compelling character, especially to Celie? What does she represent initially, and how does that first impression change over the course of the novel? Out of all the characters in “The Color Purple” she is perhaps your best bet for a character analysis or character map. A character analysis of Celie might also be a good essay topic as well. Celie maintains narrative control, yet for much of the novel she has no real voice or agency in her relationships. How does Celie develop as a character with greater depth, complexity, and authority over the course of the novel? What events, experiences, and people help transform her into the person she becomes by the novel’s conclusion?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Philosophy of “The Color Purple”
Towards the end of the novel, the significance of the title, The Color Purple, is revealed during a moving conversation between Shug and Celie (see pages 199-204). How does the philosophy of the color purple, as explained to Celie by Shug, affect Celie’s life from that moment forward? How does it affect your life as the reader? Can this abstract lesson be useful for the difficult realities of these women’s lives? Why or why not?
** For more information about other works by Alice Walker, visit the PaperStarter entry for another of Walker’s works, “Everyday Use” **
This list of important quotations from “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “The Color Purple” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned. All quotes from “The Color Purple” contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker they are referring to.
“I don’t even look at mens. That’s the truth. I look at women, tho, cause I’m not scared of them." (6)
“I take out the picture of Shug Avery. I look into her eyes. Her eyes say Yeah, it bees that way sometime." (9)
“I don’t say nothing. I think bout Nettie, dead. She fight, she run away. What good it do? I don’t fight, I stay where I’m told. But I’m alive." (22)
“Harpo ast his daddy why he beat me. Mr. ____ say, Cause she my wife. Plus, she stubborn. All women good for—he don’t finish. He just tuck his chin over the paper like he do. Remind me of Pa." (23)
“Shug Avery standing upside a piano, elbow crook, hand on her hip….Her mouth open showing all her teef and don’t nothing seem to be troubling her mind…. Lord, I wants to go so bad. Not to dance. Not to drink. Not to play card. Not even to hear Shug Avery sing. I just be thankful to lay eyes on her." (26)
“What you do when you git mad? She ast. I think. I can’t even remember the last time I felt mad, I say. I used to git mad at my mammy….Then I see how sick she is. Couldn’t stay mad at her. Couldn’t be mad at my daddy….Bible say, Honor father and mother no matter what." (43-44)
“Listen, God love everything you love—and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration….Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it." (203)
“Who you think you is? he say. You can’t curse nobody. Look at you. You black, you pore, you ugly, you a woman. Goddam, he say, you nothing at all." (213)
“You ast yourself one question, it lead to fifteen. I start to wonder why us need love. Why us suffer. Why us black. Why us men and women. Where do children really come from. It didn’t take long to realize I didn’t hardly know nothing. And that if you ast yourself why you black or a man or a woman or a bush it don’t mean nothing if you don’t ast why you here, period." (289-290)
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident." (290)
Reference: Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. New York: Pocket Books, 1982.