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The Color Purple
SUBJECTS — Literature/U.S.; Literary Devices: motif, theme,
symbol, characterization; U.S./1865 - 1913, 1913 - 1929;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Breaking Out; Self-esteem;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Respect.
Age: 15+: MPAA Rating-PG-13; Drama; 1985; 154 minutes; Color.
English Language Arts classes: The novel is frequently assigned to students in high school English classes. Shown in conjunction with reading the book, the movie enables students to access difficult text and to conceptualize theme. Through comparison, students can learn how literary techniques such as symbolism, motif, theme, imagery, and characterization are applicable to film. This Learning Guide provides discussion questions and suggested assignments to assist in teaching these lessons.
Social Studies classes: The Color Purple will introduce students to aspects of the lives of African-Americans during the first decades of the 20th century. It will be helpful to round out units on the African-American experience. This Learning Guide focuses on the use of the movie in ELA classes.
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By reading or watching The Color Purple, students will learn about the cultural disparities that shaped the lives of African-Americans in the early 20th century. Most of the events in the story center upon associations among black people rather than the interaction between blacks and whites. It thus reveals African-American culture as more than a reaction to white oppression. Still, racial injustice is an important part of the film as is the triumph of the individual over oppression.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To give you a sense of how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers as lesson plans and by parents to supplement school curriculum or for homeschooling, we have set out below one of the discussion questions in the Learning Guide to The Color Purple.
Letters are an important motif repeatedly used in this film. The mailbox, with the name "Johnson" painted on its rusty side is shown several times throughout the film. The mail motif becomes a symbol when it is seen as having greater value than simply pointing toward theme. What is the symbolic value of the letters and the mailbox?
Suggested Response: The letters and the mailbox represent communication and contact with the outside world. They are a symbol of the necessity to express oneself in order to live fully. Albert holds back Nettie's letters from Celie, isolating the sisters from one another. This causes a deep loneliness in both women. The discovery of the letters brings hope as Celie learns that her sister is still alive and her children are with Nettie in Africa. The communication helps build the confidence Celie needs to break out of the restrictions and behavior patterns that hold her down.
The Learning Guide to the film The Color Purple contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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