The Reflection Of Social Context In The Color Purple By Alice Walker

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer


The term ‘Context’ refers to the social, cultural and the historical events which took place. The Social context is an important aspect in a novel as it helps in reflecting an historical event and other aspects like the social environment and the socio cultural context. The social context also reflects the time around which the author wrote the novel and also these aspects help or enable the readers to understand the narrative piece. Most of the events in the novel are centered after the Slavery act of America and even after slavery life was miserable for the African-Americans. The research paper mainly focuses on the events which are reflected after the slavery act, the social environment and also the plight and difficulties faced by the protagonist during the early 20th century.


The National Award Winning Novel published in the year 1982 was highly recognized for its fiction. It was also one of the most challenged novels and was highly criticized on the basis of violence and its sexual content. The author highlights the events after the Abolition of the Slavery Act in the year 1865. The African Americans witnessed a huge transformation in their world after the abolition of the slavery act. They had the most difficult time back in the early 20th century facing the harsh brutalities of life such as whippings, sexual assaults, the selling and the forcible relocation of the family members, and the denial of education. The above realities are widely seen in the novel when most of the women characters exposed to such acts in the novel. Indeed life proved to be hard for the African Americans as the dominance of the White race over the Black race still persisted. Black codes was the law initiated after the slavery act which granted certain legal rights to the blacks such as the right to marry and the right to own property but they were certain drawbacks as certain aspects of the act were illegal. Though they were liberated they were in desperation. Alice Walker’s fiction novel is mostly centered on the life of African American women but it also deals with certain aspects such as the economic enterprises during the early 20th century and the also the constant dominance of the white prejudice over the black prejudice.

The Dominance of White’s Over the Black’s

The African Americans faced several difficulties during the time of Slavery. They witnessed a drastic change in their lives even after the Abolition of the Slavery Act of 1865. Black codes was the law initiated after the slavery act which granted certain legal rights to the blacks such as the right to marry and the right to own property but they were certain drawbacks as certain aspects of the act were illegal as the blacks were prevented to serve on juries, take action against the whites and also were not allowed to serve in state militias and opposing the act would land them in prison. Even though liberated they were exposed to harsh realities of life. Racism was widely seen as several conflicts arised as it elicited hatred and distrust. Victimisation and Racial Discrimination is widely seen Alice Walkers novel.

One such instance is seen in the novel ‘The Color Purple’ when Sofia is out to enjoy the day with her new boyfriend she fights against the white mayor as the wife of the mayor insults Sofia and her children. The White’s never got along the Black’s. The character Sofia in the novel is considered to be an exception as she is portrayed as a rebel as she goes against the oppression of both the black’s and the white’s. The rivalry between the white’s and the blacks’ were similar to that of the rivalry and harassment faced by the women from their husbands. The relationship between the white’s and the black’s were considered to be more problematic. Although she went against the mayor as she ensued in a physical fight she was brutally beaten by the oppression and was sentenced to twelve years in prison as per the act. Though she was scarred by the oppression her spirit was not crushed, she was portrayed as a strong black woman.

Harsh Realities Faced by Women

Alice Walker novel was mainly centered towards women. She portrayed the troubled relations between men and women. Men in the early 20th showed most of their aggression and frustration over women be it their wives, partners or family members as they were lacking control in the white dominated society. Men were considered to be the bread winners of the family and also the one’s whose established complete control over the family whereas on the other hand women were ment to be bounded within the walls of the house, to be obedient, to bear and also to look after the household. Male oppression and Physical assault towards them led to the loss of women’s identity.

Physical assault can be seen in the case of Celie as she was brutally harassed by her father and by Albert her husband. The character of Celie was portrayed in such a manner were she was exposed to rape that revealed the weak relationships among the African American families. Domestic incest was also considered to be a cruel action. Male oppression was seen in the case of Sofia as she was beaten in public for her action and it cost her 12 years in prison. Patriarchal Oppression was seen in the case of Nettie. Patriarchal oppression was another hurdle faced by these women as men were given the primary power to authority and roles of leadership.

Economic Development

Slavery was considered to be an important and efficient system in production. The slaves were engaged in tasks like agriculture, factory works, construction and mining. Even though when some them fared well they were helpless against the prejudices of the white’s. Certain instances can be seen in the cases of both Alphonso (Celie’s step father) and Albert as they had own ventures and were successful in their communities. Lynching was considered to be prevalent which lead to the death of Celie’s father as his business was considered to be a threat to the white enterprises.


The Color Purple written by Alice Walker shows that women lose their identity succumbing to wrath of male dominance and also the dominance by the white prejudices. The message conveyed through the novel is that women should stand up against oppression. Most of the incidents took place around the time when blacks were liberated from slavery but faced a rather cruel world as they were deprived of their rights.


  1. https://crossref-it.info/textguide/the-color-purple/42/3306
  2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_United_States
  3. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/civil-war-era/reconstruction/a/life-after-slavery
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Color_Purple_(film)


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