Prose Fiction Analysis
I first took interest in T he Color Purple by Alice Walker when I was in high school. The novel is about a woman named Celie who shares her personal and private thoughts and experiences in letters to God. The excerpt I chose from the work was Letter 35 (of my copy). In order to properly analyze the novel I used Dramatistic and Modal analysis. For Dramatistic analysis I answered the following questions: who is speaking; to whom is the narrator speaking; what is the narrator speaking about; where is the narrator; when is the narrator telling the story; how is the narrator telling the story; why is the narrator telling the story. For the Modal analysis I will decide the speaker and audience modes and also the performance analogs used. Lastly I will discuss why I chose this selection and how it is appropriate to myself and the audience.
In this selection the narrator is Celie who is a main character throughout the novel. The point of view is then considered first person major character. This is evident whenever the narrator uses the pronoun "I", for example, "I stand there with the mirror." It is apparent that Celie is then the narrator of the work. There are no explicit lines that give away Celie's appearance, but we know that she is AfricanAmerican and at the beginning of the novel she is fourteen. Other physical attributes that are hinted at are that Celie isn't very pretty and doesn't have a great body. This is shown multiple times throughout the whole novel as Celie often shares that Mr. calls her ugly and big, and makes her feel like she isn't worth a thing. This is especially evident when Shug Avery, Mr.'s ex lover and woman he never got over, comes to visit.
Although it seems that Celie would be intimidated or worried by Shug's presence, it is quite the opposite. Instead of wanting this strange woman out of her house, Celie welcomes her in, and takes on a certain curiosity with her. This certain curiosity leads to a whole new understanding of love and lust for Celie. Celie's relationship with Mr. changes throughout the work. In the beginning she feels sort of "lucky" to be with him after all the other men that abused her, but after meeting Shug, Celie begins to see Mr. for who he really is and tries to find the strength to leave him. The virtual present and the virtual past aren't different as Celie's narration is through private letters to God, which were written in the present. Because there isn't much passage of time, Celie's feelings towards the events and characters don't change, instead she and the audience simultaneously share experiences together. With that said, it is safe to say that Celie's character is round and dynamic because she has complex thoughts and feelings along with undergoing changes.
The implied audience of this novel is God. This is explicitly shown at the beginning of each letter and also at the beginning of the novel which states, "Y ou better not never tell nobody but God, It'd kill your mammy." B y starting the novel with this line the author is setting up the stage for the reader, and because of this line the reader knows that by "Dear God" Celie is literally addressing God, the only person she believes she can share her experiences with. This twisted way of being silent was forced upon her by her own father after he raped her, and in fear, Celie only spoke to God. Even if a person only read one letter they would know the intended audience was God because of the "Dear God" beginning line.
The overall theme of the novel is a young woman telling her story of breaking gender norms, selfdiscovery, selfempowerment, and independence. The general ideas of the work are that being a woman does not mean that you have to answer to a man nor do you have to be dependent on that man. Celie takes the audience through an emotional and psychological transition, which ends with her finally becoming her own person after years and years of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. To me the story follows more of a causal plot. I feel this way because although it is a story about life (which is very spontaneous), it is also a story about an underdog overcoming and overpowering her oppressors. To elaborate more, although Celie goes through harsh and unforgettable events through learning and the love of a friendship she is able to stand on her own and even be successful, which in my opinion makes the plot feel more causal. For me a contingent plot requires more spontaneity and the possibility of our hero or heroin failing. I don't believe there are many associative moments in the novel as the story is being told in the present.
The narrator is in Georgia for the virtual present and past (which we already discussed isn't different). The author explicitly states that the story takes place somewhere in Georgia. Most of the events take place in Celie's home or somewhere near her property. There aren't historical references in the novel to know the time it was set in but it's safe to guess anywhere from 19201940. I can gather that information from the way characters speak, how rural the area is described to be, and the relations between white and black people. Since the narrator, Celie, is sharing her experiences with God the style of language is intimate. It is intimate because Celie is speaking to someone that is invisible and is meant to understand her inner thoughts. To explain, Celie doesn't need to formally address God as if they were a stranger rather she can speak to them as if she were speaking to herself. With the style of language being intimate the mood created is warm, welcoming, and personal. On account of the narrator speaking to a silent
listener (lyric audience mode), I believe she is telling the story to share her experiences with someone other than herself. Celie believes that she can't tell anyone her secrets and because of that she needs someone, something to tell her stories to. I believe that for Celie, writing letters to God is how she is able to undergo the changes that she does; it gives her the ability to get out of her head and to gain the strength to break free.
As part of the Modal analysis I had to identify both the speaker and audience modes. Since Celie uses the pronoun "I" and is a defined character who retells what other characters say ("That what Shug say"), she is speaking in the dramatistic mode. However, as stated previously, Celie is addressing God ("Dear God") in her letters which makes the audience mode lyrical. The modal analysis process assisted me in understanding that there are distinguishing differences from the author of the work, Alice Walker, and the narrator of the work, Celie. For example, the author was merely the creator of the story realm, but the narrator is what gives life to it; the narrator provides a personality to the book and sometimes it's what draws the attention of readers. Through the narrator I was able to analyze some of the things that Alice Walker may have experienced herself, and I believe that she must have physically seen some of the places and people created in the work. Also through my analysis I was able to deter that the narrator and her audience have a very close relationship which is largely due to the fact that Celie is sharing private thoughts with God, a silent listener.
I chose my selection because I consider it to be a pivotal moment in Celie's life. To me this scene is Celie's sexual awakening, the moment she realizes that her "private parts" are allowed to be touched and she's allowed to feel good. I felt this selection was appropriate for me and the audience because, whether you like to admit it or not, who doesn't remember their sexual
awakening? In all seriousness I believe that this selection is relatable to myself and members of my audience.
For the performance analogs I had to make decisions that I believed would aid my audience in picturing the story realm. For the narrator's voice (along with other characters) I attempted to speak in a Southern dialect. I made this decision because it's made apparent that the novel is set in Georgia. For her body I did my best to appear shy, timid, scared, and curious. In order to portray that I attempted to keep my body inward and closed off and also by keeping my head down more often than the other characters. For Shug's character I wanted her to seem bold, daring, beautiful, and loud. I made those decisions for Shug's character because she is the friend that gives Celie enough courage to stand up for herself, and with that she is extreme opposites of Celie's character. For Shug's voice I spoke in a higher pitch and whispier voice to portray that she is a very feminine woman. The movement in my performance will mainly occur in Shug's bedroom and then in Celie's bedroom. Since I will be switching between characters I can't put them extremely far away from each other so instead, the right side will be Shug's character, the left side will be Celie's speaking character, and the middle will be Celie as the narrator. Most of the movements will then happen in my changing body positions for those characters. The major physical transition of my performance is when I run from Shug's room to Celie's room. In order to show the relationship with the audience I wanted to be close to them to portray Celie's intimate relationship with, her listener, God. In order to achieve this I decided to step forward anytime I was speaking as the narrator. In all of the decisions I made for my performance I feel that intertextuality helped me shape my interpretation of the text. When I first read T he Color Purple I was a young teenage girl struggling with my own sexuality and so much of this book
deals with those feelings. Having an emotional connection to the text allowed me to view it as a novel with heavy themes on love and lust. Due to my emotional connection, Celie's success at the end of the novel provided me with a feeling that I could also accomplish my goals, regardless of my sexuality.
In summary, through my Dramatistic and Modal analysis I was able to more thoroughly analyze the scene beyond the text. I also believe that my own intertextuality shaped how I viewed the work. Through this analyzing I was able to view the novel with intense focus and discover new things about it. I feel that with my new discoveries I am now able to enjoy this piece of literature even more than I did.