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Top Ten: Influential Female Film Characters - Celie, The Color Purple (1985)

August 6, 2018

Stephen King once said that ‘Books and movies are like apples and oranges. They both are fruit, but taste completely different.’ When movies mirror literature, they are often met with a controversial reception. When someone puts pen to paper, it takes a great deal of imagination and personal investment to bring this narrative to life. Films, on the other hand rely on the filmmaker’s creative license – so I guess depending on how close their interpretation is to yours, depends on our acceptance of the adaptation. From Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’ to Stephen Kings ‘Stand by Me’, I’ve fallen in love with many films inspired by novels and short stories.

 

Film and English Literature have always remained my primary interests and when I chose to study English Language & Literature alongside Film at college, it brought about a little insight into how the two are combined in producing some of our favourite works.

 

'The Color Purple' (1982) written by Alice Walker - adapted for film by Stephen Spielberg (1985)

 

When I was sixteen, I read Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple’ (1982). The novel focuses on the character of Celie and the other lives of African-American women living in Southern America, around the turn of the 20th century. The colloquial language, explicit themes and detailed descriptions of abuse, prejudice and violence make it at times, a real hard read; but Walker offers a bitter-sweet memoir, which accurately explores the injustice of humanity. 

 

Following critical acclaim and controversy, ‘The Color Purple’ was later adapted for film by Steven Spielberg in 1985, featuring Whoopi Goldberg in her momentous film debut as Celie. In terms of casting, Spielberg excelled in finding the most suitable candidates for the most, complex characters. The film adaptation received a positive reception and was awarded a range of notable accolades - but did it really succeed in presenting all the brazen content of the novel with the same, faithful ferocity that Alice Walker intended? As far as I am concerned, without a doubt!

 

Whoopi Goldberg as Celie in 'The Color Purple' (1985)

 

Celie is in many ways a character fraught which tragedy. A lifetime of abuse and discrimination presents her as a victim of her surroundings as she narrates her story with raw and naïve letters to God and her sister, Nettie. In a literary sense, her use of language, spelling and grammar depicts her poor lack of education and opportunity but the film prevails in presenting her story with every inch of character and optimism that Walker intended. The relationship between Celie and Shug Avery, is one that acts as a catalyst in helping Celie find the light in life. With Shug’s admiration, Celie discovers her independence and finds her hidden voice – presenting a perfect portrait of female empowerment through friendship an empathy. Celie is one of literature’s and films most unforgettable female protagonist. Her story mirrors the struggles of many women and despite the sadness, it’s her strength and kindness which conquers all.

 

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