BackBright Hub EducationBrowse

"The Color Purple": High School Lesson on Comparing the Book & the Film

By Sarah Degnan Moje

In 1985, Steven Spielberg brought to life Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" on the big screen. After reading the novel, have your students watch the movie in class, and then compare the movie with the film. The book and movie are appropriate for mature students in 11th or 12th grade.

The Color Purple poster 

The Movie

In 1985 Steven Spielberg was more well-known for "summer blockbusters" than for serious works of art. From the late 1970’s onward, he specialized in fun movies that brought huge crowds to the theater and provided entertainment with a plot, but without too much sadness or veil of shadows.

This all changed when he directed Schindler’s List in 1993. After that film he instantly became one of the most “serious” directors of our time. However, before he became known for the Holocaust film, Spielberg did step away from that blockbuster mentality in order to bring to the screen Alice Walker’s novel The Color Purple.

This film, released in 1985, closely mirrors the events in the novel. It also is unique in that a white, Jewish director is telling the tale of an oppressed and abused black Southern woman, and that he does it so well. One would think Spielberg lived Celie’s live, as he is so vividly able to bring it to live onscreen.

The Characters

His cast is amazing; giving Whoopi Goldberg a chance to shine, introducing a young and tough Oprah Winfrey and an even younger Lawrence Fishbourne, as well as giving action movie star Danny Glover a chance to portray a serious, sinister character who undergoes a life changing transformation. However, Ms. Goldberg steals the show with her portrayal of Celie and you can see the talent of Spielberg as a director in her onscreen performance.

Compare & Contrast

What better way to teach the novel than to compare it to the film using the downloadable power point and compare and contrast worksheet? Then, have students analyze the film and the choices Spielberg made as a director when it came to what to leave in and what to take out. Want to have even more fun? Take two days to watch one of his blockbusters and compare that film to The Color Purple, so your students can see how talented a director Spielberg truly is!