How to write a nursing review essay on The Color Purple by Alice Walker Review

How to write a nursing review essay on The Color Purple by Alice Walker Review

Principles of Intercultural Communication in The Color Purple

The color purple is a movie adapted from the Pulitzer-prized novel under the same name by Alice Walker. The movie follows the life of a shy young African –American girl, Celie, as she goes through different forms of abuse from the men around her. Celie has just had her second baby taken away from her at fourteen, just as the first one (Walker, 2011). Her family is poor, and Celie’s father has been abusing her. She is later married off to Albert “Mister,” a widow who initially wanted to marry Celie’s sister, Nettie. Celie takes care of Albert and his “raggedy” children but undergoes physical, emotional, sexual, and verbal abuse in this home.. This paper discusses intercultural communication in The Color Purple, its impact on communication, and its relation to the principles of interpersonal communication.

Part 1: Movies Communicate

Communication is a vital part of our everyday lives that hugely influences our interaction with others. Interpersonal communication refers to verbal or non-verbal cues to exchange information between two or more parties. According to Woods (2020), interpersonal communication is guided by eight principles that enhance effectiveness. 1) We cannot Not communicate as communication is part of our daily lives whenever two or more parties are involved; silence is also a form of communication interpreted differently across diverse cultures. 2) Interpersonal communication is irreversible; communication has an impact, and words cannot be unsaid. 3) Interpersonal communication involves ethical choices; communication differs depending on the context as diverse cultures have different codes of conduct. 4) People construct meanings in interpersonal communication; from the verbal and non-verbal cues relayed by an individual in a specific context influenced by cultural backgrounds. 5) Metacommunication affects meaning; the use of words to talk about other verbal or non-verbal actions influences communication, thus enhancing understanding of the lack of it thereof.6) Interpersonal communication develops and sustains relationships; as we talk to express our feelings, rebuild relations and reconnect to collective histories. 7) Interpersonal communication is not a panacea; despite the integral role of interpersonal communication in articulating ideas and building relationships, communication is not the cure to all problems. 8) Interpersonal effectiveness can be learned; effective communication is not inborn but learned, and one can master effective interpersonal communication.

In Walker’s movie, The Color Purple, the interaction between the characters illustrates various principles of interpersonal communication. The playful interaction between Celie and Nettie in the field with the purple flowers communicates feelings of happiness and joy among the sisters. The two are singing a joyful song as they tag along in the field, “aint no ocean ain’t no sea, makidada, keep my sister away from me, makidada, me and you us never apart….” The interaction in this scene illustrates the first principle of communication; we cannot NOT communicate (Woods, 2020). The song symbolizes the strong sisters bond that Celie and Nettie cherished and were determined to maintain. The two sisters also sing the same song when Nettie is separated from Celie by Mister, thus signifying the deep connection between the two and the value of the song. Although the two are later separated, they keep communicating through letters Nettie writes to Celie. The letters are mostly informative and later transitioned to narrating Nettie’s experiences with missionary work in Africa among the Olinka tribe.

Part 2: Language has Power

Language is an integral component of communication as it is the primary tool to convey information. The effectiveness of the information relayed through language may differ, especially if the communicators are from diverse cultural backgrounds (Tranca & Neagoe, 2018). Language can facilitate effective communication or reduce the effectiveness of the information relayed depending on the context in which it is used. Positive language plays an integral role in nurturing and maintaining positive relationships. On the other hand, negative language can lead to miscommunication and even exclusion, thus making it hard to enhance interpersonal communication and interpersonal relationships. In The Color Purple, language has been powerfully used by the characters in both oral and written form through Nettie’s letters to Celie.

The characters in The Color Purple use language as a powerful tool to convey messages and enhance interpersonal communication. While playing in the field with her sister Nettie, Alphonso, the girl’s father, uses language to express an unsupportive message to Celie, “Celie, you got the ugliest smile on this side the creation.” (Walker, 2011). This makes Celie shy away and cover her mouth while smiling- an indication of low self-esteem. The language here is demeaning and communicates Alphonso’s deep hatred for her stepdaughter Celie. Similarly, the language portrays Celia as less beautiful thus less important. In this scene, language is a powerful tool that influences how Celie views herself and her interaction with others throughout her life. The demeaning language shatters Celie’s self-esteem; thus, she lives her life trying to survive in hopes of a better life after death.

Language can be a powerful tool to build or break an individual. The negative language used while communicating to Celie in her father’s household has a long-lasting impact on how she perceives her self-worth both as a child and as a woman when she is married to Albert. Celie is referred to as “ugly” throughout her life by her father, Alfonso. When Albert comes to seek Nettie’s hand in marriage, Alfonso refuses, saying, “But Nettie, you flat out can’t have. Not now, not never.” (Walker, 2011). Instead, he offers Celie for marriage, stating, “Celie is ugly, but she ain’t no stranger to hard work.” This interaction implies that Celie is only valued for her ability to carry out hard worth rather than her worth as a human being and her father’s daughter, for that matter.

We witness the impact of this negative use of language to demean Celie in her marriage to Albert. Albert’s children walk over Celie and even physically abuse her. Harpo, the oldest son, throws a rock at Celie when she first arrives at their home, and Alfonso introduces Celia as the children’s new mother. This pattern of abuse and disrespect continues throughout the marriage since Albert does not even try to raise and discipline his children. It is evident that Alphonso’s abusive behavior and language negatively impact Celie’s life. When Albert’s children disrespect Celie in Nettie’s presence, Nettie urges Celie to stand up for herself, “don’t let them run over you. Show them who got the upper hand” (Walker, 2011). Dejected, Celie replies, “I don’t know how to fight. All I know how to do is to stay alive.” This scene is a reflection of Celie’s general attitude towards life. Celie does not even protest when her husband’s lover, Shug Avery, moves in with them but instead adopts servitude, seen as she cooks and takes care of Shug.

Language can be used to demonstrate a clear cultural bias towards other individuals based on race, age, sexual orientation, or even gender. In this movie, Walker uses the scene in the shopping center to demonstrate how language can be used to demonstrate cultural bias. At the town store where Celie meets Mr. Samwel’s wife with her baby Olivia, the male shopkeeper demonstrates cultural bias through language to Celia and the minister’s wife. In this scene, the shopkeeper can be seen having a conversation with another man as the two ladies walk in. however, the shopkeeper seems rude when interacting with the minister’s wife, “Do you want that cloth or not, gal? We got other customers” (Walker, 2011). This contrasts with the previously calm tone he was using with the other man at the store, thus demonstrating gender bias. Moreover, the shopkeeper harasses Celie as he speaks to her in a harsh tone which implies she is of a lesser value. He shouts into Celie’s ears, “you gonna buy anything or not, gal?” since she is younger. This action implies the use of language to dissipate discrimination based on age.

The use of language in interpersonal communication can also convey exclusion. Mister Albers expresses a lack of inclusive language when talking to Celie about his children’s need for food. “Celie, my boy be needing his supper,” he says in the scene where Nettie and Celie are having a conversation by the hanging line after hanging the sheets. This implies that only the boy needs supper, yet he has three children, all of whom have to be fed. The interpersonal communication in this scene expresses the lack of inclusive language, which may be interpreted differently in ano0ther context. Celie understands what Mister is communicating despite the lack of inclusive language and leaves to prepare supper for the children.

Part 3: Communication and Cultural Awareness

Sofia, Harpo’s wife, visits him to tell Albert about their marriage. Albert strongly objects since he believes that Sofia is not good for her son because young women these days “got their legs open for every Tom, Dick, and Harpo.” Albert says his son is “young and limited,” and a pretty girl like Sofia could “put everything over on him.” Unbeknownst to Albert, Sophia has a supportive family who lives with her; thus, Sofia’s life cannot be changed by Harpo’s refusal to marry her and take care of their baby. Albert is used to the servitude and demure shyness of Celie and is shocked when Sofia “talks back” at him (Walker, 2011). In contrast to Celie, Sofia is bold, courageous, expressive, and stands up for herself.

Harpo’s family and Sofia’s family come from two different cultural backgrounds. Sofia’s sister and her husband are gentle and loving, seen as they are ready to accommodate Sofia and her baby. Moreover, the women in Sofia’s family are supportive as they show up to support and celebrate Sofia’s wedding day (Walker, 2011). However, Celie’s father is abusive and married her off to a much older man; thus, she lacks a mother figure in her life to emulate. Albert is violent to his children and Celie. The lack of cultural awareness among the two families causes conflict because they hold different beliefs on treating women. Albert says that Sofia thinks too much of herself and needs to be beaten into submission. Celie also advises Harpo to beat Sofia, which he does. The lack of cultural awareness between the two families leads to violence between Harpo and Sofia in their marriage, leading to separation.

Part 4: Communication Can Create Barriers

Exploring the dynamics of interpersonal communication exposes the viewers to racism through the lives of the black characters in The Color Purple. Racism refers to White supremacy to discriminate against and silence black people into submission. Miss Millie, the mayor’s wife, forces interaction between her and Sofia’s children in the town. The mayor comments that miss Millie is “always going on over the coloreds.” (Rahmi, 2018). The use of the phrase “coloreds” implies racial discrimination as this reduces the humanness of black people to just colors. Miss Millie then asks Sofia to be her maid, to which she assertively refuses. The mayor hits Sofia for refusing to be her maid, and Sofia fights back. The back person is perceived to be guilty without proper investigation. The townspeople, mostly white men, gather around to condemn Sofia because they do not believe that Miss Millie hit her first, leading to the arrest and jailing of Sofia. Moreover, Miss Millie is offended when a group of black men try to help her restart her car and instead accuses them of trying to attack her.

White privilege is “both a legacy and a cause of racism” (Collins, 2018). White privilege is seen in how Miss Millie is treated when she gets hysterical over not being able to restart her car. While Sofia can barely spend time with her family due to incarceration and being Miss Millie’s maid, Miss Millie throws a fit because Sofia left her on her own “for so long” and refuses to be taken home by Sofia’s sister. Her privilege is seen in enjoying and spending quality time with her family while denying the same opportunity to Sofia, who has not seen her own family for eight years. This causes emotional trauma on Sofia and her children since Sofia feels like a stranger in her own home. Walker exposes the atrocities of racism and white privilege on black people and how these behaviors affect their families.


Collins, C. (2018). What Is White Privilege, Really?. Retrieved 19 January 2022, from

Rahmi, E. (2018). Racism In Alice Walker’s” The Color Purple” (Doctoral dissertation, Universitas Muhammadiyah Sumatera Utara).

TRANCA, L. M., & NEAGOE, A. (2018). The importance of positive language for the quality of interpersonal relationships. Agora Psycho-Pragmatica12(1), 69-77.

Walker, A. (2011). The color purple (Vol. 1). Open Road Media.

Wood, J. (2020). Interpersonal Communication Everyday Encounters (9th ed., pp. 13-19).

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