Setting


The Color Purple is set in a mostly black rural town in the South in the 1930's. Most of the story takes place in Celie's husband Alfred's house and around there. TCP_image
Some of the subplot takes place in Africa, but this story is read in letters and so we are not informed of the happenings in Africa in real time, so some would not consider it part of the actual setting. However. there are important aspects of setting there, too. Setting up a story across the globe similar to Celie's at home helps impress the fact that racism was not an exclusively American thing; even the Africans are racist to their American counterparts. Beyond physical setting, it takes place in a time where black people were still thought of as subhuman ("That’s the problem, she say. Have you ever seen a white person and a colored lady sitting side by side in a car, when one of ‘em wasn’t showing the other one how to drive it or clean it?"), where women were still basically their husband's property ("Well how you spect to make her mind? Wives is like children. You have to let 'em know who got the upper hand. Nothing can do that better than a good sound beating"), and where it was perfectly normal for husbands to beat their wives and children ("He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it"). Part of the setting also is Celie's mental and emotional state. For most of the story, she is in a very dark place within herself. She is afraid of everyone except her sister, including Shug Avery at first. She thinks herself unworthy of affection and happiness. For instance, when Shug begins sleeping with Albert again, Celie lets her because she doesn't feel worthy of Shug. This relates to the setting in two ways: once she removes herself from her abusive situation (setting), her self-worth goes way up. When she finally decides to leave Mr., she gains all the strength she didn't have her whole life: "I curse you...until you do right by me, everything you touch will crumble." She wouldn't have had the courage to say that without a change in mental setting. The second way is that her perspective and attitude ultimately decide her setting, both physical and mental.

By: Meg Ellis