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The Color Purple and Remains of the Day

Alice Walker's The Color Purple and Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day describe very different milieus and very different kinds of characters. Letters serve as an important element in each, but they are treated differently in the style of each novel. Alice Walker's novel is structured as a series of letters through which the central character expresses her inner life, something she can never do in her day-to-day existence except by writing to another. In the Ishiguro work, the main characters are not inarticulate but reticent to allow others to see too deeply into their inner life, though one letter in which Miss Kenton may have expressed more than would be considered proper is a central concern. The film version of The Color Purple (Steven Spielberg, 1982) was commercially successful but is not that successful at capturing the essence of the novel, while the film version of The Remains of the Day (James Ivory, 1993) is more evocative of the mannered British style of the book.

The book and the film of The Color Purple have very different emphases and show different attitudes on the part of their respective creators. The subject matter is essentially the same--the mistreatment of black women by their men--but the movie directed by Steven Spielberg is much more poetic in tone, so that for all its criticism of this aspect of black life, it comes off as a nostalgic film. The book has a much harder edge because it takes place in the mind of one victim of this kind of life, expressed by her through letters that fairly cry out for help and for a different life. This is lost in the film first because the letters are at a distance from the viewer and second because the entire story is somehow sugar-coated in some peculiar fashion, with numerous film cliches substituted for a real analysis of the issues or the characters.

The novel is not well constructed and includes a number of cliches and contrivances, but it is more effec...

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The Color Purple and Remains of the Day. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:11, August 12, 2020, from