Shades of African-American Women's Experiences in Novels and Film-"Beloved" versus "The Color Purple"

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Both Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple and Toni Morrison's tale of Beloved chronicle stories of African-American women's experiences of triumph and suffering over oppression and discrimination.But while Walker and Morrison share a common literary heritage in the tradition of African-American women's writing, their works deviate substantially, in the fiction's narrative constructs, literary devices, and in the work's cultural and critical receptions after publication.Walker's novel was embraced as a popular feminist classic because of its account of Celie, a physically and sexually abused young woman, who found liberation through her relationship with Shug Avery, a feisty gin-joint singer.Morrison's novel about a mother who was haunted by the ghost of the child she killed rather than allow it to return to slavery became a literary classic and received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Beloved is now widely read in high schools and colleges across the nation.In fact, one reviewer noted that the introduction to the paperback edition of Beloved proclaimed that he could not "imagine American literature without it [Beloved]!” (Taylor, 1998)
In an ironic twist of literary fate, although Alice Walker's novel of Black life in the South during the Depression was less critically well received in its initial form, it became a popular and well-respected movie, directed in 1984 by Stephen Spielberg.In contrast, Morrison's great novel on film of the pre and antebellum period in American history was judged to be an artistic and critical failure, as well as a failure with audiences, despite the original novel's greatness.Even the best reviews of the 1998 film of Morrison's novel viewed it more as an interesting failure than the cinematic triumph its makers hoped it would become.
Part of this difference in critical and popular reception may have to do with the nature of…