If we read The Color Purple with 'gender on the agenda' as required we can identify how the form contributes to the impact of the narrative. The Color Purple is a story that unfolds through the writing and exchange of letters. Opening with the line 'You better not never tell nobody but God. It'd kill your mammy.' A warning issued by the abusive 'father' (later and importantly discovered to be step-father) of the central character Celie who indeed pours out her secret to God and later to her sister Nettie about her life and her pain.
It is this epistolary form of storytelling that allows the characters introduced to the reader by the character of Celie to reveal themselves their roles and their culture in an authentic sounding way. Celie, writes as she speaks, in a colloquial manner not normally considered 'proper English' For example the word 'us' is substituted for 'we' and there are misspelled and phonetically spelled words throughout. In other novels, when a character's speech is written in colloquial language it usually signals their comedic role in the story. However, in the beginning of The Color Purple, Celie's letters to God, poignantly (sometimes painfully so)reveal the confessional narrative of a young girl whose sex and race excludes her from formal education. She can say plainly what is happening to her but she cannot interpret he actions of the people around her. She must unburden herself somehow and courageously breaks the silence with her letters to God.
It is through letter writing that the power of communication is emphasized. Celie's absence of bitterness for the way she has been treated allows the reader to empathize and perhaps feel the outrage she does not. We feel very acutely her position at the very bottom of society's totem pole. She is weak and dependent upon others. First upon Alphonso, who sells Celie's babies and beats her because she 'winked at a boy in church'. He abuses her because he can do so with impunity. Then on Mr._, who beats her 'Cause she my wife.' Mr._'s view of Celie renders her an object, no more important than an animal.
It is through her continued writing of these letters...