The Color Purple Summary
Celie is abused and raped by her Pa, who takes away her children after they’re born. Eventually, Pa marries Celie off to a man who is just as abusive as Pa. Celie’s new husband, Mr.__, simply marries Celie to take care of his four children, look after of his house, and work in his fields.
Celie is somewhat happy to marry Mr.__ because she can now remove her younger sister, Nettie, from Pa’s household. However, after Nettie lives in Mr.__’s household for a time without encouraging his sexual advances, Mr.__ kicks Nettie out. Though Nettie promises to write to her sister, Celie doesn’t hear from her. Celie’s life gets worse and worse, as she’s now separated from the only person in the world whom she loves and who loves her back.
Celie’s life changes when Mr.__ brings his deathly ill mistress home for Celie to nurse back to health. Mr.__’s mistress, Shug, is everything that Celie isn’t: sexy, sassy, and independent. Celie quickly falls in love with Shug, and Shug falls in love back. For the first time in Celie’s life, she has a chance to enjoy sex, romance, and friendship.
Together with Shug, Celie discovers the mystery of Nettie’s silence for so many decades: Mr.__ has been hiding all of Nettie’s letters in his locked trunk. When Celie finds her sister’s letters, it unlocks a new world for her. Instead of being submissive and downtrodden, she realizes the full extent of the abuses she has suffered from Mr.__. This knowledge gives her the strength to leave him. Celie heads off to Memphis with Shug to start a new life.
Nettie’s letters transform the way Celie sees the world. From Nettie, Celie learns that Pa isn’t actually her biological father. Celie also learns that Nettie is living with the Reverend Samuel and his family, working as a missionary in Africa. The Reverend Samuel had also adopted Celie’s two children from Pa many years back. Nettie, Samuel, and the children plan to return from Africa soon.
Celie learns that Pa has died. She also finds out that the house that Pa lived in actually has belonged to Celie and Nettie since their mother passed away. So now Celie owns a home, which she prepares for Nettie’s arrival. Now an independent woman, Celie remains close friends with Shug, although Shug is not faithful or constant in their romantic relationship. Celie also gains a new friend. After she left Mr.__, he became a changed man. He’s reformed and is now a pretty decent guy. Although Celie isn’t remotely romantically interested in him, they now enjoy each other’s company.
After several decades abroad in Africa, Nettie returns with Samuel, who is now her husband, and with Celie’s two children. The sisters have a blissful reunion, and although they’re now old women, we get the sense that they’ve just begun the best years of their lives.
- Celie is fourteen-years-old.
- Her mother has just given birth to yet another child. Her Pa wants to start having sex with his wife again, but she pushes him away saying it’s too soon after giving birth.
- Pa molests Celie, using her in place of her mother. Pa tells Celie she'd better never tell anybody but God. This may explain why Celie begins each entry by addressing God in little letters/prayers—it’s the only person she has to tell these things to.
- Celie’s mom is happier now that Pa isn’t pestering her all the time for some action. But, she’s also sick.
- Celie seems to have morning sickness.
- Celie starts her letter letting us know that her mother has died, but she also gives us some information on what happened before her mother passed away.
- Celie’s mom is pretty critical of her daughter, and also wants to know who is the daddy of Celie’s baby is. Celie answers, "God."
- After Celie gives birth (OK, Celie puts it this way: "then that little baby come out my pussy"), her mom wants to know where the baby went. Celie says, "God took it" (read: Pa got rid of the baby to hide the evidence that he’s a child molester).
- Celie has given birth to a second child now.
- Pa takes Celie’s second baby, a boy this time.
- Pa always seems to be critical of Celie now, and she’s scared that he’ll starting to molest her little sister, Nettie. But Celie says she’ll take care of Nettie.
- Pa marries a girl who is Celie’s age. Pa is on top of the poor girl all the time.
- Nettie now has a boyfriend, an older man with three children whose wife was murdered by her jealous boyfriend. Celie refers to the boyfriend as "Mr. __."
- Celie thinks that Nettie should focus on her schoolwork instead of getting stuck marrying a man who already has children.
- Pa beats Celie because he gets jealous that she might have winked at a boy. Celie says that she didn’t wink at any boy because she’s scared of men. She doesn’t even look at them anymore.
- Celie wants Nettie to marry Mr.__ so the girl can get away from Pa.
- For some reason, Celie has stopped having her period, so basically, she’s unable to have any more children.
- Mr.__ asks for Nettie’s hand in marriage but Pa says no. He refuses because he says Nettie is too young and because of Mr.__’s relationship with a woman named Shug Avery.
- Celie sees a picture of Shug Avery and dreams about her. Shug is apparently gorgeous and fashionable.
- She mentions that Mr.__ carries a picture of Shug Avery in his wallet.
- Pa’s new wife is sick (pregnant?) and Celie preemptively offers herself to Pa so he’ll stay away from Nettie. She lures him away from her little sister by dressing up in nice clothes.
- Both Nettie and Pa’s new wife now finally realize that Pa has been molesting Celie. Both are sick and scared, so Celie takes care of them.
- Mr.__ comes to ask for Nettie’s hand formally. Pa says he can’t have Nettie but he can have Celie if he wants her.
- Pa says that Celie is ugly, and isn’t a virgin. But, he tries to convince Mr.__ to take Celie by saying things like "She ain’t no stranger to hard work. And she clean." Pa also mentions that Celie can’t have children anymore, which is a selling point so that Mr.__ can sleep with Celie as much as he wants and not have to pay to support more children.
- Pa really wants to get rid of Celie. He even offers to send Celie to Mr.__ with a cow and some linens.
- Pa also says that Celie is dumb and she lies. Guess he’s trying to protect himself.
- Celie decides that when she marries Mr.__, then Nettie can come to her place and they can find a way to run away together.
- Nettie and Celie study Nettie’s schoolbooks in order to be smart enough to make a plan to run away.
- Celie remembers how she had to leave school during her first pregnancy. Pa took her out of school even though she loved it. He said Nettie was the smart one, not Celie.
- Back when Celie had to leave school, Nettie convinced the school teacher to come over and tell Pa that Celie was smart and should be in school. When Miss Beasley, the teacher, saw that Celie was pregnant, though, she didn’t try hard to get Celie back in school.
- Celie believes her father’s lies that she’s stupid, even though Nettie tries to convince Celie that she’s smart.
- After a while, Mr.__ comes by the house again. The lady that was taking care of his kids quit, so he wants to take another look at Celie.
- Pa makes Celie turn around so Mr.__ can see her.
- Mr.__ asks if he can still have the cow, too. Pa says yes, so that settles it.
- On her wedding day, Mr.__’s twelve-year-old son, Harpo, tries to kill Celie by throwing a rock at her head. He doesn’t want a new mama.
- Mr.__ has four children, two boys and two girls.
- Celie can’t untangle the girls’ hair and realizes that their hair hasn’t been combed since their mother died.
- While Mr.__ is "on top of" her, Celie thinks of Shug Avery.
- Celie sees a little girl in town whom she knows must be her daughter (Pa seems to have given away Celie’s children). She can’t help but follow the little girl and her mother into a cloth store.
- When the woman can’t find her husband, Celie offers to give her and the girl a ride.
- They make small talk and the woman says that Celie’s husband is really good-looking.
- Celie asks about the little girl, who turns out to be seven years old.
- Celie wants to know what the little girl’s name is, thinking about how she stitched "Olivia" into the child’s clothing before Pa took her away.
- The mother replies that the child’s name is "Pauline." But, she says, "I call her Olivia."
- Celie’s heart dances with joy but she still asks the woman why she calls the little girl Olivia, if that isn’t her name?
- The woman replies that her eyes look old and that’s why she calls her "Ole Livia." The woman laughs at her joke.
- The woman sees her husband and hops into his wagon instead of Celie’s.
- Nettie runs away from home because Pa won’t stay away from her. She moves in with Celie and Mr.__.
- Nettie keeps studying and tries to teach Celie what she learns. Celie desperately hopes Nettie won’t end up married to a man like Mr.__ or working in a white woman’s kitchen.
- Mr.__’s children are obnoxious to Celie and Mr.__ does nothing to help discipline them.
- Nettie tells Celie she needs to fight the kids and take the upper-hand, but Celie doesn’t think she can fight.
- Mr.__ still has the hots for Nettie and constantly compliments her, but Nettie refuses to respond.
- Mr.__ kicks Nettie out when she won’t sleep with him.
- Nettie feels bad about leaving Celie all alone, but Celie says that at least she has God.
- Nettie promises to write to Celie—death won’t keep me from it, she says—but she never writes.
- Mr.__’s sisters, Carrie and Kate, visit. They think that Celie is a good housekeeper, unlike Mr.__’s first wife.
- Carrie and Kate have quite a few bad things to say about their brother’s first wife. Apparently, she didn’t take care of the kids well and never cooked.
- Seems like the woman wasn’t so much to be blamed because after he married the girl, Mr.__ just left her alone and "kept right on running after Shug Avery." The poor girl was stuck alone having his babies while he was blatantly cheating on her.
- The sisters say they’re sick of hearing about Shug Avery all the time.
- Kate visits again. She makes her brother buy Celie some new clothes. Kate takes Celie shopping, which is her first time getting new clothing; she’s only had second-hand dresses before.
- Kate tries to defend Celie against the kids. Harpo, the oldest son, refuses to help Celie with any housework because he says only women work. Kate gets pissed and tells the boy off, but then Mr.__ has a chat with his sister. She gets so mad that she leaves.
- Before Kate leaves, though, she says to Celie, "You got to fight them […]. I can’t do it for you. You got to fight them for yourself."
- When Harpo asks Mr.__ why he beats Celie, he replies that he beats her because she’s his wife and she’s stubborn.
- Mr.__ beats Celie with his belt. She tries not to cry.
- Harpo confides in Celie that he’s in love with a girl. Harpo is seventeen now and wants to marry the girl. The only problem is, he’s never talked to the girl, he’s only winked at her in church.
- Shug Avery is coming to town. She’s a singer and will be performing in the area.
- Mr.__ gets all spruced up to see her. Celie knows why he’s primping himself, but she’s excited to see Shug Avery, too.
- Celie thinks about Shug Avery all the time and hopes she can go see her. She doesn’t even care about hearing Shug sing, Celie just wants to lay eyes on the woman.
- Mr.__ spends all weekend away from home, with Shug.
- When he gets home, he’s tired and sad.
- Celie is bursting with questions to ask him about Shug, but she doesn’t.
- Celie is out working in the cotton field. Mr.__ just sits on the porch and smokes.
- Harpo works hard, but he can’t please his daddy anymore than Celie can. In fact, he’s scared of Mr.__.
- When Mr.__ says he doesn’t need to work, it’s because he has Harpo to work for him.
- Harpo is still in love.
- Harpo is still in love, but the girl’s father doesn’t approve of him. The man says that Harpo isn’t good enough. It’s all because Harpo’s mom was murdered.
- Harpo watched his mom’s boyfriend kill her. He has nightmares about it.
- Celie is good to Mr.__’s children, but she doesn’t love them.
- Harpo tells Celie all about the girl he likes, Sofia Butler. Harpo has also gotten Sofia pregnant.
- Sofia comes over to meet Mr.__. She’s about eight months pregnant. She looks like a big, thick girl.
- Mr.__ insults the girl, saying that she’s probably got her "legs open to every Tom, Dick, and Harry," meaning he doesn’t want to believe Sofia is carrying Harpo’s baby.
- Harpo doesn’t defend Sofia.
- Sofia realizes that Harpo is still too dependent on his father. She leaves, saying that when Harpo is ready to be a man, she and the baby will be waiting.
- Sofia’s father has kicked her out, but she’s living with her sister and brother-in-law.
- Harpo secretly marries Sofia and brings her and the baby home.
- They fix up the shed as a little house. He’s busy making a house and home for his wife and baby.
- Mr.__ is paying Harpo to work now, and Harpo works hard to support his family.
- Sofia is really big and strong
- Harpo and Sofia are really happy, which means Mr.__ can’t be.
- Harpo asks Mr.__ and Celie how to get Sofia to do what he tells her to do, because she doesn’t listen to him.
- Mr.__ asks if he’s ever beat her and Harpo says no.
- He asks Celie what to do and Celie tells him to beat Sofia. Celie doesn’t really think Harpo needs to make Sofia follow his orders because both of them are so happy. Celie’s probably telling Harpo to beat his wife because she’s a bit jealous.
- The next time they see Harpo, he’s got a black eye. He claims that he fell off the stubborn mule, but it’s obvious Sofia hit him right back.
- Sofia and Harpo fight and it gets vicious. Harpo tries to beat Sofia, but she fights right back, smacking him in the face with logs. From the look of it, they’ve been fighting for a while and Sofia has the upper-hand.
- Celie is having a hard time sleeping at night. She realizes that she feels really guilty that she told Harpo to beat Sofia. Celie hopes that Sofia doesn’t find out.
- Sofia finds out that Celie told Harpo to beat her and she feels betrayed.
- Celie apologizes and says she only gave Harpo that advice because, "I’m jealous of you. I say it cause you do what I can’t […]. Fight."
- Sofia isn’t mad anymore, she just feels bad for Celie.
- Sofia tells Celie that all her life, she’s had to fight men because it’s a man’s world, but she never thought she’d have to do that in her own home.
- She affirms to Celie that she loves Harpo, but would rather kill him than let Harpo beat her.
- Sofia admits that she feels sorry for Celie.
- Celie says that she’s never been harsh with anyone and that she never gets mad. She doesn’t know what it’s like to have that feeling. In fact, she probably doesn’t have any feelings at all. And if she ever does feel frustrated, she talks to God.
- Sofia gives Celie a piece of advice: "You ought to bash Mr.__ head open […]. Think bout heaven later."
- The two women laugh together and decide to make a quilt.
- Shug Avery is sick and everyone in town is talking about it. You get the sense that every thinks Shug got what she deserves for sleeping around. Some of the people gossiping about Shug are the ladies at church.
- Celie helps out at the church as much as she can, helping with cleaning and all. The preacher even says that Celie is "faithful as the day is long."
- Even the preacher is down on Shug. He says stuff about "a strumpet in short skirts, smoking cigarettes, drinking gin. Singing for money and talking other women mens. Talk about slut, hussy, heifer, and streetcleaner."
- Celie wishes that Mr.__ would stand up for Shug, be he doesn’t.
- Mr.__ is gone for a few days and then shows up with Shug Avery. He wants Celie to nurse Shug back to health.
- Instead of getting mad, Celie gets absurdly excited when Shug Avery shows up. Even Shug’s stylish clothes get Celie’s heart beating fast.
- Harpo and Sofia feel sad as they watch Mr.__ brings Shug into the house.
- Turns out, Shug has attitude. When she comes in the door, the first thing she says when she sees Celie is, "Girl, you sure is ugly!"
- Celie says Shug is really sick, but she’s evil and that’s keeping her alive.
- Mr.__ worries over Shug day and night. Shug, however, doesn’t even let Mr.__ hold her hand and is constantly insulting him. She even calls Mr.__ "Albert."
- Mr.__ tells Celie that Shug is staying and there’s nothing Celie can do about it. Celie, however, replies genuinely, saying she wants Shug to stay.
- Celie bathes Shug because Mr.__ is too squeamish to do it— even though they’ve had three children together.
- When she looks at Shug’s naked body, Celie feels like she’s turned into a man because she’s in awe of Shug.
- Shug asks Celie how many kids she’s had and Celie says she’s had two but she doesn’t know where they are. Shug says her children are with her mother, but she doesn’t miss them.
- Shug refuses to eat Celie’s food, essentially making fun of it because she’s used to more options, like orange juice and strawberries.
- Celie eats in front of Shug—tasty ham, warm fresh biscuits, gravy, eggs, grits.
- Shug sends Celie to get her some water, and when Celie returns, she can see that Shug secretly was eating some of Celie’s food. So, Celie succeeded in tempting Shug into eating food.
- After Celie gets Shug to finally eat, Mr.__ admits that he’s been really scared.
- Shug sits up in bed and Celie washes and combs her hair.
- Shug gets all relaxed and starts humming a song, telling Celie that it’s something that she made up because of Celie—it’s something that Celie "scratched out" of her head.
- Mr.__’s daddy comes to visit and scold Mr.__ about Shug. He criticizes Shug, saying, "She’s black as tar, she nappy headed. She got legs like baseball bats."
- Mr.__ doesn’t defend Shug, but Celie secretly spits in Mr.__’s father’s water.
- Mr.__ finally says he loves Shug and should have married her.
- Mr.__’s daddy tells Celie that she has his sympathy—not many women would put up with a man’s whore in her own house.
- Celie and Mr.__ both feel inwardly defensive of Shug, and they sort of have a short instant where they silently bond over that.
- Then Mr.__’s brother, Tobias, comes to visit. He’s big and fat and wants to see Shug. He gossips about how he heard she’s dying.
- Shug shows in a little nightgown that Celie made for her. Both Mr.__ and Celie clamor to help her get seated.
- Celie tries to teach Shug to sew, but Shug is miserable at it.
- Sitting there with Shug, Celie feels all right for the first time in her life.
- Sofia and Celie are working on a quilt that has pieces of one of Shug’s yellow dresses in it.
- Sofia confides in Celie how much Harpo is eating. He’s just eating and eating and eating, even when he isn’t hungry.
- Celie comes up with reasons why Harpo might be eating so much: Maybe he has a tapeworm. Maybe he’s just been working really hard
- Celie then observes Harpo’s ridiculous new eating habits for herself.
- People start to tease Harpo and ask him, "When is it due?" because he’s gaining so much weight.
- One night, Celie finds Harpo crying after everyone has gone to bed.
- Harpo confides in Celie that he’s trying to get as big as Sofia so he can make her follow his orders. He wants to make his woman do what he says, like how Celie submits to Mr.__.
- Celie tries to shake some sense into him. You love her, she says, and she loves you. I may mind your daddy, but he doesn’t love me and I don’t love him.
- Celie also points out that the woman Mr.__ wanted to marry, Shug, definitely doesn’t let Mr.__ push her around.
- Harpo cries more and then pukes up the massive amounts of food he’s been eating that day. Celie puts him to bed in Mr.__’s house.
- Celie and Sofia discuss Harpo. Celie tells Sofia that Harpo is trying to get as big as her.
- Sofia admits that she’s thinking of leaving, joining her sister, Odessa, who doesn’t have any children but loves them. Odessa’s husband is in the military so it would be just them.
- Sofia says she doesn’t even want to have sex with Harpo anymore. She used to be all excited about sleeping with him, but now she’s just not interested.
- Celie thinks about her sex life with Mr.__. He just climbs up on top of her and, ten minutes later, it’s over. What is that about?, she thinks. The only time she gets excited is thinking about Shug.
- Sofia leaves Harpo. Her sisters come pick her and the kids up. Harpo acts like he doesn’t care.
- Celie gives Sofia the quilt they’ve been working on.
- Sofia and Harpo’s kids start asking why their daddy isn’t coming with them.
- His family leaves, and Harpo doesn’t do or say anything to stop them.
- Sofia is gone for six months and Harpo starts acting like a different man.
- First of all, he’s learned that he’s good-looking.
- He starts working on the little house they had and he turns it into a jukejoint.
- Celie asks what Sofia is going to think when she comes back and finds that her house is a party joint. Harpo says that Sofia isn’t coming back.
- At first, Harpo doesn’t have many customers. Sometimes Mr.__ or Shug go down there in the evenings.
- When Shug sings, a lot of people come to Harpo’s jukejoint.
- Mr.__ doesn’t want Celie to come to Shug’s show, but Shug insists. Mr.__ starts to mutter about how his wife shouldn’t do this or that, but Shug shuts him up by saying, "Good thing I ain’t your damn wife."
- Celie gets to hear Shug sing at last. As she listens, she begins to hate herself. Then she begins to get jealous of Mr.__ because Shug loves him.
- Shug sings a song she calls "Miss Celie’s song." She says it’s the song that came to her when Miss Celie was taking care of her. Celie has never felt so special in all her life.
- Shug starts singing every weekend at Harpo’s and the two of them begin making a lot of money.
- Shug tells Celie it’s time for her to go and Celie feels the same way she did when Nettie left.
- Shug asks her what’s wrong. Celie admits that Mr.__ beats her when Shug’s not there. Why? Shug asks. Because I’m not you, Celie responds.
- Shug gives Celie a hug and says that she’ll stay until she’s sure Albert won’t beat Celie again.
- Mr.__ and Shug sleep together just about every night.
- Shug asks if Celie cares that she and Albert sleep together. Celie doesn’t really care, but she doesn’t say that.
- Celie asks if Shug loves Mr.__ and Shug says she has "passion"—not love—for him. She can’t really love him, it seems, because he’s weak and indecisive.
- Celie asks if Shug likes sleeping with Mr.__ and Shug admits that she does. In fact, Shug says, "Don’t you?"
- When Celie admits that she has never enjoyed sex, that it feels just like Mr.__ gets on top of her and goes to the bathroom on her, Shug says that Celie is a virgin.
- Shug tells Celie that sex can feel really good. Then she gives Celie a mirror and tells her to look at her own vagina.
- Shug guards the door while Celie checks herself out. Shug directs Celie to look at her "button" (clitoris) and her "titties" too.
- Celie tells Shug she doesn’t mind if Shug and Mr.__ sleep together. But Celie does mind, not because she wants to sleep with Mr.__ herself, but, we suspect, because she wants to sleep with Shug herself.
- Sofia comes to Harpo’s—with a man! Sofia introduces her new man—who’s as big as a prizefighter—as Buster.
- Sofia asks Mr.__ where his other children are at. Apparently, both of his daughters got pregnant and left. His other son is in and out of jail.
- Celie tells Sofia that she looks great. Sofia lets Celie know that she’s had another child, too—and that child isn’t Harpo’s.
- Shug comes over to say hi to Sofia. Shug is looking pretty darn hot, which all of the men in the audience and Celie take notice of.
- Harpo comes over to ask Sofia what she’s there for and she tells him that he has a nice jukejoint.
- Even though Harpo stopped eating massive amounts, he’s fat now from all of the beer he’s been drinking.
- Harpo’s girlfriend, Squeak, gets jealous when Sofia and Harpo dance together. Squeak tells Sofia to leave Harpo alone. Sofia has no problem with that and starts to leave, but Harpo holds her back.
- Squeak calls Sofia a b---h and slaps her. Big mistake. Sofia slugs her in the face—knocks two of Squeak’s teeth out.
- After a short pause, Harpo decides to comfort Squeak and Sofia leaves with Buster.
- Harpo is sulking around lately, and Squeak comes to Celie to ask what’s wrong with him
- Celie tells her that Sofia is in jail for sassing the mayor’s wife.
- Celie asks Squeak what her real name is. Turns out to be Mary Agnes. Celie tells Mary Agnes that Harpo should call her by her real name.
- Celie tells Squeak what happened to Sofia:
- Sofia is driving around with her children and Buster. The mayor’s wife happens by and starts fawning over Sofia’s children. The woman tells Sofia that her children are so clean and maybe Sofia would like to work for her. To which Sofia responds, "Hell no." The mayor gets angry and slaps Sofia, and "You know what happen if somebody slap Sofia."
- Mr.__ tells Squeak that the police beat Sofia up really badly.
- Mr.__ goes to the Sheriff to ask if he and Celie can see Sofia.
- Celie visits Sofia and cleans her up. She’s barely alive, the police beat her up so badly.
- Celie, Mr.__, Harpo, and Shug go to visit Sofia in prison.
- Sofia works in the prison laundry. She survives by acting just like Celie acts with Mr.__; she’s completely subservient.
- She’s supposed to be in jail for twelve years.
- Squeak and Sofia’s sister Odessa take care of Sofia’s children.
- Everybody discusses doing something for Sofia to bust her out of prison.
- Harpo thinks they should just use some dynamite.
- Celie silently hopes for a miracle and thinks of God. Celie thinks death is a better option than staying in that horrible jail.
- It turns out that the white warden, who’s last name is Hodges, is Squeak’s uncle, though it’s not clear if he’ll recognize the family connection. They decide she should go see him to see if something can be done for Sofia.
- They dress Squeak up like she’s a white woman. They instruct her to tell the warden (her uncle) that Sofia’s happy in prison. The worst punishment for Sofia would be working for a white woman.
- Sofia is supposed to help the warden see the Hodges in her.
- The warden recognizes the Hodges in Squeak, but he doesn’t approve.
- Squeak tells the warden about how Sofia is happy in jail because doing laundry is just like she always does at home with her six children; it’s not much of a punishment.
- Warden Hodges asks Squeak who her parents are. She says she has no father. The warden, however, recognizes her.
- He beats Squeak up and then rapes her. He tells her that proves he isn’t her uncle—why would he rape her if she were his niece? (Maybe because he’s a huge jerk.)
- When she gets home and relates the incident, she also tells Harpo to stop calling her "Squeak" because her name is Mary Agnes.
- Mary Agnes starts to sing. Her singing is like meowing—she has a really funny high voice. But after awhile, everybody starts to like it. A lot.
- Sofia gets out of jail after all.
- Sofia says she doesn’t understand why they haven’t already killed "them" all off, by which she means white people.
- She and Celie are sitting and talking while Sofia watches the mayor’s kids. She’s been released from jail to go serve a white woman—the mayor’s wife, the one that got her jailed in the first place.
- The boy that Sofia has to watch over is a terror, and Sofia gets back at him for his poor treatment of her. The mayor’s wife is too scared of Sofia to even stand next to her.
- The little girl, Eleanor Jane, is a sweet little thing. She seems to really love Sofia. Sofia wonders why she was born and Celie says, well, we don’t wonder that about African-Americans, do we now?
- Sofia describes her job for the mayor and his wife as slavery. Her son takes offense at the word "slavery" and says she’s a captive —not a slave.
- Sofia teaches Miss Millie, the mayor’s wife, how to drive. Finally, Miss Millie takes Sofia home for Christmas—the first day Sofia’s been home in five years of working in the mayor’s household.
- Sofia ends up only staying for fifteen minutes because it turns out that Miss Millie doesn’t know how to back up out of the driveway and she refuses to let a strange black man drive her home. So she makes Sofia drive her home. To top it off, she acts like Sofia should be grateful.
- Shug’s coming for Christmas and she has a big surprise.
- Mr.__ thinks she’s bringing a car for him because she’s making "big money" now.
- When Shug comes, it turns out she brings a "skinny big toof man wearing red suspenders"—her new husband. His name is Grady.
- Shug also brings a car, but she said she bought it as a wedding present for herself and Grady.
- Mr.__ and Celie both feel desolate.
- Mr.__ and Grady drink all through Christmas. Shug and Celie busy themselves around the house and talk, talk, talk.
- Shug is a famous singer now and makes so much money, she doesn’t know what to do with it.
- Shug says that she’s not romantically interested in Albert anymore; he’s just like family now.
- Celie tells Shug that Mr.__ doesn’t beat her much now and he tries to make sex better—but she’s still a "virgin," meaning she still hasn’t enjoyed sex or had an orgasm.
- While Mr.__ and Grady are out on a drive, Celie finally tells Shug that her children’s daddy was her own Pa. Pa had lied to her Mama, saying that Celie had a boyfriend.
- In response, Shug puts her arms around Celie. Celie cries and cries and cries in Shug’s arms.
- Crying, Celie sums up her life: "My mama die […]. My sister Nettie run away. Mr.__ come git me to take care his rotten children. He never ast me nothing bout myself. He clam on top of me and fuck and fuck, even when my head bandaged. Nobody ever love me."
- Then Shug tells Celie, "I love you." She kisses Celie on the mouth. Then she kisses Celie on the breast.
- Celie reciprocates.
- The next morning, Mr.__ and Grady show up drunk and Celie wakes up next to Shug. Celie says that sleeping next to Shug "feel like heaven."
- Celie doesn’t like Grady. She doesn’t like the way Grady treats Shug, calling her "Mama" (to which Shug responds, "I ain’t your fucking mama").
- Shug tells Mary Agnes that she should sing in public. Shug says that they should sing together at Harpo’s one night.
- Harpo objects and Shug tells him he’s a fool.
- Celie is holding a letter in her hands. It’s from her sister, Nettie.
- She finds out that Nettie’s been writing to her for years and years, but she thinks Albert’s been throwing away the letters.
- In bed, Shug asks Celie about Nettie. She wants to know all about Nettie and tells Celie that she saw a letter from Nettie once when Albert picked up the mail.
- When Celie wants to know why Shug wants to know about Nettie; Shug replies that Nettie was the only thing Celie ever loved— besides Shug herself.
- Shug is suddenly close with Mr.__ again and Celie can hardly stand it. Neither can Grady.
- As it turns out, Shug is just trying to find out where Mr.__ is hiding Nettie’s letters.
- Celie has a hard time believing that Mr.__ could be so mean that he would keep Nettie’s letters from her. Shug says, "Humpf, he that mean."
- Celie and Shug trick Mr.__ to find out why he never gave her any of Nettie’s letters. Shug sees a letter in his pocket, and they wait and watch to see what he does with it.
- Celie is totally out of it, and so mad that she’s ready to kill Mr.__.
- Shug says that Celie is sick, and tells Mr.__ to spend the night alone. Shug stays with Celie.
- Shug tells Celie a bit about her life. Her mother wasn’t affectionate at all, so when Shug fell for Albert, she couldn’t stay out of his arms. Shug had three babies with Albert, but after the third, her mom kicked her out.
- Shug also tells Celie what she like so much about Albert: He could dance well, he was really funny, and he was great in bed. Shug wonders why he’s changed so much.
- Shug says that Albert is weak. He wanted to marry Shug, but his father hated her, so he married Annie Julia instead. Shug admits that she was terrible to Albert’s first wife and that Annie Julia had a terrible life.
- Shug admits that she treated Celie badly at first too, just because Celie was Albert’s wife. Shug also says that she never even wanted to be Albert’s wife, she just wanted to be the only woman he desired.
- Celie finds Nettie’s letters locked in Mr.__’s trunk (along with some of Shug’s underwear and some "nasty" pictures).
- Celie and Shug take the letters out of the envelopes and then put the envelopes back in the trunk so Albert will never know that they’re missing. They put the letters in order so that Celie can read them from the beginning.
- Nettie’s first letter.
- Nettie tells Celie to get away from Albert. When she’s leaving the house, Albert follows her and tries to rape her.
- Because Nettie hurts him enough to get away, Albert says she’ll never hear from Celie and that Celie will never hear from Nettie again either.
- Nettie ends up at the Reverend's place and recognized his daughter as Celie’s child, Olivia.
- Nettie’s second letter.
- Nettie writes about Corrine, the minister’s wife, and her children, Olivia and Adam. The minister’s name is Samuel.
- The family is very religious and good to her.
- Nettie’s third letter.
- Nettie realizes that Celie isn’t getting any of her letters.
- Nettie can’t find any work in town and is afraid she’ll have to leave—and leave Celie behind.
- Corrine and Samuel plan to go be missionaries in Africa. Nettie is sad to be leaving them as well.
- Nettie’s fourth letter.
- Nettie is in Africa with Corrine and Samuel.
- She’s learning so much she never knew before. For example, that Africa had great cities long before Atlanta existed. And that Africans sold their brothers and sisters. She realizes how ignorant she used to be.
- Corrine and Samuel are apparently wonderful people. They have a great marriage and they are so grateful to God for sending them Olivia and Adam.
- Nettie admits that Olivia and Adam are definitely Celie’s children. She assures Celie that the children are well cared for.
- Nettie’s fifth letter.
- Nettie doesn’t feel like a servant even though she works for Samuel and Corrine.
- She suddenly realizes that people in the Bible were black— even Jesus was black, she says. It fills her with pride and self-confidence.
- In New York, she sees proud black communities and realizes that not all African-American families in the United States are as poor or beaten down as her own family is.
- Nettie is dismayed seeing all the pictures of white missionaries who have gone to Africa, but when Samuel reminds her that they have an advantage, being black, she perks right up.
- Nettie’s sixth letter
- Samuel is a kind man. Nettie realizes that black men can be kind and gentle. Corrine is a lucky woman to be married to Samuel.
- Nettie describes the ship they sailed on and wonders again why Africans sold their own brothers and sisters into slavery.
- Nettie and the Reverend’s family stop off in England. There, Nettie meets white people who are eager to help with their missionary work and also invite them to tea.
- In England, Nettie goes to museums to learn about Africa.
- Nettie learns that Africans used to have a more sophisticated civilization than the English, but that the Africans have fallen on "hard times."
- Nettie list some of the problems that ail Africans: they worship the devil, have lots of diseases, are illiterate, and are "sunk in a spiritual confusion."
- Monrovia, Liberia is their last stop before they reach their final destination. Liberia was founded by ex-slaves who came back to Africa from America. Nettie wonders how the people of Liberia feel about returning to Africa after having been sold as slaves.
- Nettie’s seventh letter.
- Nettie is traveling through Africa and feels like she is seeing black people for the first time. She’s amazed and in admiration of how dark-skinned the people of Senegal are.
- There are plenty of white people in Africa, which Nettie wasn’t expecting.
- One of the white people Nettie meets is the president of Liberia, Mr. Tubman. She’s dismayed with the way he disparagingly refers to African "natives."
- Nettie also notices how none of the people in the president’s cabinet—the other men ruling the country—look like "natives," and neither do any of their wives.
- Nettie does observe some of the villages and notices how the tired women in the fields sing just like the black people in America do.
- Recalling when she first saw the African coast, Nettie says she was overwhelmed. She, Corrine, and Samuel all knelt down and thanked God for letting them see Africa.
- Mr.__ and Grady come home.
- Celie’s in shock, having found Nettie’s letters, and he’s angry. She wants to kill Mr.__, but Shug talks her out of it.
- Shug shows signs of not being so interested in Grady anymore.
- Celie asks Shug to make Albert let the two of them sleep together for the rest of the time that Shug is visiting. Shug manages to do just that.
- Shug and Celie sleep together but they’re like sisters, says Celie. She has no desire. Shug says that’ll pass—it’s just grief and being mad.
- Shug tells Celie she should wear pants because it’s too hard to work in the fields with a dress on. They get their hands on some army material and make some.
- Celie gets excited knowing that Nettie is alive. She still hopes to run away with her sister and her two children.
- Celie feels shame when she thinks of her children. She worries that they might not be smart as a result of incest.
- Nettie’s next letter:
- When they arrive at their destination, an African named Joseph greets them in pidgin English and helps them put their cargo on dugout canoes to go ashore.
- Nettie marvels over the African’s teeth, which are apparently strong and very white.
- Joseph hires men to lead Nettie and the Reverend’s family to Olinka. It’s a four-day march through the jungle.
- She described the Olinka village. The villagers love meat, especially barbecue.
- Nettie says the villagers are astounded to have black missionaries.
- In the village, the people want to know if the children, Olivia and Adam, belong to Corrine or Nettie. They say the children look like Nettie.
- The villagers give them a meal, which they eat with their fingers.
- During the whole welcome session, Joseph translates. He tells Nettie and the Reverend’s family that the people believe that they have always lived in this exact spot, growing cassava, groundnuts, yam, cotton, and millet.
- The villagers tell about a chief they once had who wanted everyone to produce surplus for trading with the white men.
- The bad chief bought up most of the village land and was very greedy.
- Then a storm came and destroyed the village roofs, all made of roofleaf. Because the chief was so greedy and made everyone plant so many crops, there was no more roofleaf growing, so the buildings couldn’t be repaired.
- The villagers suffered against the weather for months and months. Eventually, they found some more roofleaf, but it took five years for the plants to be plentiful again.
- Now the villagers celebrate and worship the roofleaf.
- Nettie says that roofleaf may not be Jesus Christ, but something that provides shelter is, in its own way, God.
- A letter from Nettie.
- Nettie describes daily life in Africa, life as a missionary.
- Nettie helps teach the children a variety of subjects. Olivia is getting educated as well, which is somewhat problematic because the Olinka struggle with the idea of educating girls.
- The Olinka think a woman is nothing until she marries. Once she is married, she is the mother of her husband’s children. By that reasoning, Nettie doesn’t have much value at all.
- Olivia is the only girl in school, and Adam is the only boy there who will talk to her. However, Olivia is the smartest child of them all.
- She mentions a young girl named Tashi who is Olivia’s special friend. Since Tashi isn’t allowed to go to school, Olivia secretly teaches her friend everything she learns.
- Olivia is having a hard time in Africa. She seems to be allergic to the bug bites and often gets sick from the food.
- The wives of the fat chief tease Olivia, saying that soon she will be their "littlest sister/wife." Olivia hates the teasing, but Nettie recognizes that the women think that they are complimenting Olivia; they believe that being one of the chief’s wives is the highest honor for a woman.
- The villagers keep thinking that Nettie is Samuel’s second wife, which really irritates Corrine. Corrine tells Nettie to call Samuel "brother" and to stop letting the children call her "Mama Nettie."
- Nettie has her own hut, which she adores. She has her own desk, a bed covered in mosquito netting, a lamp, and a stool.
- Nettie desperately wishes that she had a picture of Celie.
- Tashi’s parents are upset that she is growing a rebellious spirit because of her friendship with Olivia.
- Nettie asks if Tashi is lazy at home. Her parents say that Tashi works very hard.
- According to Tashi’s parents, the problem is that the girl isn’t actually internalizing anything they teach her. Nettie thinks to herself, "Aha. Tashi knows she is learning a way of life she will never live."
- Nettie tries to explain to the parents that the world is different now and that women can have a place in the world. However, Tashi’s father angrily insists that women always have a place— with their husband, father, or brother. Women like Nettie, who have no men, are pitied and looked down upon by the Olinka.
- Tashi’s father also doesn’t respect the missionaries. He said they’ll probably get sick and won’t last through the rainy season.
- Nettie says that African men remind her of Pa.
- Tashi’s father tells Nettie to send Tashi straight home if she shows up. He says that Olivia can come over to their hut and learn to be a woman.
- A letter from Nettie.
- Nettie writes that a road is being built through the Olinka village. The children and villagers gather around to watch the progress of the road. They also feed the road-builders tons of food.
- We find out that Nettie has been in the Olinka village for five years now.
- Samuel is worried that they will soon have nothing new to teach Adam and Olivia. Many missionaries send their children back to England for schooling, but Adam and Olivia love the village.
- Corrine and Nettie are no longer close friends. Also, Nettie and the kids look more alike all the time.
- Corrine puts restrictions on Nettie and Samuel’s friendship. Samuel is no longer allowed to go to Nettie’s hut unless Corrine is there too. Essentially, this means that Nettie now has very little company.
- No one in the village but Tashi is willing to hear about slavery. They don’t want to be held accountable in any way.
- Tashi’s father dies during the rainy season and her mother, Catherine, now encourages Tashi’s education.
- Samuel is confused by polygamy. He sees that the wives of a single man are often friends. He can’t help but think that if the women are friends and help each other, can polygamy be such a bad thing?
- Nettie says that a man’s wives often spoil him so that he’s practically a big baby. The problem is that the men are kept childish, but have the power to have their wives killed.
- A letter from Nettie.
- The road has reached the Olinka village, and the villagers assume that the road is for them and hold a celebration feast.
- Turns out, though, that the road isn’t done yet and is supposed to continue right through the village, and right through Catherine’s field.
- The villagers are really mad, but the road-builders have guns and are supposed to shoot if the villagers resist.
- The church, school, and missionary huts are torn down within hours to make way for the road.
- The Olinka chief sets out to complain and try to get reparations. However, all he returns with is bad news: The Olinka village and the surrounding area now belongs to an English rubber-manufacturing company.
- The Olinka now have to pay rent to live in their village and pay a tax to use the water.
- The villagers have rebuilt the school, church, and destroyed huts and are waiting to see what will happen now.
- Corrine is sick with a fever.
- More women are now sending their daughters to school.
- A letter from Nettie.
- Nettie writes that it has been a difficult year. Corrine is still sick.
- Nettie has to do all of her own work, all of Corrine’s work, and also take care of Corrine.
- One day, Corrine asks Nettie why Olivia and Adam look so much like her. She thinks the children are Nettie and Samuel's, that Samuel had an affair long before Nettie came to live with them.
- Corrine makes Nettie swear on the Bible that she hadn’t met Samuel before she came to live with the family. Corrine makes Samuel do the same.
- Corrine even goes so far as to examine Nettie, checking to see if there’s any evidence that Nettie gave birth to children.
- Corrine even starts treating the children badly. They don’t even know that they were adopted.
- Samuel thought the children were Nettie’s too. He thought that was why she ended up on their doorstep.
- Samuel reveals how he got the children to begin with, from a shady character he’d known before he became a religious man.
- This man—Celie and Nettie’s Pa—turns out not to really be their father after all. He’s their stepfather.
- Their real father owned a successful store but was lynched by white folks who were angry that he was taking away so many of their customers.
- Apparently, after their real father was murdered, their mother kind of lost it. The neighbors had to keep bringing over food to feed young Celie and Nettie.
- Then a stranger came into town and married Celie and Nettie’s mother. The woman was pregnant every year from then on.
- According to Samuel’s story, the woman (Nettie and Celie’s mom), had two children just before she died that she was unable to care for—Olivia and Adam.
- Samuel never told Corrine about how he got the children, they just considered the kids gifts from God.
- Samuel says that when Nettie showed up, he assume that his ex-friend ("Pa") had been messing around with a young girl and that Nettie was the kids’ real mom. That’s why he so willingly took her in.
- Celie’s life is turned upside-down. Pa is not her real father; her real daddy is not her children’s daddy; her real daddy was lynched…
- Shug tells Celie that she’s taking her to Tennessee.
- Celie writes to Nettie. Now Celie’s entries are addressed "Dear Nettie" instead of "Dear God."
- Celie and Shug dress up and go visit Pa. The house now looks really nice and there are lots of trees and flowers blooming.
- Pa looks surprisingly young, but not as young as his new fifteen-year-old wife, Daisy.
- When Celie asks where the kids are, Pa says that his second wife ran off with the kids ages ago. Smart woman.
- Celie tells Pa that she knows he isn’t her real father. Daisy says that he’s such "a old sweetie pie" to have raised to girls that weren’t even his own.
- Pa is wealthy now because, unlike Celie’s real father, he knows how to deal with white people. He gives them a cut of the money he earns.
- Celie asks where her real father was buried. Pa says he’s buried right next to her mother. Both were buried without a marker.
- She looks for her parents’ grave but can’t find anything to indicate the site where they were buried.
- Shug says to Celie, "Us each other’s peoples now."
- A letter from Nettie.
- Corrine is dying.
- Nettie sits Samuel down with Corrine and tells them about Olivia and Adam. That she is actually their aunt and that her older sister, Celie, is the children’s mother.
- Corrine refuses to believe it and says that Nettie and Samuel are just lying to her.
- Nettie remembers how Celie once said that she saw Corrine and Olivia in a cloth store. Corrine, unfortunately, doesn’t remember the encounter with Celie.
- A letter from Nettie.
- Nettie tries hard to get Corrine to remember meeting Celie in the fabric store so many years ago.
- Nettie knows that Corrine likes to make quilts with the family’s old clothing, so she pulls out some quilts. With the oldest quilt in hand, she asks Corrine if she remembers buying that fabric.
- Corrine remembers. She says, "She was so much like Olivia! […] I was afraid she’d want her back. So I forgot her as soon as I could."
- That night, Corrine dies, but before she does, she tells Samuel, "I believe."
- A letter from Nettie.
- Nettie writes that Olivia has become a woman—she has gotten her "friend," her period.
- They bury Corrine the Olinka way—wrapped in a barkcloth under a large tree. Samuel and the children are very upset.
- Two white engineers come to check out the village, especially the wells.
- Samuel gives Corrine’s clothes to Nettie, because Nettie is in desperate need of more clothing.
- Neither Nettie nor the villagers have clothing appropriate for the African climate. The Olinka women used to wear very little clothing, but that bothered the English, who brought the Mother Hubbard—a loose, shapeless dress—to Africa.
- Nettie is happy to have Corrine’s clothes so she doesn’t have to wear an icky Mother Hubbard.
- Samuel wants to know more about Celie, and Nettie tells him plenty.
- Celie has completely stopped writing to God. She writes to Nettie now.
- Celie and Shug discuss God. Celie is pretty upset with God because she says, "he give me a lynched daddy, a crazy mama, a lowdown dog of a step pa, and a sister I probably won’t ever see again."
- Celie also complains that God is a man, which isn’t appealing because Celie’s had some pretty bad luck with men.
- Shug explains that she thinks God is neither a "she" nor "he" but an "it."
- Shug also says that there are more ways to love God than by going to church and signing in the choir, and other places than church to find God.
- Celie admits that she thinks God looks like a white man. Shug says that’s the God you find in church because white people made the church and the Bible.
- According to Shug, the true God is inside every person and in nature, too.
- Shug says God wants admiration, but wants to please people too, that’s why "it" puts special things in people’s way all the time to make them happy, like the color purple.
- Celie’s eyes are beginning to open. And she feels like a fool. Life begins to seem okay.
- Celie’s trying to get rid of her idea of God as a white man, but the image is kind of hard to knock.
- Sofia worked for the Mayor’s wife for eleven and a half years. She has finally come back home and her kids don’t know how to treat her; she’s a stranger to them. Sofia’s oldest children have even gotten married already.
- Harpo, Sofia’s actual husband, and Harpo’s girlfriend seem like an old married couple because they’ve been together since before Sofia was in jail.
- Sofia’s children even call Odessa, Sofia’s sister, "Mama" and call Mary Agnes "little mama." So it seems like there isn’t much of a place for Sofia.
- Over dinner at Odessa’s house, Shug announces that she and Grady leaving and they’re taking Celie with them to Tennessee.
- Mr.__ can’t believe what he hears. Shug has to repeat it over and over again.
- Mr.__ doesn’t understand why Celie is leaving.
- Celie finally lets Mr.__ have it. She calls him a "lowdown dog" and accuses him of keeping Nettie from her.
- Everyone is astonished that Celie actually has some sass in her.
- Celie even says that she has children in Africa, and they’re coming home with Nettie and "all us together on whup your ass." Go Celie.
- Celie can’t stop. She tells Mr.__ that his kids are rotten (which Harpo objects to) and that they all treated her terribly.
- When Mr.__ slaps Celie, she jabs him with her dinner knife.
- Mr.__ tells Celie that people will think badly of her if she runs off to Memphis. Shug says women shouldn’t care what other people think. Grady, however, says a woman can’t get a man if she has a bad reputation.
- All the women in the room find this pretty funny. Shug, Celie, Squeak, and Sofia all laugh.
- As the men try to make their women chill out, Sofia tells Harpo that her youngest child isn’t his. The little girl is named Henrietta and she’s Harpo’s favorite child.
- Mary Agnes decides she’s going to Memphis, too. She wants to sing! Harpo is so surprised and acts just like Mr.__ did when he heard Celie was leaving.
- A knock sounds on the door, interrupting all of the family drama.
- Eleanor Jane, the mayor’s daughter, comes to spill her problems to Sofia. Sofia was such a mother to her, she doesn’t know any different.
- Apparently Eleanor Jane’s family has a lot of problems. Now Sofia has to go back for a couple of hours to try to sort out some mess that they’re in.
- Squeak and Harpo’s little girl, Suzie Q, has taken a real liking to Sofia and doesn’t want Miss Sofia to have to go to they mayor’s house.
- Sofia offers to look after Suzie Q while Squeak is in Memphis singing. Squeak asks Sofia to look after Harpo, too.
- Grady is all over Mary Agnes.
- Mr.__ tells Celie she’s ugly; she can’t hold a candle to Shug. Shug has looks and that’s why people like her. But what does Celie have? Why should she go to Tennessee with Shug?
- Then Celie asks if any more letters from Nettie have come. Mr.__ is surprised.
- Celie tells Mr.__ off. She says "I curse you […]. Until you do right by me, everything you touch will crumble." And she adds in some more curses as well.
- Shug pulls Celie away from Mr.__ and they leave.
- Celie describes Shug’s beautiful house. Shug has statues, a fountain, and lots of decorations with elephants and turtles all over them (weird).
- Apparently, Shug would like a round house if she could have one. She has to settle for a round bed.
- Shug turns out to be a really good cook. Together, she and Celie feast and drink sweet wine and beer.
- After eating, Shug and Celie go into Shug’s room and snuggle up or read a newspaper.
- From the newspapers that Shug reads aloud, Celie starts to learn more about the wider world. Shug thinks most people out there are crazy.
- Shug heads back to work and is off on the road again, singing.
- Squeak is going around and singing at various clubs lately.
- Celie spend her time making pants. She loves pants now and can’t get enough of them.
- Celie makes pants for everybody—Shug, Squeak, Odessa, and her husband… She makes them special for each person with a goal of making them functional and comfortable.
- Shug creates a business plan for her "sugar." Everybody loves Celie’s pants and it looks like she’s got herself a business.
- Celie is making a pair of pants that Nettie can use in Africa.
- Celie’s finally happy.
- Her business is going well and she has twins working for her, Jerene and Darlene.
- Darlene tries to teach Celie to talk so she doesn’t sound quite so backwards and rural. Darlene thinks Shug would be proud if Celie could speak better, but Shug says Celie "can talk in sign language for all I care."
- Celie visits Harpo and Sofia. She is so different now that Mr.__ doesn’t even recognize her when she passes by the house.
- Sofia and Harpo argue about women pallbearers at Sofia’s mother’s funeral. Harpo thinks it’s silly and inappropriate, but Sofia says she’s going to be a pallbearer no matter what.
- Celie knocks and Harpo and Sofia let her in.
- They discuss Mary Agnes, who is now a regular singer at several clubs in Memphis.
- Harpo says that Mary Agnes has changed, "Her mind wander. She talk like she drunk." Apparently, Mary Agnes has been smoking a lot of reefer with Grady.
- Grady grows, smokes, and sells weed.
- Little miss innocent Celie introduces Sofia and Harpo to weed and they all get stoned together. Damn, has she changed.
- At the funeral, Sofia and her sisters do serve as pallbearers.
- Mr.__ comes to Sofia’s mother’s funeral. Afterwards, Sofia tells Celia that he’s changing—he actually works and he even cooks and cleans.
- Mr.__ and Celie talk. They talk about Henrietta, Sofia’s youngest daughter, who has some kind of blood disease. (It’s unnamed in the novel but we suspect it’s sickle cell.)
- Celie is really surprised that she can actually hold a conversation with Mr.__ now, and he’s actually being generally nice.
- Sofia describes how Mr.__ almost died. When he sent Celie the rest of Nettie’s letters, he started to improve. It was his guilt making him so sick.
- A letter from Nettie.
- Nettie says that she’s on her way home. She also married Samuel in England last fall while they were trying to get relief for the Olinka.
- Road builders move into the Olinka village. They have to buy tin to cover their roofs. The roofleaf has all been plowed up to make room for the rubber trees. The tin roofs make the Olinka feel utterly defeated.
- Nettie, Samuel, Adam, and Olivia leave for England.
- On the trip there, they meet a white woman named Doris with a black child whom she refers to as her grandchild. One night, they hear her story—how she made a lot of money writing novels under a pen name. She built an entire African village with the money. She adopted two girls, who were actually presented to her as her wives, and she sent them to school to become a doctor and agriculturalist.
- In England, Nettie and Samuel tell a bishop about the problems that the Olinka are experiencing. The bishop isn’t as interested in the Olinka as he is in Corrine’s death and the possibility that Nettie and Samuel have been having premarital sex.
- Something is wrong with Adam, Nettie says. Later, we learn that it’s because he misses Tashi. He’s worried because she’s planning to go through the scarification and initiation process that he doesn’t approve of.
- Samuel feels like they failed the Olinka.
- Nettie tells the children about their mother, Celie.
- A letter from Nettie.
- Nettie, Samuel, and the children return to the Olinka village, but everybody is disappointed because they failed to get the Missionary Society in England to help save the Olinka way of life.
- Tashi has disappeared. She’s basically hiding from Adam and Olivia because while they were away, she underwent the traditional Olinka female initiation and scarification. Tashi knows that Adam in particular won’t approve.
- When Tashi finally does show up, her face is still all swollen from getting her face scarred.
- Tashi is ashamed of her scars, but the village is pushing its young people to get the scars, almost like a last-ditch attempt to save their culture.
- Adam really wants to head back to the U.S.
- Samuel and Nettie, however, are feeling really happy in their marriage.
- Life in Olinka has drastically changed as the villagers have to work very hard in order to pay the taxes to live on their land and use the water.
- Celie writes to Nettie to let her know that their "Pa," Alphonso, is dead. He died in his sleep.
- Pa’s teenage bride, Daisy, phones to let Celie know that she and Nettie are actually the owners of Pa’s house and store. Apparently, Pa never owned the house or store, it belonged to Celie’s real father, who left it to Celie’s mom, and Celie’s mom left the property to Celie and Nettie when she died; a fact that Pa unsurprisingly failed to tell the girls about.
- Celie says she doesn’t want anything that belonged to Pa, but Shug talks some sense into her. Shug points out that Celie could use the convenience store as clothing store to sell her pants.
- Shug and Celie go check the property out. As they’re driving into town, they come across the cemetery, which now has a huge gravemarker for Pa.
- Pa’s headstone has a bunch of lies on it, stuff like "Upright husband and father" and "Kind to the poor and helpless." Right.
- The house that Celie grew up in was torn down, so the house she inherits is a nice, newly built one.
- Celie gets the keys to the house and is so excited to finally have her own place. Well, a house for herself, Nettie, and Nettie’s family.
- Celie returns to Nashville and Shug.
- Over a nice Chinese dinner—Celie’s favorite—Shug drops some bad news on Celie’s lap. Shug is in love with somebody else—a 19-year-old boy named Germaine. He plays the blues flute and was part of her backup band.
- Shug seems pretty into the young guy. According to her, "He little. He cute. Got nice buns," etc., etc. All the kind of stuff you shouldn’t be blabbing on about to the woman you’re leaving.
- In Celie’s own words, "By the time she [Shug] finish talking about his neat little dancing feet and git back up to his honey brown curly hair, I feel like shit."
- But Shug isn’t totally insensitive; she realizes that she’s hurting Celie and starts to cry.
- Shug asks why Celie minds about her crush on Germaine when Grady was never a cause for jealousy. She answers her own question: "Grady so dull, Jesus."
- Grady and Mary Agnes are now in Panama, running a reefer plantation.
- Shug tries to talk and laugh to make Celie feel better, but Celie basically wants to die now. Shug has broken her heart.
- Celie’s so tortured that when Shug asks her questions, Celie pulls out a paper and writes responses in order to avoid speaking.
- Basically, Shug is just looking for a fun fling, not a real, soulful, long-term relationship. Shug says she’s just asking for six months to have a little fun.
- Celie responds that she loves Shug no matter what, but can’t stay in Nashville with her.
- Back home, Henrietta (Sofia’s youngest daughter) is fighting for her life. The family is treating her illness the same way people in Africa treat it: with lots of yams.
- Yams, yams, yams. Henrietta hates yams, so the family bands together to try to make all kinds of yam dishes that don’t taste anything like yams.
- Even Mr.__ is all concerned. He made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Henrietta with yams secretly mixed into the peanut butter.
- Mr.__ is becoming a new man. He still lives in the same old house, but he takes care of it better than he used to. He’s even becoming sensitive and likes collecting seashells.
- Celie goes over to Mr.__’s house to check out his shells. Neither of them have ever seen the ocean, so Mr.__ orders shells and has them delivered.
- Mr.__ asks Celie a question about herself (finally!). He asks her if she likes anything in particular, the way he likes shells. Celie responds that she’s into birds.
- Mr.__ comments that Celie used to be like a skittish bird when they first got married. He apologizes for treating her so inconsiderately.
- Eventually, Celie can’t help but cry.
- Mr.__ asks, "Celie, tell me the truth. You don’t like me cause I’m a man?"
- Celie’s response: "Take off they pants […] and men look like frogs to me. No matter how you kiss ‘em, as far as I’m concerned, frogs is what they stay."
- Celie receives a telegram from the Department of Defense that says Nettie and Samuel were on a boat that sunk.
- All of the letters that Celie has written to Nettie come back to her unopened.
- Celie says, "Being alive begin to seem like an awful strain" now that her sister has been reported drowned.
- Another letter from Nettie: Tashi and her mother ran away to join the mbeles. It’s not clear who or what the mbeles are, but they seem to be a rebel group trying to fight for independence and to keep traditional ways of life.
- Adam and Olivia are devastated to have lost their friend; no one who has joined the mbeles has ever returned.
- The new owners of the Olinka village have gotten rid of the yam fields, which was a big mistake. The yams help with resistance to malaria and with controlling chronic blood disease, so now a bunch of villagers are dying of illness.
- Nettie asks Celie how she is and also says, "Nearly thirty years have passed without a word between us."
- Nettie tells Adam and Olivia about Celie, but worries that Celie has been changed over time from Mr.__’s abuse.
- Nettie comments on God. How her notion of God has dramatically changed over time. She thinks of God in a more spiritual sense now rather than focusing on Christ or other "idols," as she says it.
- Nettie worries about how Adam and Olivia will handle the transition back to the U.S. They have learned to be intelligent and outspoken, and are not used to the racism that they are certain to experience in America.
- Adam has gone after Tashi.
- Celie looks at her body and hates it. Mostly, she’s just worried that she’s not attractive and therefore Shug doesn’t love her.
- Celie experienced her life’s only happiness with Shug, and now fears she will never be happy again.
- Shug sends postcards from wherever she and Germaine are visiting.
- Ironically, Mr.__ is the only one who seems to understand how Celie feels about Shug’s abandonment of her.
- Celie also tells Mr.__ about how she has two children and that Pa is the father of the children. Mr.__ realizes what a rotten S.O.B. Pa really was.
- Celie no longer hates Mr.__. Why? Because he loved Shug and Shug loved him. And because he’s trying to be a better person.
- Sofia and Harpo keep trying to set Celie up on dates, but thankfully Mr.__ saves the day by telling the would-be suitors that Celie is his wife.
- Eleanor Jane (the mayor’s daughter whom Sofia raised) continues to come over to see Sofia. She brings her husband, Stanley Earl, along, as well as yams disguised as tuna casserole for Henrietta.
- Eleanor Jane is sweet, but totally clueless to the fact that Sofia lived a very unhappy life with the mayor’s family.
- Eleanor Jane comes over with her new baby, Reynolds Stanley Earl, eager for Sofia to approve of and fawn over the baby. Which Sofia certainly does not do. Eleanor Jane pushes the issue, and keeps asking Sofia to say that the baby is "sweet" and "smart," but all Sofia will say is that the baby’s "sure fat."
- Finally, Sofia puts her foot down and says that she does not love baby Reynolds Stanley. Eleanor Jane cries. Sofia says that she feels nothing for the baby, and loving him or not loving him won’t change the way he treats her when he grows up.
- Sofia insists that any black woman who claims to "love" baby Reynolds Stanley is lying because they’re scared of Eleanor Jane as a white woman.
- Eleanor Jane doesn’t understand what it was like for Sofia to be basically a slave in her family’s household. But Sofia begins to try to show her.
- Eleanor Jane is upset because she feels like Sofia is the only person who loves her; her family certainly doesn’t and now her husband is always working
- At last, Celie hears from Shug. Shug and Germaine looked up Shug’s children, and Shug visited one of her sons. From her grown son, Shug found out that her own parents have been dead for nearly ten years.
- Celie tells Mr.__ that she loves Shug because Shug has the self-confidence that she always lacked.
- Mr.__ tells her he was always so jealous of her relationship with Shug. He also recalls how astonished he was when Shug left him. He knows why she left him too: because he was beating Celie. No matter what, Shug always stood up for Celie instead of being mean and jealous of her.
- Mr.__ wants to hear about Celie’s children and about Africa. She tells them how men in Africa dress—in robes that might as well be dresses. And, apparently the men in Africa sew too, not just women.
- Mr.__ and Celie chat while she teaches him to sew clothing.
- Celie explains how the first humans were black and lived in Africa. Adam and Eve were simply the first white people ever.
- The Olinka have their own interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve. Apparently, the Olinka frequently throw out white Olinka for being different. The see this as being like God throwing Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. The parallel they draw here is that the Olinka word for "white" is "naked." If you recall the Adam and Eve story, when they are tempted by the serpent to eat an apple from a tree that provides wisdom, Adam and Eve realize that they are naked. The Olinka think that their black ancestors probably threw Adam and Eve out of their village.
- Furthermore, the Olinka have theories on the serpent. In the Biblical story, after being thrown out of the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve began to hate snakes and wanted to kill any snake they saw. The Olinka believe that white people think of blacks as the serpent. That’s why they’re so determined to crush black people.
- Interestingly, the Olinka also worship the snake.
- Celie is finally appreciating Mr.__’s company.
- Celie can’t bring herself to believe that Nettie is dead. Celie also continues to receive letters from her sister.
- A letter from Nettie.
- Adam and Tashi return from the mbeles camp, bickering about getting married. Tashi is worried that she won’t be accepted in America.
- In a family discussion, Tashi gives her reasons why she won’t marry Adam: 1) African-Americans don’t seem to like black women with really dark skin like Tashi has, and 2) she’s worried that Adam will fall for a light-skinned black woman once he returns to the U.S.
- Adam apologizes for being so angry at Tashi for undergoing scarification. To prove it, the next day he shows up with his own scars (or at least cuts on his face that will turn into scars).
- Samuel marries Tashi and Adam and the newlyweds are extremely happy.
- Directly after the wedding, Samuel, Nettie, Olivia, Adam, and Tashi leave for their long trip to America.
- Shug goes to the State Department to find out more about Nettie’s boat and whether or not she actually did drown. Shug isn’t able to get any helpful information.
- Celie still hopes that her sister will show up soon.
- Celie hires Sofia to work at the store, while Eleanor Jane helps out with Henrietta.
- Evidently, Eleanor Jane went home after her fight with Sofia and learned the true story of how and why Sofia came to work for them. Horrified, she returned and befriended Sofia anew.
- Mr.__ and Celie discuss why it’s so difficult not to love Shug— because Shug knows how to love somebody back.
- Mr.__ and Celie get into some big, philosophical discussions. Mr.__’s essentially been wondering about the meaning of life, and why he’s here on Earth at all. He decides that he’s alive to "wonder" and ask questions. He decides that the more he thinks and wonders, the more he loves.
- Celie pipes in that the more Mr.__ loves, the more people love him back.
- Mr.__ is now busy sewing shirts to go with Celie’s pants.
- He asks Celie to marry him again, this time for real, but Celie says no. She still can’t handle men, but she’s happy to be friends with him.
- Shug is finally back home, and when she shows up, Celie has a room in her house ready, complete with elephants and turtles. Celie’s own room is all purple and red.
- Germaine isn’t with Shug—he’s in college now. Shug had started feeling like he was way too young for her, more like a son or grandson than a legitimate lover.
- Shug wants to know what Celie and Albert have been doing while she’s been away—she’s jealous.
- Celie writes one last letter to God. In fact, she addresses the letter, "Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything. Dear God."
- She thanks God for bringing Nettie, Samuel, Adam, Olivia, and Tashi home to her.
- Shug, Celie, and Mr.__ are sitting on the porch chatting. Mr.__ wants Shug to try on the new shirt he’s sewn. Shug is talking about retiring from singing in public. Celie talks about her store.
- The see some people approaching in a car and wonder who they are…Sofia? The mailman?
- Some old people get out of the car—a white-haired man and a pudgy little lady. Then a young man and two young women.
- Celie realizes that it’s Nettie and her family. She can’t speak.
- Celie and Nettie cry and stumble up to each other, hardly able to walk or speak.
- When Nettie has recovered a bit, she introduces Samuel, Olivia, Adam, and Tashi. Celie introduces Albert and Shug.
- Celie hugs her children and Tashi.
- They have a family reunion on the 4th of July. Mary Agnes even comes. She’s left Grady and is picking up Suzie Q and plans to start singing in Memphis again.
- Everybody loves Tashi. "They never suspect African ladies could look so good." Everyone also gets a laugh out of Tashi’s favorite food: barbecue.
- The children (Adam, Olivia, and Tashi) think Celie, Albert, Shug, Nettie, Samuel, and everybody are so old. But Celie thinks to herself that they’re not old. "Matter of fact," Celie writes, "I think this the youngest us ever felt."