Free Study Guide for The Color Purple by Alice Walker Free Book Summary|
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Kate tells Harpo, the eldest boy, to fetch the water sometimes, instead of expecting Celie to do it. He responds that women should work, not men. When Kate orders him to do it, Harpo goes and complains to Albert. He criticizes Kate, causing her to grow angry and cry. Before she leaves, Kate tells Celie she must fight and not give up. Celie thinks of Nettie who fought and was banished; she is sure that her sister is dead, since she has not received any letters.
Albert's sisters, Kate and Carrie, come for a visit and immediately like Albert's new wife. They compliment Celie on her abilities as a housewife and caretaker of the children. Unfortunately, Celie is still not being recognized for who she is, but only for what she does. When Kate comes back by herself for a visit, she bonds with Celie, taking her shopping for the first new dress she has ever owned. Like Nettie, Kate also tries to convince Celie to fight back against the oppression she feels and gain some self-respect. At this point in her life, Celie is not able to follow such advice.
Celie reveals that Shug Avery is still very much on her mind. When she shops for a new dress, she tries to imagine what color Shug would prefer and decides it is purple or red; since these are the colors of royalty, it is an indication of Celie's estimation of the blues singer. Celie, however, winds up with a blue dress, indicating the vast difference between she and Shug. Celie is still very much a part of the patriarchal system and has no idea how she might escape; Shug has escaped the system and lives an independent lifestyle. To Celie, she is the symbol of the ideal woman - sexy, vibrant, and full of laughter. It is important that Celie had wanted a dress of red or purple, indicating she is gaining a small sense of independence and self-worth; the reality is that she winds up with blue.
It is significant that when Kate asks Harpo to help Celie with the chores, he responds by saying only a woman should do housework. When he complains to his father about Kate's request, Albert sides with Harpo and criticizes Kate. It is obvious that patriarchy is deeply rooted in this black family and will be passed down from generation to generation unless the cycle is broken.
Albert continues to beat his children and wife with a belt, but he does not beat the children nearly as often. When she is hit, Celie tries not to cry by imagining she is a tree. One day Harpo asks Albert why he physically abuses Celie. He responds that he beats her because she is his wife and because she is stubborn.
Harpo announces to Celie that he is in love and will get married soon. She tells him he is not old enough and asks if he has even gotten permission from the girl's family. He admits that he has not spoken to the girl or her family about marriage. In actuality, he has only winked at her when he has seen her at church; she reacts with shyness or fear.
This letter reveals that some time has passed since the last correspondence. Harpo is now a young man interested in getting married. He reveals, however, that he is as ignorant of dating and sexual matters as Celie is. Harpo does seem to be somewhat sensitive. He asks his father why he physically abuses Celie. Albert's response again reveals his patriarchal mindset; he responds that he beats Celie mainly because she is his wife (his property) and can do what he wants to her.
In this chapter, Alice Walker again reveals the cycle of oppression in black families. Children who grow up in abusive, patriarchal households are trained in these ideas and primed to accept them and act in the same way. In the last chapter, Albert teaches his son, Harpo, that he should not do house chores, for they are woman's work. Now he teaches Harpo that a man is expected to beat his wife, to keep her in line.
Celie's only method of escape from the abuse is to imagine that she is not a person, but a tree. This image provides her a means to manipulate her emotions and weather the beatings. When Albert says that Celie is stubborn, he is partially right. Celie is not about to totally give into Albert; she fights back her tears and tries to hold her ground.
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TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on The Color Purple".
. 09 May 2017