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Free Study Guide for The Color Purple by Alice Walker Free Book Summary

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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES


CHAPTER 14


Summary

Celie is excited that Shug Avery is coming to town. Albert is excited too. He dresses and redresses in front of the mirror; for the first time ever, he even asks Celie's opinion about his looks. She is shocked by his question. She is also saddened that she cannot go to the Lucky Star with her husband. She desperately wants to see Shug. Celie even carries around the pink announcement about Shug's arrival in her pocket and often thinks about her.


Notes

The reader's anticipation of the arrival of Shug Avery is almost as sharp as that of Celie and Albert. She has become a symbol of life, love, and the glamour of freedom in the novel. It is symbolic that Shug is singing at the "Lucky Star," for she seems to be swinging upon one. Celie desperately wants to meet her, and Albert is eager to renew his sexual relationship with Shug.

It is important to notice that for the first time ever Albert asks Celie's opinion. He wants her to comment on his appearance, because he is going off to see Shug Avery and wants to look his best. Celie is shocked that Albert would want to hear her thoughts. She, however, misses the irony that the question is asked by her husband who is going off to chase the woman that Celie loves.


CHAPTER 15


Summary

Shug is in town for the weekend. Albert stays away from home until Monday. In contrast, Celie works in the field all weekend wondering about Shug. When he comes home, weak and crying, Celie wants to ask him many questions about Shug. All he wants to do is go to bed. When he finally wakes, he is so exhausted he can barely hoe. He soon goes back to the house, and Celie follows, thinking he is sick. Albert orders her to return to work in the fields.



Notes

It is obvious in this chapter that Albert is lovesick over Shug. He stays away from home all weekend and comes home exhausted on Monday, unable to work. Although Celie realizes he has been with Shug, she does not seem angry about it. Instead, she wants to know about Shug, but is afraid to ask. Her lack of self-worth is evident throughout the chapter. She accepts that that her husband has no interest in her except as a laborer in the fields and tries to forget about her misery by fantasizing about Shug. For both Albert and Celie, Shug represents a magical world where hard labor does not exist and beauty and desire are paramount.


CHAPTER 16


Summary

Celie tells God that Harpo, like her, is not able to fight back against Albert. Now that Harpo is old enough to work on the farm, Albert thinks he does not have to work any more. Harpo resents this and questions his father about it. Like Celie, he tries to forget his misery by fantasizing about the girl at church.


Notes

Albert is a burden on the family. Because he is not working in the fields anymore, the others have to work twice as hard. As a result, Harpo is treated much like Celie; to his father, he is nothing more than a work animal. Ironically, Celie, Albert, and Harpo all spend time fantasizing about women to escape the reality of their world.


CHAPTER 17


Summary

Harpo courts the girl from church, but her father does not think he is good enough for his daughter. Harpo asks Albert why he is not accepted by others. His father tells him it is because Harpo's mother was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. As a result, Harpo begins to have nightmares about his mother's death. In his dream he and his mother are running from her boyfriend in a pasture. She tells the boyfriend her place is with her children, but he insists her place is with him. He shoots her and runs away. Harpo holds his dying mother and screams out for her in his sleep, waking the other children. They all cry as if she had just died. Harpo insists that it was not her fault that she died; Celie feels sorry for her stepson and reassures him that it was not his fault.

Celie tells God that everyone notices how good she is to Albert's children. Even so, she does not feel anything for them, nor do they feel anything for her. Harpo, however, confides in Celie about his love life, telling her that he thinks of Sofia Butler all the time. He speaks of her in glowing terms and adds that they have been able to find time away from her father. Celie realizes that Sofia is pregnant with Harpo's child. She questions the young man and asks where they will live. Harpo thinks they can live at her father's place. Celie warns him that Sofia's father is going to be upset; she also advises him to talk to Albert.

Harpo brings Sofia home to meet his father. Sofia makes conversation with Albert, but he ignores her words and stares at her. Then, he begins to insult her about her being pregnant and implies that she has no place to go and is only looking for Harpo to take care of her. Harpo sits silently through his father's insults. Sofia laughs and tells Albert she is being taken care of without Harpo. She then tells Harpo that he needs to free himself from his father; only then can she accept him. Before she leaves, Celie gives Sofia a glass of water. Harpo and his father sit on the porch for hours, saying nothing to each other.


Notes

This letter reveals one of the primary reasons Walker brings in the Sofia/Harpo subplot. Unlike Celie, who has been beaten down since she was very young and thereby conditioned to accept abuse as her proper lot in life, Sofia is more assertive and headstrong. When Albert treats her rudely, she does not tolerate it, but promptly leaves. Albert does not think that she acts the way a woman 'should.'

Celie knows that she does not love Albert's children, but she feels responsible for them, in spite of their selfish, unkind ways; she also treats them with respect, unlike their father. As a result, she would like to speak out for Sofia and Harpo, but does not have any power in the family; therefore, she cannot have any say in what happens between the two young lovers.

The silence between Albert and Harpo on the porch is deadening and reveals their lack of closeness. Sofia has told Harpo that she will have nothing to do with him if he does not free himself from his father, but the young man stays on the farm, unable to think of a life without Albert; he has been the single source of power and authority in Harpo's life. Celie realizes that Harpo is basically "weak in will" even though he is a big, strong boy.


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