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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 18


Summary

Harpo marries Sofia in her sister's home, where she has been living with her baby. They leave after the wedding to live together in a shed that belongs to Albert's father. Harpo continues to work on the farm for his father, who now pays him a small amount for his efforts. One day, Harpo, while taking care of his child, looks at it with adoration. To show his disgust, Albert blows smoke in Harpo's face and tells him that Sofia is switching roles with him.


Notes

In this chapter, Walker depicts Sofia and Harpo as the younger generation who is trying to rise above the prescribed gender roles within a heterosexual marriage. Harpo enjoys nurturing his baby, while Sofia, because of her strength, is suited to physical labor. Albert laughs at what he sees and derides his son, claiming that Sofia is getting the better of Harpo. It is obvious that he is very uncomfortable with change.


CHAPTER 19


Summary

Harpo complains that Sofia does not obey him; he has told her not to go to her sister's house so much, but she still goes. He asks his father how to make his wife mind him. Albert tells Harpo to beat Sofia, theorizing that women need to be punished just like children. Celie is also confused about Sofia's behavior. She does not stop talking when the men walk into the room, and if they ask her where something is, she tells them she does not know. Sofia also looks at Celie with surprise and pity when Celie jumps when her husband calls. As a result, when Harpo asks for Celie's advice concerning Sofia, she also tells him to beat his wife. The next time Celie sees Harpo, he is bruised all over. He claims that he has had an accident with the mule, but Celie knows the bruises have come from Sofia.


Notes

One of the saddest legacies of abuse is that the abused often accepts the inflicted cruelty as right and proper behavior, endorsing their own oppression. Celie is a prime example. She has been curiously watching Sofia's behavior around the men. It is obvious that she does not fear them and dares to stand up for herself. Celie is shocked at her behavior; she is also a little jealous of her courage. As a result, Celie acts out her internalized oppression on Sofia and endorses the idea that this proud and strong woman should be brought down like she has been. She tells Harpo that he should beat his wife. It is important to understand that Celie is not being cruel. Physical abuse and oppression are the only things she understands.


Harpo obviously follows the advice of his father and Celie and attempts to give Sofia a beating. With irony and a touch of humor, it is Harpo that gets beaten by his wife. When he appears with bruises, he tries to convince everyone that his mule has done it. His lie contains some truth, for Sofia is seen as mulish by the men who observe her stubborn and willful ways. When Celie realizes that Sofia has resisted the beating, it is another lesson for her that a woman does not always have to submit to her husband's cruelty.


CHAPTER 20


Summary

When Celie goes to visit, she again hears Harpo and Sofia fighting and looks inside to see what is happening. Harpo tries to slap Sofia, but she picks up a piece of wood and knocks him on the eyes. He hits her in the stomach, but she comes up and locks her hands on his genitals. He tries to pull her over, but she does not blink. He then tries to hit her under the chin, but she pulls him over her back and throws him against the stove. Celie decides to go home without entering the house. On Saturday morning, she sees all of Harpo's family in a wagon going to visit Sofia's sister.


Notes

This chapter centers on a physical fight between Harpo and Sofia that Celie watches. She is shocked to see that Sofia does not passively accept being beaten; instead, she fights back, getting the best of Harpo physically and emotionally. Later Sofia will fight back even more by leaving Harpo.


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