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

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Although Shug has had three of Albert's children, he is nervous about bathing her and asks for Celie's help. She stares at Shug's naked body so intently that the woman asks Celie if she has ever seen a naked woman before. Shug tells her she is welcome to take a good long look and even puts her hands on her hips and bats her eyes. Celie feels like she is praying when she bathes Shug, for they really talk to each other. They discuss their children and realize that both of them have children who are absent. When Celie asks if she misses them, Shug says she does not miss anything.


Shug seems quite unworthy of Celie's reverential love for her. Equating washing Shug with praying reveals Celie's devotion to this woman, who has become almost an idol to her; it also shows that Celie's feelings of longing and desire can only, at this point, be channeled in a way which is imbued with Christian devotion. Celie can feel comfortable bathing Shug's nude body, for she is helping the sick, as the Bible directs. Celie has not become aware of herself as a sexual being though she obliquely alludes to her feelings when she says that she feels like a man at the sight of Shug's nakedness. Despite Shug's mean comments and rude ways, Celie excuses her and blames her behavior on the facts that she has lost her children and been ostracized from the community.

Celie eventually brings Shug back to life through her unconditional love for her. It is the kind of Christian love taught by Christ and learned from the Bible.



When Shug asks what is for breakfast, Celie lists many foods, but she asks for things that Celie cannot offer, like coffee and cigarettes. Celie, however, finds a way to get them for Shug. She is totally devoted to this woman and begins to realize that her emotions are somewhat sexual. She knows that "if I don't watch out I'll have hold of her hand, tasting her fingers in my mouth."

Celie brings breakfast into Shug and asks if she can stay and eat with her. Shug says she does not care. Celie enjoys a hardy breakfast while Shug merely stares into her coffee cup, refusing to eat a bite. When Celie returns with some water for Shug, she notices some of her food is missing from her plate. Albert asks his wife how she got Shug to eat. Celie says no one can smell her ham and resist tasting it. Albert laughs and teases with her.


Shug is depicted as demanding, selfish, and child-like. She shows no appreciation for the care that Celie gives her lovingly and faithfully. In fact, she attempts to get Celie to react in a negative way. Celie's only purpose, however, is to serve this woman she idolizes. Shug's indifference does nothing to stifle Celie's adoration for her. In fact, Celie finds herself longing to put Shug's fingers into her mouth; it is the first time Celie has realized there is a sexual attraction to Shug.

Albert continues to be a more pleasant character in the chapter. He is genuinely concerned about Shug's well being and is grateful to Celie for the care she has given in nursing Shug back to health. He even teases with his wife for the first time in the book. It is ironic that both husband and wife are in love with Shug, and because of her, they are nicer to one another.



Shug is finally able to sit up in bed, and Celie lovingly combs her hair. She even saves the strands from the comb. At first Shug resists Celie's attention but then rests against Celie's knees and enjoys it. Her touch is so gentle that it reminds Shug of her grandmother. It also relaxes her to such a degree that she hums a tune. When Celie asks her what song she is singing, Shug says she just made it up.


Shug has been called the prototypical blues woman, who is often portrayed in African-American literature. She is free from domestic ties and the conventional thinking that goes with them. Selfish and absorbed in her own pleasure, she takes what she can and gives little, if anything, in return. At first she openly resists Celie's attention, for she has seen this woman for years as an obstacle to her love for Albert. Now she learns that Celie has no jealousy or evil motives.

Celie is a mother figure to Shug, lovingly combing the tangles out of her hair. Shug even says that her touch is as gentle as her grandmother's. When Shug sings a song for Celie, she sings her into existence, saying it was Celie's combing which encouraged the song. Although Celie is not particularly pleased by the lyrics, which sound dirty to her, she accepts everything about Shug exactly as it is and feels excited that someone has acknowledged her worth. It is another step for Celie coming into her own identity.

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