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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 29


Summary

Harpo spends the weekend at the farm. He arrives in the middle of the night, crying on the porch. Celie goes to comfort him and sees that his eyes are almost swollen shut. He tries to find a lie, but tells the truth; Sofia has hit him when he tried to beat her for not minding him. He wants Sofia to behave like Celie. She tells him that it is more important that they love each other. She reminds him that Albert loves Shug and that he cannot make Shug mind. She says that when Shug has gained her weight back she might sit on Albert to make him behave. When she brings up the topic of weight, Harpo cries harder.


Notes

It is clear that Celie has learned her lesson well. The second time Harpo comes to her complaining that he cannot control Sofia, she provides prudent advice. She reasons with him and uses his father, his role model in manhood, as her example of a man who does not dominate the woman he loves. This letter reveals how Celie, despite being married to Albert, has no relationship with him; she acknowledges that Albert does not love her, but Shug. Amazingly, she has no bitterness about it. The letter also reveals her attempt to rectify the situation between Harpo and Sofia before it escalates into an all-out battle. She emphasizes that it is more important to love each other than for one to dominate the other. By directing Harpo away from the traditional behavior patterns of black men, Celie is attempting to subvert the patriarchal system which has abused and victimized her; but Harpo is not able to see beyond what society dictates about how men and women act.


CHAPTER 30


Summary

Celie goes to visit Sofia, and talks to her while she is fixing the roof. Celie asks how she and Harpo are doing. Sofia says that he is not eating so much anymore. Celie tells her she thinks he was trying to gain weight to become bigger than Sofia so he could fight her. Sofia says she is tired of Harpo trying to make her mind and believes he should have a dog instead of a wife. She tells Celie she would like to leave with the children and go live with her sister. Celie is painfully reminded of Nettie and wishes she had somewhere like that to run.


Sofia says she loves Harpo, but that he often makes her feel hostile. She says that she is not interested in sex with Harpo anymore, for he just climbs on top of her even when she is too tired. He does not even notice her disinterest when they have sex. Celie is reminded of Albert who climbs on her for ten minutes before falling asleep. She thinks of how she never feels anything "stirring down there" unless she thinks about Shug. The women look back towards the house where Shug and Albert sit on the porch. He is getting something out of her hair.


Notes

In this chapter, Sofia talks to Celie about the disintegration of her marriage, largely due to Harpo's insistence on trying to dominate, even in their sex life. Ironically, in his efforts to control Sofia, he is driving her away; rather than submit to his will, Sofia tells Celie she is thinking about taking the children and going to live at her sister's.

Celie recognizes more and more her erotic interest in Shug Avery. She has suffered through forced sex since she was fourteen, never having a sexual longing for a man. Now she feels a stirring for Shug, which she does not see as unnatural. She never questions that Shug is a woman and that such love is disdained by society and religion. In comparison to the evil of patriarchal sexuality, her lesbian desire for Shug seems sane and wholesome.


CHAPTER 31


Summary

Sofia's sisters, all big and strong, arrive in two wagons to pick up Sofia and her children. Harpo acts like he does not care, but Celie notices a dullness about him. She asks him if he is going to allow Sofia to leave. He does not understand how she can ask him this question when he cannot make his wife do anything. He knows he cannot stop her from going. As Sofia rummages through the house gathering things, one of the daughters asks if their father is coming. Sofia tells her children that he is staying to watch the house. Harpo, to keep busy, changes his baby's diaper even though it is not wet. He dries his wet eyes with the dry diaper. Before Sofia departs, Celie offers the quilt to her. They are then on their way, and Harpo is left standing in the yard.


Notes

Sofia's family of sisters seems to represent the strength that women gain when they act in solidarity with one another. None of them has money or room to spare, but they do not hesitate to help Sofia when she is in need. This sisterly unity makes Celie's loss of her only sister more touchingly poignant. Celie's gift of the quilt is significant, for it reveals the close bond she feels with Sofia. It is also significant that Celie acted on her own, making the decision to give the quilt to Sofia rather than Shug. Such independent thinking is new to her. Celie is discovering her own agency through other women.

Harpo is not prepared for this sad moment, for it goes against his patriarchal beliefs. Sofia's departure is the supreme display of the fact that he has no control over his wife, who is leaving him and taking his children. He cannot hold back the tears, for he feels ashamed and lost. He has truly loved Sofia.


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