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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 41


Summary

When Squeak returns from the visit with her clothing torn, Harpo becomes irate, for he realizes she has been raped. She tells him to be quiet and listen to her story. After she told the warden what they told her to say, he began asking her about her relations. When she told him that he was her uncle, he took her hat off and instructed her to undo her dress. The warden then raped her. Harpo says he loves her and puts his arms around her. She tells him that her name is Mary Agnes.


Notes

This chapter displays white power at its worst. The warden, who is Squeak's uncle, rapes her when she goes to try and get Sofia out of jail. When he learns that the girl is his mulatto niece, he feels she does not have any rights. Southern law dictated that any person of mixed race was deemed black, allowing plantation owners a wider pool of slaves to choose from. Lighter skinned blacks were often used as house servants while darker skinned blacks labored in the field. The white warden knows he will never be punished for taking a black girl.

It is ironic that the rape of Squeak makes her tougher, giving her a sense of her own being. For the first time ever, she stands up to the condescension of Harpo. Celie's advice that she insist on being called by her real name now has meaning, and she tells Harpo that her name is Mary Agnes. Instead of Squeak, Harpo is pictured as the weak one. His anger is impotent; it is merely an unleashing of emotion with no plan to do anything about it. He feels powerless against the white hierarchy.


CHAPTER 42


Summary

Six months after being raped by her uncle, Mary Agnes works as a singer at the juke joint even though her voice has a funny quality to it. Celie asks Harpo if Mary Agnes is still mad about Sofia knocking her teeth out. Harpo says that she understands what a rough time Sofia is having. That is why she is willing to help care for Sofia's children.



Notes

Once again, the juke joint seems to be a place of self-determination for women. Mary Agnes has blossomed into a blues singer, growing emotionally in the process. She shows her maturity by her willingness to help Sofia's sisters take care of her children. Again the importance of the solidarity of women is emphasized.


CHAPTER 43


Summary

Three years after Sofia had first been jailed, Celie is visiting her at Miz Millie's, the mayor's wife. Sofia's job is to watch Miz Millie's children. A ball rolls to Sofia, and a little boy orders her to throw it to him. She tells him that she is there to watch him, not throw balls. He comes over and tries to kick her leg, but instead catches his foot on a rusty nail. He is bleeding and crying as his mother comes outside, keeping her distance from Sofia. She seems scared of her and asks the little boy if Sofia hurt him. The little girl tells her that he hurt himself trying to kick Sofia. Celie notes how the girl dotes on Sofia, even though she pays her little attention. While they talk, Celie makes Sofia laugh, the first time in three years. Mostly, Sofia speaks of killing people.


Notes

This chapter clearly shows Sofia's resentment. Her feistiness and love of life has boiled down to a deep hatred, and all she can think about is retaliation and murder. The mayor's wife senses her anger and is actually afraid of her. She looks for things to blame on Sofia so she can be punished.

It is no wonder that Sofia is so resentful. Unable to be with her own children, she is ironically forced to care for the children of the white family who put her in jail. Celie acts as a true friend to her in visiting her and trying to give her hope; but Sofia seems to be detached from living, showing no emotion for the children. She does not even notice that the little girl dotes on her.


CHAPTER 44


Summary

Sofia tells Celie that the white people for whom she works are backward and inept. The mayor bought Miz Millie a new car, for he did not want a black having something his wife did not have; but he refused to teach her to drive it. Finally, Miz Millie asked Sofia to teach her how to drive. Now in addition to caring for the children and doing the housework, Sofia must give Miz Millie driving lessons.

One day Miz Millie tells Sofia she will drive her to see her children. When they arrive at the house where her children are staying, the mayor's wife tells Sofia she has until five o'clock with them. Fifteen minutes later, however, Sofia sees that Miz Millie is still out front. She goes to see what is wrong and finds out Miz Millie does not know how to shift into reverse and back up. In the process of trying, she has ruined the gearbox. Now Sofia has to interrupt her visit with her children to take Miz Millie to a mechanic, for she refuses to go with Sofia's brother-in-law, a black stranger. By the time Sofia returns after the car is fixed, it is already five o'clock, and they must leave. There is no time for a visit.


Notes

This very painful chapter reveals the frustration level in Sofia's life. She is forced to care for a weak, unintelligent woman who acts like a tyrant. On the day that Miz Millie is finally doing something nice for Sofia, driving her to see her children, she ruins the gearbox on her car and demands that Sofia take her to the mechanic. After the car is fixed, Sophia has no time to visit with her children, whom she misses greatly. This is the first of several times that automobiles are mentioned in the book. They are used as a symbol of financial progress and independence. Both Shug and Buster own one.

These letters which feature news of Sofia are important to the development of the plot. Celie sees the price that Sofia has been made to pay for her independent spirit, which fights against the patriarchal and white supremacist philosophies. If Celie is to stand up for herself, she knows there will be a price to pay.


CHAPTER 45


Summary

Celie and Albert are excited that Shug is coming back for a visit. She has written ahead to let them know she is bringing a surprise. Albert thinks she has bought him a car. Celie and Albert are both surprised and disappointed to find that Shug arrives with a husband, whom she introduces as Grady. Sidling up to Celie, she claims that they are "two married ladies now."


Notes

Shug's marriage is a surprise. Totally independent, she seemed to have been beyond the need for a husband. Since both of them love her, Celie and Albert are disappointed about her surprise. Shug's appearance makes Celie aware of herself again since the focus of her recent letters has been on Sofia.


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