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

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In the next letter, Nettie writes that she believes Albert is not passing on her letters to Celie. As a result, she is afraid of losing all contact with her older sister. She is also worried because Corrine and Samuel are preparing to go to Africa as missionaries, and Nettie does not know what will happen to her. She will not ask their Pa for help, for she does not want Fonso to know where she is. She asks Samuel to speak to Albert about her situation, but he declines, not wanting to get involved with a man he does not know. Nettie encloses a few stamps so that Celie will write her some letters.


In this letter, Nettie is filled with worry. She feels like her ties with Celie are being cut off by Albert. She is also worried about what will happen to her when the minister and his wife go to Africa as missionaries. She is fearful that she will again find herself in a life of abuse and oppression.



The next letter explains that Nettie has gone to Africa with Samuel and Corrine. She wrote to Celie every day on the ship, but she tore her letters up, thinking Albert would never pass them on. She acknowledges the fact that Celie writes letters to God, feeling too ashamed to speak directly with Him. Celie's faithfulness in writing letters serves as an example for Nettie to continue writing to Celie, even if she does not receive them. She admits that writing to Celie makes her feel less lonely.

Nettie was allowed to go to Africa because one of the missionaries backed out of the trip at the last minute; therefore, there was an extra ticket for her. Nettie told Samuel she wanted to learn to be a real missionary, someone they would be proud to call a friend. In the letter, she tells Celie how she is learning about the history of the Africans. She is thankful Miss Beasley kept alive her thirst for learning.

Nettie also explains how she saw the mayor's wife in town one day with a maid and found out from Samuel about Sofia's predicament. She also tells Celie she wants to tell Samuel and Corrine that Olivia and Adam are her sister's children, but she is no sure how to do it. She closing by telling Celie how wonderful it is that she is there "to lavish all the love I feel for you on" the children.


Nettie reveals in this letter where her narrative intersects with the time line of the Sofia/Harpo narrative. She was still in town when Sofia was imprisoned and then released to work for the mayor's wife. This connection also reveals the irony of how physically close Nettie was to Celie, yet how distant and different their lives have been.

Nettie provides an insight into Celie's strength of character in spite of her lack of self-confidence. Despite all her hardships and difficulties, Celie has kept her faith and written letters to God. Nettie knows Celie writes letters because she does not feel worthy to talk to God directly. Nettie, who is in a much more privileged position than her sister, still takes strength from Celie's perseverance. She continues to write Celie letters to give her sister encouragement, hoping one of them may get through to her. Nettie also finds that the letter writing makes her feel less lonely.



Nettie tells Celie about the new clothing that Corrine bought her. Although she works for the minister and his wife and takes care of their children, she is not made to feel like their maid. They treat her with respect and eagerly teach her new things. In fact, she says "there is no beginning or end to teaching and learning and working-it all runs together."

Before leaving for Africa, Nettie tells how she went with the family to New York and visited many churches in Harlem, trying to raise money for the mission effort. The African-American people were very willing to help the people of Ethiopia. Samuel tells Nettie that their family will have an advantage in their mission work, for they are black like the Africans; he also explains that working to better the blacks in Africa uplifts black people everywhere.

Nettie then tells Celie some of the things she has learned. First, she has been amazed to discover that the Bible is not just about white people; the inhabitants of Ethiopia and Egypt were "colored" and lived on the African continent in the time of Jesus, and the "white" Europeans lived in another part of the world. She also tells how Jesus "had hair like lamb's wool," tight and curly like the hair of a black. Additionally, Nettie explains that there is a white woman missionary who has worked in Africa for over twenty years; unfortunately, the Mission Society of New York did not even mention her work, but only the work of white men. The female missionary talks about her love of Africa; but the men only speak of their duty to the Africans, never of their love.


In this chapter, Walker introduces for the first time the idea of solidarity among people of color all over the world, a concept that was emphasized by Marcus Garvey in the 1930s. Garvey was a Jamaican who immigrated to New York and founded the first Black Nationalist movement. He thought that black Americans should return to Africa where they would not be treated with such oppression. This movement was popular in Harlem, where Nettie had been staying before her departure to Africa.

This letter reveals that Nettie is learning many new things. Like Celie, she had always believed that God, the angels, and everybody else in the Bible were white. She has now learned that there are stories in the Bible about people of color who lived in Africa during Christ's time on earth. She also has a new image of Jesus, with his hair like lamb's wool. These insights into Nettie's black heritage prepare her for the education she will receive about her ethnic identity in Africa. Nettie is also developing a consciousness about the unfair treatment of women in the world, as indicated in her story about the white women missionary who receives no recognition for her work in Africa.

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