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

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While they are driving to Memphis, Grady tries to sit next to Mary Agnes. When Shug and Celie sleep, he talks to her incessantly about the north. Celie comments that all men are the same.

Albert appears as if he does not care if Celie is leaving. Then he tells her that she will soon be back because no one else in the world would have her. In contrast to Shug who has talent and spunk, he claims that she has nothing to offer. He lists her failings by telling her, "You ugly. You skinny. You shape funny. You too scared to open your mouth to people . . . you black, you pore, you a woman. . .you nothing at all." He adds that she isn't even a good cook and that his house has not been cleaned properly since his first wife died. After his tirade, Celie is brave enough to ask Albert if any more letters for her have come. He is shocked into silence by her question; when he recovers, he says if any letters did come, he would not give them to her.

Albert tells Celie that he just did not whip her enough. He adds that he should have locked her up and let her out only to work. Celie tells him that the jail he plans for her is really the one in which he will rot. Before Celie leaves, she tells Albert, "I'm pore, I'm black, I may be ugly, and can't cook. . .But I'm here." Shug says, "Amen" several times.


This letter reinforces the climax of the novel given in the previous chapter; it also adds an almost mystical element. Walker implies that in coming into her own, Celie has tapped into a larger power, that of the universe. She feels that she has gained her voice not out of some individual sense of self; instead, she becomes a medium, speaking the truth of the world. In fact, Celie admits that her words even surprise her.

In anger over the pending loss of his wife, Albert names all the characteristics by which Celie has been oppressed: her poverty, her color, her gender, and her looks. He even criticizes her years of hard labor, saying her work was inferior. Celie is not affected by his harsh criticism; she is now beyond Albert's world and its cruelty. She answers her husband by simply asserting her being - "I'm here." Celie knows that Albert is incapable of taking her existence away from her. With newfound confidence, she curses him to the kind of existence he has forced her to lead, as the lowliest, least loved, and loneliest.



Celie writes to Nettie about the good time she is having while living at Shug's house. When Shug leaves for a two-week singing tour, Celie wants to accompany and help her, but Shug tells Celie she is not her maid. She encourages Celie to sew while she is gone. Celie makes pants, for Shug, for Odessa, and for Jack; she also sends Nettie a pair of them. Everyone who sees the pants wants Celie to make them a pair. Shug suggests that Celie turn the dining room into a pants-making factory, and Celie agrees.


Celie's life has been spent in servitude to male figures; as a result, she wants to serve Shug. But Shug reminds Celie that she is not a maid; she also helps Celie channel her talents into sewing. Before long, Celie is attracting a lot of interest in the pants that she designs and creates; part of their uniqueness is that they are suitable for either men or women to wear. With Shug's encouragement, Celie sets up shop in the dining room. Shug also lets Celie reflect herself and her interests in the house and yard.

Having been "imprisoned" by a patriarchal system all of her life, Celie is stunned by her new freedom and the lack of fear and anger that she feels. She loves having her very own room, which she can decorate as she wants. She loves being able to work at something meaningful. It is a positive and beautiful environment, and Celie knows that Shug has made it possible for her. Now both she and Nettie feel they have a value in life; both have left their cruel past behind to become whole people.



Celie tells Nettie that she has hired two women to work for her; they are twins, named Jerene and Darlene. Darlene is trying to teach Celie how to speak standard English, but Celie does not think it is important since she has never been happier in her life. She loves her new life, and her business is making a profit. Shug adds that she does not care how Celie talks.


Celie's pants-making business is meeting with success. She even hires two workers, twins. One of them, Darlene, feels that Celie should learn to speak better, with less dialect. Many blacks have faced similar language issues after moving into a middle-class existence where it is expected that everyone will speak Standard American English. The unpretentious Celie, however, sees nothing wrong with the way that she talks, for she has come into herself by speaking her native dialect. She believes that by throwing it away, she might jeopardize her present happiness.



Celie leaves Memphis to visit Sofia, whose mother has just died. When she arrives, she finds Sofia and Harpo in their new house, arguing over her sisters being pallbearers. Harpo is very distressed by such a crossing of genders and claims, "Women weaker . . . people think they weaker. . .Women spose to take it easy . . .Not try to take over." Sofia responds, "I can cry and take it easy and lift the coffin too."

When Celie enters, Sofia and Harpo welcome her and ask about Mary Agnes. Celie says that she and Grady are smoking too much marijuana. When they reveal they do not know what it is, Celie explains how it works and says that Grady grows it in the back yard. She says that after she smokes it, she finds it easier to talk to God. Celie suggests that they should all smoke some together.

At the funeral, Celie notices that no one stares at Sofia and her sisters for carrying their mother's coffin. In fact, they act as if it were normal. This tickles Celie.


Celie goes back home for the funeral of Sofia's mother. When she arrives, she finds that some things never change. Harpo and Sofia are fighting - this time about whether women can be pallbearers; Sofia, still the stronger of the two, is winning, but at least the fighting is no longer physical. At the funeral, Celie is pleased to notice that no one seems to mind that Sofia and her sisters are carrying the casket.

Walker also shows that the people in small Southern towns are isolated from what is going on in the world. When Celie speaks about marijuana, neither Sofia nor Harpo know what it is. It is significant to notice that Walker treats smoking marijuana, a social taboo, with the same kind of light offhandedness she used in talking about lesbianism. She acts like it is a normal part of living, especially in the life of a blues singer. Celie, however, warns against its overuse, criticizing Mary Agnes and Grady for smoking too much.

It is important to notice that Albert does not recognize Celie as she walks by him. He is only able to see her in one light, as a submissive, unsophisticated girl, and cannot accept her complete metamorphosis.

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