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

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Celie watches Albert walk up to the coffin. His hair is smoothed down, and his skin is clean. Sofia tells her that he now has a job and does housework; Celie can hardly believe her ears. Sofia tells Celie that after she left, Albert at first acted crazy, locking himself up in his house and not bathing or eating; eventually, Harpo forced his way into the house and took care of him. He also made Albert send all of Nettie's letters to Celie because "meanness kill."


Albert has risen above Celie's curse and improved in several ways. He now has a job, stays clean, and does housework. Harpo is also painted in a favorable light. When Albert was at first miserable after Celie's departure, he forced his way into the house and took care of his father, even sleeping beside him in order to watch over him. Such intimacy between men, even if they are father and son, is very rare in the patriarchal society.



Nettie responds to Celie's letters. She and Samuel have married and sailed to England to file a grievance on behalf of the Olinkas. She writes how they dined each evening on the ship with the famous woman missionary they had heard about before going to Africa. She was an older English woman accompanied by her African grandson. She told stories about her disinterest in saving the souls of Africans. She only became a missionary to avoid compulsory marriage back home. She wanted to write and that is what she has been doing all these years in Africa. She has many successful books out in America and England.

Samuel and Nettie have a hard time dealing with the Africans' rejection of them. They have no interest in the Bible; instead, they quiz Samuel about the African Americans. They wonder why they have not maintained their native language and why they are not happy in America with so many automobiles. Now that their Olinkan God, the roofleaf, has been destroyed, they turn to God for help; when help does not come, the Olinkas decide to return to the jungle to live with the Mbeles people.

Nettie tells Celie about Corrine and Samuel's aunts who influenced their decision to become missionaries. One aunt in particular liked to tell wild stories from her days abroad. One of the stories included a special medal she was awarded for her work in Africa. Once, upon hearing her tell this story, a particular guest became highly agitated and told her she should be ashamed of the medal. He explained how it tags her as an accomplice to the terrible crimes committed against the African peoples by colonists.

Nettie writes that she truly loves Samuel and says that she, Samuel, Olivia, and Adam are a true family now. The children are fine, but they miss Africa, especially their friend Tashi. Nettie also explains that she has told the children the truth about Celie.


Nettie and Samuel are now happily married and have become a true family with Olivia and Adam. Nettie has even told the children about Celie and their background.

Nettie and Samuel are disappointed about not being accepted by the Africans. They are especially torn since they are of African descent yet do not belong there. They cannot believe that the Africans refuse to take any of the responsibility for the crime of slavery in America. The Africans, however, cannot understand how the blacks in the United States can be so unhappy in a land of plenty filled with automobiles. Nettie and Samuel are dealing with a wide chasm that exists between two black cultures.

The Olinkas totally reject Samuel's God. They view Him as lacking power, since He did not save the roofleaf for them. Olinkas will only honor a god who will keep bad things from happening to them. In spite of the fact that the Olinkas reject the teachings of Samuel and Nettie, the two of them, along with Olivia and Adam, travel to England to fight for the Olinkas.



When Nettie and her family return home to Africa from England, Adam and Olivia go in search of Tashi. They cannot find her for days and realize she is hiding because she has undergone the initiation ceremony and scarification. When they finally find her, Tashi is listless and cannot hold her head up; her scarred face now has twelve incisions on each cheek. Adam totally rejects her, but Olivia stays to console Tashi. While Tashi is beginning to realize the magnitude of her mistake, Adam is in conflict between the modern and the Olinkan cultures.


The clash of cultures plays itself out most intensely among the younger generation. Tashi is in a very difficult position because, as an Olinkan, she has been raised to believe that the ceremony of initiation into womanhood is natural; however, she has also been educated by Westerners, who regard genital mutilation and the scarification of her face as barbaric. This ritualistic African violence is, in truth, a reflection of the violence in the American South where women, such as Celie, are subjected to constant abuse because of tradition.



Celie writes to Nettie to tell her that their stepfather, Fonso, is dead. Daisy, Fonso's teenage bride, has called to inform her that the house, store, and land belong to Nettie and Celie. The property originally belonged to their real father, but Fonso kept it for himself without informing Nettie and Celie it belonged to them.

At first Celie does not want to live where Fonso has lived; but with Shug's encouragement she finally realizes the value of having a place of her own as well as her own business. When she and Shug drive down to see the house, they stop at the cemetery to see Fonso's gravestone, which states he was a great father and great man. Shug yawns and says, "The son of a bitch." Inside the house, Celie runs from room to room excited about the possibilities it offers. Shug takes out some cedar sticks and lights them, smoking out all the bad spirits. Celie writes that the house is big enough to house Nettie, Samuel, Olivia, Adam, Celie and Shug.


When Fonso dies, Celie learns for the first time that her stepfather's house, land, and store really belong to Nettie and her, for they were the property of their real father. Fonso has simply "stolen" them from the girls; fortunately Daisy, Fonso's teenage wife, tells Celie the truth. At first Celie does not want to move into the house where Fonso has lived, but Shug convinces her to do it. Once she sees the place, she grows excited with the possibilities it offers. She writes to Nettie that there is plenty of room in the house for all of them, including Olivia and Adam. Walker is foreshadowing the resolution of the plot, when Celie will finally be united with her family. The place that had been the scene of abuse and heartbreak will become a scene of harmony and love.

In the early part of the novel, Celie suffered unbelievably with the sexual and emotional abuse that Fonso, her stepfather, imposed. Now she learns that he has also kept the house, land, and store for himself, even though they rightfully belong to Nettie and her. Ironically, the gravestone of this evil man states that he is a great father and businessman. Celie, however, is gaining her poetic justice. During the novel, she has escaped her horrible past and experienced emotional and spiritual growth; now she has the opportunity for real economic growth as well. The fact that it will come in Fonso's house and store forms a neat circle in the structure of the novel. The end of the story will take place where it began.

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