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

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Celie tells Nettie that Shug has fallen in love with Germaine, a young fellow of nineteen that is in her band. Celie's heart is broken. Shug claims that she only wants one last fling and then intends to spend the rest of her life with Celie. She asks Celie for six months. Celie is hurting worse than she thinks she can endure, but tells Shug that she will love her no matter what; however, she is leaving for Georgia.


Before the novel reaches its final conclusion, Celie endures one more unhappiness. Shug falls in love with a nineteen-year-old man in her band. It breaks Celie's heart, but it motivates her to make the final move to Fonso's house. She plans to leave Shug, demonstrating her newfound self-respect and strength.



Albert's daughter, Henrietta, has a disease that keeps her blood from clotting. Celie remembers that Nettie has said that they eat yams in Africa to help that condition. Unfortunately, Henrietta hates yams. Everyone tries to make recipes to hide the yam taste. Even Albert is concerned about Henrietta and hides some yams in the peanut butter he gives her.

One evening Celie stops by Albert's house, where he lives alone, to see his shell collection. He talks about the past, saying that Celie reminded him of a little bird when she first came to live with him. He then reminds her that they are still husband and wife, but she tells him they were never husband and wife. It is obvious that Celie has no interest in Albert or any other man.


Part of the reconciliation in the novel involves Celie making her peace with Albert. As she helps to care for the sick Henrietta, she gets to know the changed Albert, who has even taken up the collecting of shells, symbols of femininity. In many ways, he is a much softer person. He now works and keeps house; he also is helping to care for Henrietta. When Celie stops by to see his shell collection, Albert talks about the past, saying he could not appreciate her when they first married. Then he reminds her that they are still husband and wife; he seems to hope that they might get back together. Celie, however, has no interest in men.



Celie receives a telegram from the State Department informing her that the ship that Nettie and her family were on has sunk. Celie is devastated. She is also saddened by the fact that most of the letters that she has sent to Nettie are returned to her, undelivered.


The devastating news of the shipwreck serves to test Celie's newfound stability and sense of self. Although it seems she will now be physically separated from her sister throughout her life, she knows that Nettie will always live in her mind. She is at least thankful that they were re-united through the mail. When Celie finds out that Nettie has not received her letters, she is crushed, for she wanted her sister to know her. Celie's undelivered letters to Nettie have become similar to the many letters she wrote to God, which could not be delivered either.



Celie receives another letter from Nettie, stating her eagerness and anxiety about returning to America. She writes that she can hardly believe she and Celie have not had personal contact for nearly thirty years. She wonders if Celie will be the same gentle soul she once knew. The children have asked about their real mother, and Nettie has told them that Tashi reminds her of Celie. Unfortunately, Tashi and her mother have gone to the forest to join the Mbeles.

Nettie reveals that her idea of God has shifted in ways parallel to Celie's idea of God. For her, God is "more spirit than ever before and more internal." She adds that most people think God has to look like something, a roofleaf or Christ, but that for her and Samuel, "not being tied to what God looks like frees us."

Nettie also writes of her concern over money. She assumes that it will be years before she and Samuel will have the money to buy a house after they return to America. She also worries about how Olivia and Adam will handle racism when they have grown up in Africa, free of any feelings of animosity towards them because of their color. Nettie cuts off the letter, for she has learned that Adam is missing.


Even after Celie receives the news of the shipwreck, letters continue to arrive from Nettie, sent before her departure. Their poignancy is more acute because of what has happened. For Celie, there is a strangely spiritual undertone in this letter, as if Nettie is speaking to her from the great beyond.

This letter addresses Nettie' anxieties about returning to America. She worries that Celie may no longer be the same loving soul she knew when she left. She also worries about money and a place to live, for she is unaware of the fact that her financial future is secure with the house, store, and land from her real father. Finally, she is concerned about how Olivia and Adam will react to racism, which they will feel for the first time in their lives.

Even though her life has been very different from her sister's, Nettie has reached some of the same conclusions Celie has. Her picture of God is no longer as a white person reigning on high. Instead, she has no mental picture of God, but believes Him to be an internal spirit, an image much like Celie has.

Nettie brings in another part of the African subplot at the end of this letter. Tashi has run away to join the Mbeles, and Adam has gone in search of her. The move away from Africa is obviously not easy for any of the family. The ties they have made, especially to Tashi and her mother, are strong and hard to sever.

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