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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 89


Summary

Even though Celie has been told that Nettie has perished at sea, she refuses to accept it and continues to write her letters. Even if she has to wait until she's ninety years old, she knows she will see Nettie's face again. In the letter, she tells Nettie that Albert has telephoned Shug several times lately, informing her that Nettie and her family have been lost at sea. Shug, always a woman of action, goes straight to the State Department and the Department of Defense and tries unsuccessfully to find out exactly what has happened. It is obvious that in the middle of a war the government is not terribly concerned about a sunken boat filled with blacks.

Celie informs Nettie that she has hired Sofia to work in the store as a clerk, along with a white man. Sofia waits on the blacks, to make certain they are treated with proper respect. She has proven that she is a good salesperson, always chatting pleasantly with the customers and never pressuring them to buy anything. Harpo has no problem with Sofia working since it seems to make her happy. He helps to take care of the house, and Sofia, in a touch of irony, has hired Eleanor Jane to help with Henrietta when needed. All the white people are scandalized that Eleanor Jane would work for blacks, but she retorts that it was a scandal that a woman like Sofia had worked for white trash.

Celie writes that she and Albert have continued to be friends even though she has refused his offer of re-marriage. He is even trying to design a shirt to go with Celie's pants, one with plenty of pockets, loose sleeves, and no ties. One day when she sat on the porch with Albert, he told her that all he ever wanted in life was Shug Avery; in the past, he has felt miserable because he could not have her. Celie tells him that everyone loves Shug because she knows how to love back. Albert agrees and says that he has learned to love too. He used to wonder why people suffered, why they were black, why they were born. Now he knows the answer is to love one another. Albert admits that the more he has loved others, the more he has felt loved, by Sofia, by Harpo, and by the children.

Shug writes to say that she is coming to Georgia. Celie tries to stay calm, telling herself, "If she come, I be happy. If she don't, I be content." She realizes it was this lesson that she needed to learn all along. When Shug steps out of the car dressed like "a movie star," she tells Celie she missed her more than she missed her own mother. She praises Celie's house, especially Celie's pink room. Celie then shows Shug the room she has decorated for her - in the color purple with touches of red and yellow.

When Celie asks about Germaine, Shug says that she regards now him as a son or a grandson. Shug then asks Celie what she and Albert have been up to. Celie tells her they just sew and make idle conversation. Celie is surprised to see that Shug seems jealous. Celie reassures her that she and Albert talk about how much they love her. Shug responds by putting her head on Celie's shoulder and sighing.


Notes

This letter reveals a number of reversals from earlier in the novel. Celie is a totally changed person. Her business is successful, and she is self-sufficient. Kind and gentle as always, she is able to forgive Albert and forge a relationship with him; she feels close to him because of their mutual love for Shug. When she hears that Shug is coming to live in Georgia, Celie is excited but has no false expectations, saying she can now be content without her.

Shug does return to Georgia to live with Celie; she now regards Germaine as only a son or a grandson. When Celie explains that her life is filled with sewing and idle conversations with Albert, Celie seems to be jealous. Although Shug is as glamorous and beautiful as a movie star, Celie's calm life seems desirable to her. She now longs for what Celie has.


The letter also shows the complete change in Albert. He is trying to help Celie, designing shirts and sewing for her, treating her with respect; he also philosophizes about life's wonders, saying he has learned to love the little things. This is the lesson that Shug taught Celie years earlier when she said God wanted people to recognize the beauty of creation like the color purple. Because Albert has learned to love others, he also feels loved.

Sofia's life has also changed. She is now working as a clerk in Celie's store with Harpo's blessing. He has obviously changed, graciously allowing her to escape the normal patriarchal role of mother and housekeeper. She has also accepted Eleanor Jane and has ironically hired her to help care for Henrietta. The white townsfolk, however, have not changed at all. They feel it is outrageous that a white woman should do work for blacks.

It is significant to note that this letter, one of the most complex in the novel, is written to Nettie. Even though she has been told that her sister is dead, the faithful Celie refuses to believe it and continues to write her letters. It is also important to note that the kind and sensitive Celie has remembered to paint Shug's room purple.


CHAPTER 90


Summary

Celie addresses this joyous letter to everyone: "Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything." It is clear that this final entry will be a celebration of life.

Celie, Shug, and Albert are sitting on the porch one evening when a car comes down the road. They all wonder who it could be, and think it may be Sofia since the car is going fast. The car stops at the end of the road, and some people dressed in old people's clothes emerge. There is a tall, white-haired man with a backward turned collar, a short woman with her hair braided across her head, a tall young man, and two young women; they are all carrying luggage. As they begin to walk towards the house, Albert announces that it is Nettie. Celie feels so scared that she does not know what to do. She cannot utter a word and almost falls when she tries to get up.

When Nettie steps onto the porch, Celie feels like she will die. She sways between Albert and Shug, while Nettie sways between Samuel and Adam. They moan and grab one another, falling down together, hugging and calling each other's names. After a while, Nettie introduces her to Samuel, Olivia, Adam, and Tashi. Celie introduces Albert and Shug. Everyone hugs.

On the Fourth of July, there is a big reunion celebration, and all the family is invited. When Henrietta asks why they had to have their family reunion on such a hot day, Harpo tells her it was a day the white folks celebrated independence from England; they let the slaves off work to celebrate as well. Mary Agnes wonders where Harpo has learned his history. She is present at the reunion, for she has come to Georgia to pick up Suzie Q. She has left Grady and moved back to Memphis to live with her sister and her mother. She has many new songs and feels good enough to sing them now that she no longer smokes marijuana.

Everyone admires Tashi and thinks she is beautiful. They ask her questions about Africa. When they question what Africans eat, Tashi smiles and says barbecue; everyone laughs. Celie fully enjoys the reunion even though she feels a little strained around her grown children. She suspects they think she and the other adults are too old, but Celie disagrees and says we "the youngest us ever felt." She has been totally rejuvenated by the arrival of Shug and then her family. She ends the letter saying, "Amen."


Notes

In the last letter, Celie addresses the world, all of creation, and the creator, with whom she has finally made her reconciliation; she ends it with an "amen" as if it were a prayer of thanksgiving. The novel ends with the joyous homecoming of Nettie and her children, followed by a family reunion. The theme of reconciliation and regeneration is now complete. Celie is fully reconciled with herself and her life; she also feels regenerated now that she is self-sufficient and surrounded by the love of her family and Shug. It is truly a happy ending to a book that is filled with challenges and sadness.


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