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The Color Purple | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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Course Hero. "The Color Purple Study Guide." September 15, 2016. Accessed December 11, 2017. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Color-Purple/.

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Course Hero, "The Color Purple Study Guide," September 15, 2016, accessed December 11, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Color-Purple/.

The Color Purple | Section 10, Letters 70–75 | Summary

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Summary

Letters 70–72: Nettie to Celie

Corrine refuses to believe Nettie and Samuel's facts about Olivia and Adam: they are Celie and Alphonso's children and Nettie is their aunt. Nettie reminds Corrine of the encounter with Celie in town years earlier, but Corrine does not remember the meeting. After Nettie shows her the material Celie picked out for them in a quilt, Corrine confesses she was afraid Celie would want the children back if she accepted the truth. That night, Corrine dies after accepting the truth about the history of her family. In sorrow over losing Corrine, Nettie bemoans her empty life. She is not married, has no children of her own, and enjoys no close female companions. She acknowledges Samuel as her only friend.

By Letter 72, Olivia menstruates and becomes a woman, and the family has buried Corrine according to village custom. Nettie inherits Corrine's clothing and talks with Samuel about Celie.

Letters 73–75: Celie to Nettie

In Letter 73, Celie confesses she doesn't write to God anymore because he let her down: "he give me a lynched daddy, a crazy mama, a lowdown dog of a step pa, and a sister I probably won't ever see again." She also rejects God because she sees him as a man, a gender that has always oppressed her, and more specifically as a white man, a member of a race that has always oppressed her people. Shug contradicts Celie's views by offering an alternative view: the Bible favors white people, but God isn't a color or gender but an It. She believes God loves all people, no matter their sins, and just wants them to appreciate the world's magnificence. She supports her theory and gives the book its title by saying God becomes angry "if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." Shug also asserts, "I believe God is in everything ... Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that and be happy ... you've found It."

In Letter 74, during a family dinner at Odessa and Jack's, Sofia has returned home after 11 years to find that her children have grown up without her, referring to Odessa as Mama and Mary Agnes as Little Mama. Harpo and Mary Agnes act as if they're married, although Harpo is still legally married to Sofia.

Shug announces she is leaving and taking Celie with her to Memphis. Celie calls Mr. ___ a "lowdown dog," when he objects and stands up for her right to do as she pleases. She announces that her children and Nettie are coming home, and she denounces Mr. ___'s own children as rotten. He slaps Celie, but she pokes him with a table knife. In response to Mr. ___'s insults about Celie's physical ugliness in comparison to Shug, Celie asks Mr. ___ whether any more letters from Nettie have arrived. At his surprise she curses him, "Until you do right by me, everything you touch will crumble," and leaves with Shug.

Inspired, Sofia joins the fray and tells Harpo that his youngest and favorite daughter Henrietta is not his biological child. Meanwhile, Eleanor Jane, the mayor's daughter, arrives to consult with Sofia, who has become like a mother to her.

Mary Agnes decides that she wants to go to Memphis, too, to embark on a singing career. Sofia promises to care for Mary Agnes's daughter, Suzy Q, and Harpo. When Harpo orders Mary Agnes to stay, calling her Squeak, the girl responds, "Mary Agnes ... When I was Mary Agnes I could sing in public."

Analysis

Celie and Shug's discussion about God undermines the belief that racial and gender oppression are proof that God disdains blacks and women. Shug argues that the oppressive aspects of God are human constructions: Each person wants to envision God in his or her own image. However, Shug suggests that the real God defies such limitations, and It places constant reminders of beauty in the world, such as the color purple, to remind people to celebrate what is beautiful in themselves and in the world. This worldview offers Celie the opportunity to reclaim the relationship with God that sustained her for so long.

Mr. ___'s and Harpo's dominance over the family shrinks visibly at the dinner table, a place traditionally controlled by women, as Shug leads the charge for the novel's female characters to assert themselves. Celie will finally build a life on her own terms; Mary Agnes will finally claim her voice and, thus, her identity; and Sofia will finally take her place as the family matriarch.

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