Literature Study GuidesThe Color PurpleSection 12 Letters 80 81 Summary

The Color Purple | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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The Color Purple | Section 12, Letters 80–81 | Summary



Nettie, Samuel, Olivia, and Adam go back to England. The rubber plantation workers plowed down all of the roofleaf after they moved the tribe to a barren landscape. Without any of the plant they worshiped, and thinking the Christian God powerless, the Olinka's existence becomes a struggle. With barely any money left to see them through their own needs, the missionaries see no reason to stay. They hope to raise more money in England. On the ship they meet Doris Baines, a white woman and her black grandson, Harold. Years earlier she had fled her wealthy family to spend her life writing. She regales them all with her accomplishments in the African village where she lived.

Realizing their friendship has grown into love, Nettie and Samuel marry. Before they do, Nettie explains their true parentage to Olivia and Adam. Olivia tells Nettie that Adam is upset because he and Tashi had a huge fight before he left for England. She is planning to undergo two brutal tribal ceremonies, and he is furious with her.

A short time later the family returns to Africa, although they failed to garner support for the Olinka, who now work to pay taxes to use their land and its water, in England. Tashi hides from Adam and Olivia because she knows they will disapprove of the female initiation and facial scarring rites she has undergone. Tashi finally reappears, but she is torn between the allegiance to her tribe the rites represent and the shame she feels in front of Adam. Adam wants to return to the United States, but the family lingers.


These letters add background to Samuel's life. Little has been said about him except for his gentle kindness and sincere passion, making him one male black character in the novel who does not behave violently toward women. He truly desires to help the tribe enjoy healthy, fulfilled lives by accepting the Christian God. Yet he is dismayed when African Americans are not welcome in the village as the children of enslaved Africans. He is further shocked when the tribe doesn't acknowledge responsibility for its part in the slave trade. He comes to find missionary work futile because the Olinka are complacent about change and content with their lives. He and Nettie realize they cherish each other, and enter into a marriage based on love, respect, and open communication, creating a contrast to other marriages in the novel.

Two African rites, both endured by females, serve as the Olinka culture's way of controlling women. In the scarification ceremony, the tribal emblem is cut into young girls' faces. The other is female circumcision (the cutting off of a girl's clitoris and/or labia). Both practices are done in unsanitary conditions. This information shows the oppression of women to be universal and draws attention to practices all women must fight to combat.

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