Literature Study GuidesThe Color PurpleSection 2 Letters 14 22 Summary

The Color Purple | Study Guide

Alice Walker

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The Color Purple | Section 2, Letters 14–22 | Summary



In Letter 15, Shug Avery returns to town for a singing engagement, and Mr. ___ spends the weekend with her. Celie doesn't care. She wants to hear every little detail about the singer when he returns, but Mr. ___ only mopes.

Beginning with Letter 17, love arises between Harpo and Sofia. From the start, Sofia wears her assertiveness as proudly as she does her natural full-bodied size. Both traits make Harpo proud. When Sofia's father forbids their marriage, the young couple purposely chooses pregnancy over a life without each other. Before they marry, Mr. ___ questions Sofia about the baby's father, and Harpo doesn't defend her. Sofia decides to live with her sister. A short time after the baby is born, Harpo and Sophia marry and live on Mr. ___'s land.

Harpo mirrors his father's beliefs and wants to control Sofia. When her stepson asks her for advice in Letter 19, Celie tells him, "Beat her," after all, physical abuse between a man and a woman is the only kind of relationship Celie knows. After a major physical fight between the young couple during which both are bruised, Celie understands she has wronged Sofia, and she apologizes. Sofia's eyes fill with pity, "You remind me of my mama. She never stand up for herself." A bond of empathy forms between the two women, establishing their friendship.

After reports and mean-spirited town gossip that Shug Avery is sick in Letter 22, Mr. ___ disappears for a few days. When he returns, he brings Shug with him and asks Celie to nurse Shug back to health. Celie is excited to have this new role as Shug's nursemaid.


Celie and Harpo initiate their moves from static to dynamic characters in these letters. Celie is good at identifying weakness in others because she has been a victim for so long. She says about Harpo with regard to his relationship with his father, "He strong in body but weak in will." The author introduces the gender role theme by detailing Harpo's conflict with regard to Sofia's independence in contrast to what he believes should be his dominant position as the male. Where Harpo is unable to assert his independence with his father, he desires to assert it with Sofia through physical abuse. When Sofia asks why Celie told Harpo to abuse her, Celie says, "I say it cause I'm a fool ... I say it cause I'm jealous of you. I say it cause you do what I can't." They both recognize the restrictions of their gender roles, yet, at this point, neither woman knows how to successfully rebel against these standards.

In order to survive the continual abuse and degradation she faces, Celie buries her emotions. Although she is kind to Mr. ___'s children, she says, "But I don't feel nothing for them." Sofia asks her about feelings of anger. Celie "can't even remember the last time I felt mad." She explains she never allowed herself to be mad at her parents because that was against the Bible's teachings. Regarding their neglect and abuse she says, "I felt like throwing up ... Then I start to feel nothing at all."

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