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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 13, 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 13, 2017, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Color-Purple/.

The Color Purple | Section 6, Letters 45–51 | Summary

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Summary

Shug returns for Christmas along with her new husband, Grady. Heartbroken with the news of Shug's marriage, Celie says, "Mr. ___ look like the end of the world. I know I don't look no better." Shug now enjoys countrywide fame and the financial rewards of such prestige. She drops names of legendary white and black entertainers such as Sophie Tucker and Duke Ellington as easily as if she is mentioning Harpo or Mary Agnes.

In a conversation with Celie, Shug explains Celie and Mr. ___ are like her family. She says she never felt any passion for Albert after she found out he abused Celie. When asked whether intimacy with Mr. ___ is any better, Celie just shrugs her shoulders. In Letter 47, Shug wonders how Celie feels about her relationship with her children's father, and Celie explains they were born of her father's abuse and rape. Celie laments that no one has ever loved her. Shug replies, "I love you," and the pair exchange kisses, beginning a physical relationship.

In Letter 48, Mr. ___, Celie, Shug, and Grady drop by Harpo's where Shug convinces Mary Agnes that she should sing in the juke joint, although Harpo protests. In fact, Shug offers to sing with Mary Agnes.

Beginning with Letter 49, Celie learns Mr. ___ has been hiding the letters her sister Nettie has been writing to her over the years. She finds the letters in Mr. ___'s trunk. The news numbs Celie, but Celie and Shug take the letters, leaving the envelopes so Mr. ___ won't know they're missing, and arrange them in chronological order. Celie's anger later explodes when she holds a razor to her husband's jugular in retaliation for his cruel betrayal, yet she doesn't resist when Shug grabs the razor.

Analysis

Shug and Celie dominate this series of letters. Shug, as a kind of benefactress, is more focused on her relationships with Mary Agnes and Celie than she is on her new marriage. The entertainer's promise to back Mary Agnes's career convinces the young girl to become a singer. Realizing that with her talent she can be more than Harpo's girlfriend, Mary Agnes blossoms to womanhood under Shug's enthusiasm over the young girl's sensual voice, light skin, straight hair, and smoky gray eyes: "You'll make ... pots of money," she says, suggesting that Mary Agnes might enjoy the kind of independence that Shug enjoys.

As Celie reveals the details of her past to Shug, Shug's compassion thaws Celie's frozen emotions. The climax of the novel occurs here when Celie learns that Mr. ___ has been keeping Nettie's letters from her. This is Celie's point of no return. She must decide how to deal with this truth by giving in to joy over the possibility of reconnecting with her sister or giving in to hatred by seeking vengeance against Mr. ___. Celie's choice will determine the woman she becomes. When she allows Shug to take the razor, Celie makes the decision to grow beyond her circumstances.

These letters contain references to people from that period of history. Sophie Tucker, a Russian immigrant, nicknamed The Last of the Red-Hot Mamas, was a white singer and actress. She starred in vaudeville, nightclubs, the movies, and on television. Duke Ellington, was born and raised in Washington, DC. He was an internationally celebrated pianist who created jazz and swing compositions for his band from the 1920s until shortly before his death in 1974.

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