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The Color Purple by Alice Walker Plot summary

The Color Purple is an epistolary novel written by Alice Walker in 1982. The novel won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1983. The narrator of the novel is a fourteen year old poor, black girl named Celie. Her father Alphonso secretly rapes and abuses her, and gets her pregnant twice. Celie gives birth to a daughter and a son after being raped by her father. To express her feelings, Celie begins writing letters to God, talking about everything that goes on in her life. After the birth off the two children, Celie assumes that her father takes them to the woods and kills them. Her mother, who is unaware of her husband’s activities soon dies after battling illness for long. Celie also has a beautiful, younger sister Nettie who lives with her. A man meets Nettie in the church and falls in love with her. He comes in to Nettie’s house to ask her hand for marriage. He talks to Nettie’s father Alphonso and proposes her for marriage. Celie encourages Nettie to get married to save her from the evil intentions of their father. However, the man, mentioned as Mr. ____ receives a refusal from Alphonso. Alphonso instead advices him to marry his elder daughter Celie, who might be uglier, but would be more useful to take care of his house. Mr. ___ at last agrees to marry Celie because he needs someone to take care of his children and takes her to his home. However, their marriage is loveless, and he treats her like his slave. Celie’e life doesn’t improve after marriage, instead degrades further.

Another important character of the novel is Shug Avery. She is a singer who performs in bars, clubs etc. Shug Avery is the former lover of Mr. ___ and they have three children together. The moment Celie takes a glance at the photograph of Shug Avery, she feels a thud in her heart and gets attracted to her beauty. Nettie runs away from her father’s house and comes to Celie and Mr. ___’s house for shelter. However, Mr. ___ shows interest towards Nettie and tries to seduce her, scaring her away. Nettie is forced to run away. She promises to write letters to her sister, but Celie never receives any. Therefore, Celie assumes that her sister was dead.

Mr. ____’s sisters visit Celie. They feel pity for her miserable condition and advise Celie to stand up for herself. However, Celie chooses to remain submissive. Mr. ____ has children from his previous marriage whom Celie describes as ‘rotten’. The eldest son Harpo falls in love with Sofia and gets her pregnant. Even though Mr ____ doesn’t like Sofia, they get married. Sofia is huge and unlike Celie, she fights back against anyone who harms her. Sofia doesn’t listen to everything that Harpo tells her to do, which makes him angry. He wishes her to be like his stepmother who submits herself to her husband. Celie advises him to beat her to make her submissive. When Harpo tries to apply power on Sofia, she in turn beats him black and blue. However, Celie soon realizes that her advice was not a good one, she apologizes to Sofia and they both become good friends.

Shug Avery comes to their town to perform in the clubs. She falls sick, and Mr ___ brings her home to take care of her. Celie takes care of Shug and the two develop a new friendship. Celie gets sexually infatuated with Shug Avery. Meanwhile, Mr ___ and Shug restart their affair and start to spend more time together. On the other hand, due to Harpo’s constant abuse, Sofia moves out of his house along with her three children. Harpo becomes disturbed and spends his time out of the house. Several months later, he opens a juke joint in his house, where singers would come and entertain the audience. He invites Shug to sing in his juke, and she agrees. A lot of people come to see Shug sing after being sick for several months. Celie confessed to Shug about her father and her husband’s abuses. Shug promises to stay with her till Mr ___ stops beating his wife. The two women become more intimate and talk about different topics including sex. Shug teaches Celie to love herself and to discover her body.

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Sofia visits Harpo’s juke joint one day, and gets in a fight with his new girlfriend Mary Agnes, whom Harpo calls ‘Squeak’. In the town, the Mayor’s wife asks Sofia to be her maid, which instigates her. Sofia replies to the Mayor’s wife “Hell, No!”. The mayor slaps Sofia, who in exchange knocks him down. Sofia is then arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Squeak blackmails the police officer, who is her illegitimate uncle. However, he rapes his niece. Sofia and Squeak develop a friendship. Sofia is soon released from prison, due to Squeak’s help, and is ordered to work at the mayor’s house for 12 years.

Shug returns with her new husband Grady and stays in Mr ___’s house. In spite of being married, Shug advances a sexual relationship towards Celie, as the both lay in bed while embracing each other. Shug asks Celie about her sister Nettie. Celie assumes that her sister might be dead, because she had promised to send her letters, but never did. Shug Avery tells her that she had seen Mr ____ hide letters inside his trunk. The two women secretly opens Mr ___’s trunk and discovers a bundle of unread letters that were sent by Nettie to her sister Celie. The letters mention Nettie’s life after she had fled away from Celie and Mr ____’s house. Nettie had found a job in the house of a Black missionary couple Samuel and Corrine, who take her to Africa along with them to preach Christianity. Interestingly, Samuel and Corrine have adopted that two children that Celie had given birth at the beginning of this novel. The two children are named Olivia and Adam. People including Corrine start noticing facial similarities between the children and Nettie doubting Samuel to be having an affair with Nettie. Corrine tries to stop Nettie from getting involved with her family. However, Corrine falls ill and Nettie reveals her the truth about the children being her niece and nephew. Corrine soon dies. Nettie also comes to know that Alphonso is their stepfather, not a biological one.

Celie becomes extremely angry at her husband who hid the letters from her all those years. She despises him and doesn’t wishes to stay with him anymore. Celie loses her belief in God. Having suffered enough, Celie decides to leave Mr ___’s house along with Shug and Squeak. Meanwhile Sofia is released back from her punishment and she returns to Harpo’s house. Mr ____ is surprised at the women’s courage and makes fun of Celie. However, Celie is bold and firm on here decision. Squeak also leaves with the ladies as she wants to start a singing career of her own. Sofia promises to look after her children until she is away. Celie and Shug move to Tennessee and start a new life. Celie starts her new business of creating and selling pants. She does well in her business and earns for herself.

Celie moves to her childhood home as Alphonso dies and left her with the property. Shug falls in love with a band member and Celie is heartbroken. However, Celie promises to continue loving her even if Shug doesn’t love her back. Celie visits Mr ____, who has suffered huge loss in wealth after Celie left him, and had drastically changed his views. Now, Celie calls him by his first name Albert. Now, Celie is a financially independent and stable woman, who knows what she wants. They grow closer and begins a new bond with love.

In Africa, Nettie and Samuel get married. Adam marries his childhood African friend Tashi. Tashi has to undergo female circumcision and facial scarring following her traditions. Adam, unable to see her pain undergoes facial scarring in solidarity. They then leave for America. Nettie, Samuel, Adam, Olivia and Tashi arrive at Celie’s house. Celie is extremely happy to meet her sister after years. They have both grown old, but Celie feels that she has never been younger. That was the happiest moment of her life. Sofia remarries Harpo and the story ends.

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