The Color Purple

The Color Purple

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Celie Character Analysis

The novel's protagonist, at the beginning of the novel Celie is quiet, passive, and able to express herself only through letters to God. As a teenager she is repeatedly raped by her father (later revealed to be her stepfather), Pa, and gives birth to two children, Olivia and Adam, whom her stepfather gives away and who are raised by a missionary couple. Celie is then married off to Mr. _____, who wants her only for her work ethic and regularly beats her. Celie tries to protect her sister, Nettie, and helps her to run away first from Pa and then from Mr. ____ when both try to rape her, too, at different times. Celie's attempts to get free of the men in her life, to discover her sexuality and to learn to love (both primarily through the female singer Shug Avery), to gain both her social and emotional independence, to find spiritual satisfaction and connection to God, and to find Nettie form the drama of the book, which is constructed as a series of letters between Celie and God, and between Celie and Nettie.

Celie Quotes in The Color Purple

The The Color Purple quotes below are all either spoken by Celie or refer to Celie. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Pocket Books edition of The Color Purple published in 1985.
Letter 1 Quotes

Dear God, I am fourteen years old. I am I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker)
Related Symbols: God
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The Color Purple begins with a shocking revelation - that the main character, who is only fourteen years old, is expecting a child. No one knows who the father could be, but all signs indicate that it is someone much older - that Celie has been violated. The Color Purple is thus, from the beginning, Celie's story. It is a narrative of the violence that has been committed against her. And, finally, it is a tale of her own strength in the face of that violence - of the life she makes despite everything that has happened to her.

The letter, importantly, is addressed to God, whom Celie believes is always listening to her. Celie, from the beginning of the narrative, believes that there is hope to found in her situation, as dire and impossible as it seems. She senses that there is someone listening to her. And although God does not reveal himself during the course of the novel, the reader, of course, is listening, and is following the story that Celie lays out letter by letter. 

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Letter 3 Quotes

I keep hoping he fine somebody to marry. I see him looking at my little sister. She scared. But I say I'll take care of you. With God help.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Nettie, Pa (Alphonso)
Related Symbols: God
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Celie recognizes that her father is capable of dangerous acts of sexual violence against herself and her sister Nettie. Celie's first thought, then, is to protect her sister from this. One way to protect Nettie would be for their father to marry. Although that would be dangerous for the wife-to-be, as their father is a violent man, at least it would spare his children his anger and lust, for a time.

Celie refers to God again in this passage, arguing that, without him, there is no protection against her father and his designs on the family. Celie's faith is reinforced by the difficulty of her circumstances. There is no one in the immediate family to help her, to protect her and her sister from her father's wrath. There is only the prospect of divine salvation, of God's help. Without that, there can be no removal from the impoverished, dangerous circumstances in which the girls find themselves - that is, until the girls grow up and begin seeking out other helpers in the town around them. 

Letter 7 Quotes

Fact is, I got to get rid of her. She too old to be living here at home. And she a bad influence on my other girls . . . . She ain't smart either, and I'll just be fair, you have to watch her or she'll give away everything you own. But she can work like a man.

Related Characters: Pa (Alphonso) (speaker), Celie, Mr. _____ (Albert)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

This is one of the more morally abhorrent things that Pa does to his daughters. He argues, first, that he does not know who is the father of Celie's children, even though he himself is the father - he's guilty of incest and of raping his own teenage daughter. Then, when Mr. ____ seeks out Nettie's hand in marriage, Pa will not permit this, saying that Celie is a problem and has to leave the house first. 

Pa "talks up" Celie's accomplishments only by saying that she "works like a man" and that she is too unintelligent to fight back against anyone who wishes to dominate her. It is, all told, a horrific display of lack of regard for one's own child. And it is not even the worst, of course, that Pa has done to Celie in her lifetime. But it is one more indication of Pa's selfishness, and of Celie's position, early in the novel, as an object to whom feelings and thoughts are not attributed in public. At least the reader, in private, has access to Celie's thoughts via her letters to God. 

Letter 9 Quotes

I lay there thinking bout Nettie while he [Mr. _____] on top of me, wonder if she safe. And then I think bout Shug Avery. I know what he doing to me he done to Shug Avery and maybe she like it. I put my arm around him.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Nettie, Mr. _____ (Albert), Shug Avery
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

Celie's sexual relationship with Mr. ____ is here described. She allows Mr. ____ to make love to her, although Celie herself allows her mind to wander elsewhere. It is telling that Celie's first concern is for Nettie and her safety. Celie's thought is of Shug Avery, whom Celie doesn't yet know, but with whom Celie is fascinated.

Celie does not, at this stage of the novel, fully understand what her interest in Shug might be, but she already has decided to act like she imagines Shug to act - to pretend to enjoy sex because she assumes Shug enjoys it. Celie does not yet know that Shug has a "bad reputation" around the town - that Shug has been in relationships with several men other than Mr. ____.

Letter 12 Quotes

I can't remember being the first one in my own dress. Now to have one made just for me. I try to tell Kate what it mean. I git hot in the face and stutter.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Kate and Carrie
Related Symbols: Purple
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Katie and Carrie are Mr. ____'s sisters. They are especially kind to Celie, and they do not take pity on her - instead, they seem genuinely to like her, and to want to do nice things for her. They agree to buy Celie some clothes. Celie reveals that she has never purchased her own clothes, indicating the extent to which she has been deprived of any material comfort in her life up till this point. It is also one of the first indications of female friendship for Celie in the novel. Celie is close with her sister, Nettie, and she dreams frequently of Shug, but Katie and Carrie are nice to her for no reason other than wanting to be - and this is a revelation for Celie.

Celie discovers that she loves the color purple, and that she wants shoes of that color, too, but they're too expensive (and she buys blue ones instead). Despite all that she has been through up till this point, Celie possesses a love for life's more whimsical side - and the color purple is an indication of this, and of her desire for independence from the domineering men surrounding her. 

Letter 14 Quotes

Lord, I want to go [to see Shug Avery] so bad. Not to dance. Not to drink. Not to play card. Not even to hear Shug Avery sing. I just be thankful to lay eyes on her.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Shug Avery
Related Symbols: God
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

Celie's devotion to Shug is here made even clearer. Celie states that she would do anything just to observe Shug as she sings and walks the stage. Celie is enraptured by the power of Shug's personality, even from afar, and she believes that Shug's performance will be a highlight for her - a representation of just what is possible for a woman to achieve, even within the narrow strictures of the society into which Celie has been born.

Celie also takes pains to note here that she is not interested in going to the night club to engage in what might be called "immoral" behavior. Celie retains, for herself, an idea that gambling and drinking lead only to self-destruction. Celie does not ask for much - only to be allowed to enjoy herself in an environment where someone (most notably a man) isn't bullying her or forcing her to work. In the night club, watching Shug, Celie might have a taste of her own independence. 

Letter 18 Quotes

Sofia look half her size. But she still a big strong girl. Arms got muscle. Legs, too. . . . She got a little pot on her now and give you the feeling she all there. Solid. Like if she sit down on something, it be mash.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Sofia
Page Number: 36
Explanation and Analysis:

Celie is struck by Sofia's strength and independence. In the beginning of her marriage to Mr. ____, Celie had trouble keeping his children in line - they did not appear to want to listen to her, and occasionally, even despite her best efforts, they would fight back, or resist her even modest attempts at discipline.

Sofia, like Shug, represents for Celie a way of behaving, a way of asserting oneself in the world, that is at odds with the modes of feminine behavior in which Celie has been brought up by Pa. Mr. ____, for his part, reinforces Pa's treatment of Celie - Pa himself believed that he took Celie "off his hands" - and so Harp and Sofia's relationship, with a different arrangement of power between man and woman, seems all the stranger to Celie for that. Celie will continue to wonder how she might assert herself in interactions with men as the novel progresses. 

Letter 20 Quotes

They fight. He try to slap her. What he do that for? She reach down and grab a piece of stove wood and whack him cross the eyes . . . She throw him over her back. He fall bam up gainst the stove.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Sofia, Harpo
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a continuation of the description Celie provides, in the previous quote, regarding Harpo's relationship with Sofia. As above, here Celie is taken aback by Sofia's resistance to Harpo's commands. Indeed, Sofia is the one who takes physical charge - she is unafraid of threatening Harpo physically, or indeed of hitting him, when she does not get her way. This inverts the paradigm of male violence committed against women in the novel. Although it is still violence, and Celie is still frightened by it, Harpo's and Sofia's interaction nevertheless makes plain to Celie that other women in the community are standing up to, and fighting with, figures of authority.

Celie, too, is a passionate and quiet observer of the lives around her. This is evident from the start of the novel - which is, after all, her journal. In this scene, Celie is walking by Sofia and Harpo's home - she has not been invited inside, and she does her observing from a remove. There are other instances in the novel when Celie observes her friends and relatives in precisely this detached, generally objective manner.

Letter 26 Quotes

What that song? I ast. Sound low down dirty to me. Like what the preacher tell you its sin to hear. Not to mention sing.

She hum a little more. Something come to me, she say. Something I made up. Something you help scratch out my head.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Shug Avery (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

The relationship between Shug and Celie deepens in this scene, as Celie combs Shug's hair. Although Celie and Shug do not yet engage in romantic behavior, there is nevertheless an intimate quality to their interaction here.

Shug is a creative spirit, and eventually goes on to spur that creativity in Celie. Celie has long looked for a creative outlet as a part of her journey of self-discovery - she has attempted to find a way to express herself and her feelings. Of course, Celie has been doing this all along without exactly understanding how or why - she has been keeping a journal of the events of her life, the journal that forms the basis of the narrative that the reader reads as the novel itself. Celie will, later on, begin to understand that she is a writer and storyteller - but, for now, she is content with witnessing Shug engage in her own acts of creation. 

Letter 30 Quotes

I don't know, say Sofia. Maybe I won't go. Deep down I still love Harpo, but—he just makes me real tired. She yawn. Laugh. I need a vacation, she say.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Sofia, Harpo
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:

Sofia and Harpo's marriage forms a counterpoint both to Celie's marriage to Mr. ____ and to Celie's burgeoning relationship with Shug. Sofia controls Harpo physically, often berating him and beating him - and this causes Harpo to want to retaliate, to eat so much that he grows in size. Sofia, understanding that Harpo merely wants to control her, does what she can to imagine a world where she does not rely on any man - just as Celie imagines this world for herself.

The idea of a "vacation" from anything in the novel is, for the characters involved, an inherently humorous wish - as most characters do not have the resources to take a break at all from their working lives. Celie's imaginative life is rich, and she longs, deep down, to live with Shug, and to throw off the burden of caring for Mr. ____, just as Sofia longs to be rid of Harpo. But at this point in the text, these can only be wishes and fantasies - not transferable into reality. 

Letter 32 Quotes

What Sofia gon say bout what you doing to her house? I ast. Spose she and the children come back. Where they gon sleep.

They ain't coming back, say Harpo, nailing together planks for a counter.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Harpo (speaker), Sofia
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

Harpo and Sofia undergo their own period of self-realization, as Celie watches and inquires as to what they're doing. Sofia takes the children away, feeling that they are better off apart from Harpo, whose rage has, at this point, become difficult to handle. Harpo decides that he'd like to run a bar, or "juke joint," in order to host singers - and, more importantly for him, to "assert himself" as a man in the community. 

Celie realizes that Harpo has long been worried he is not man enough, or that only Sofia might love him or desire him sexually. Harpo's construction of the juke joint is, therefore, in part an announcement of his own masculinity, and his attempt to present himself as desirable to the women of the community. Celie intuits this, even as she marvels at the fact that a married couple can dissolve in this way, with mother and children going in one direction, and father going in another. 

Letter 43 Quotes

Sofia say to me today, I just can't understand it.
What that? I ast.
Why we ain't already kill them off.

Too many to kill off, I say. Us outnumbered from the start.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Sofia (speaker)
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

Sofia's tone here is very interesting. Sofia does not mean seriously to suggest that African Americans ought to kill the white families that oppress them. But she does wonder if that is the only solution that would structurally "solve" the problem of racism in the South. In other words, Sofia seems to understand that only a very, very profound change in the nature of black and white interaction in the South would upend many centuries of prejudice and active discrimination against African Americans.

Celie, however, recognizes something else - that, at this point, American society has been structured around white experience, making it extraordinarily hard to imagine a world in which those advantages are not taken into account. African Americans begin from a position of disenfranchisement; Celie's own experiences of slowly realizing her potential and her own set of skills are an indication in miniature of the effort required to resist anti-black violence in the South, and in America as a whole. Celie is committed to improving her own life, but she recognizes just how much stands in the path of her own progress, and the progress of African Americans more generally. 

Letter 46 Quotes

She singing all over the country these days. Everybody know her name. She know everybody, too. Know Sophie Tucker, know Duke Ellington, know folks I ain't never heard of. And money. She make so much money she don't know what to do with it.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Shug Avery
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

Shug's success on the touring circuit in the South is one of the emergent features of the novel. Shug's development as a character involves her getting more and more recognition for the quality of her singing. Celie has long been proud of Shug's accomplishments - indeed, she has held her in awe. Shug, for her part, encourages Celie to pursue her own passions.

In a most immediate sense, these passions are physical. In this section of the novel, Celie confides in Shug that she has never had an orgasm, and therefore considers herself to be a "virgin" with Mr. ____. Celie's realization that Shug has gotten what she wants from life by going out into the world and asserting herself, coupled with Celie's continued journaling, causes her to approach her own enjoyment in a more proactive way. This quality will grow in Celie as the novel continues. 

Letter 53 Quotes

But God, I miss you, Celie. I think about the time you laid yourself down for me. I love you with all my heart.

Related Characters: Nettie (speaker), Celie
Related Symbols: God
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:

Nettie's letters back to Celie - the existence of which Celie does not know about at the time the letters are written - document the "other side" of the narrative. Nettie has escaped the harsh conditions of the rural South, where Celie continues to live. She raises Adam and Olivia, Celie's biological children, as her own adopted children. And Nettie finds, in the care of the Reverend Samuel and his wife Corrine, a kind of sustained, nurturing family environment that was not available to her in her family home.

Celie's journal, then, is braided into the narrative with Nettie's unanswered letters back to Celie. The fact that Celie does not read them, nor know about them and respond to them, does not deter Nettie from continuing to write. In this way, both Nettie and Celie develop the "story" of The Color Purple, even though they have no evidence that anyone will be able to read it. This determination to bear witness to the events of their lives is one of the most profound and affecting morals of the novel. 

Letter 73 Quotes

She say, My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other pope. But one day . . it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. It sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh.

Shug! I say.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Shug Avery (speaker)
Related Symbols: God
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

Celie is struck by the nature of Shug's religious experiences. Celie, for her part, has stopped writing to God, and now writes to Nettie, just as Nettie has written to Celie for years. And Celie is not sure that Nettie will ever receive her letters, just as Nettie has continued her writing despite total unawareness that Celie has been reading, after a long period of not knowing the letters existed.

For Shug, God is a sensual and spiritual entity that exists in all living things, and that ties living beings together, unifying them even if they do not appear to be unified. Shug takes a great deal of comfort in this unifying energy, and even connects it to her sexuality. Celie, though she is at first surprised to hear that Shug speaks of God in this way, comes to realize that Shug's connection to earthly life and sexuality is a powerful and sustaining one. 

Letter 82 Quotes

Then she took some cedar sticks out of her bag and lit them and gave one of them to me. Us started at the very top of the house . . . and us smoked it all the way down to the basement, chasing out all the evil and making a place for good.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Shug Avery
Related Symbols: God
Page Number: 253
Explanation and Analysis:

This is a turning point in the novel. Tapping into some of Shug's ideas of spirituality, Celie moves with her through the home, airing it out, and removing from it the "spirits" that have long haunted it. As part of her journey of self-discovery, Celie, along with Shug, begins to tell herself that her life has been lived in subservience to men - and that life can be so much more than this. Shug has helped Celie to realize that even the oddest or most personal ritual, if genuinely believed, can help one to overcome inner demons - to reassert authority of a world that, for so long, has given Celie nothing.

Indeed, as Celie's journey comes closer and closer to its conclusion, the reader realizes just how much Celie and Nettie's lives have been intertwined, despite the enormous distances between them. Each has lived a life in search of true love and commitment - and each has found it, after years of hardship. 

Letter 90 Quotes

And I see they [the children] think that me and Nettie and Shug and Albert and Samuel and Harpo and Sofia and Jack and Odessa real old . . . But I don't think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt.

Related Characters: Celie (speaker), Nettie, Mr. _____ (Albert), Shug Avery, Sofia, Harpo, Samuel, Adam, Olivia, Tashi, Jack and Odessa
Related Symbols: God
Page Number: 295
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the marvelous closing passage to the novel. After all that has happened to Celie and to Nettie - after all the miles Nettie has traveled, after all that Celie has been through in remaining in the South - time feels, in this passage, not to have passed at all. It is as though time itself was brought to a halt, or a new kind of time is here introduced. Celie and Nettie, reunited, can now make physical the bond that has united them in letters for years. And this bond is made even stronger by the presence of family, both biological and affiliative, that Celie and Nettie have assembled over the many intervening years. Despite their hardships, Celie and Nettie recognize that their stories are stories of family togetherness, of bonds made and sustained despite the incredible difficulty of their circumstances. The Color Purple thus ends triumphantly, as a celebration of the power of love in the face of violence and hatred.

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Celie Character Timeline in The Color Purple

The timeline below shows where the character Celie appears in The Color Purple. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Letter 1
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
The unnamed main character, who is later revealed to be named Celie, writes a first letter to God, saying that she is fourteen, and that she wonders... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Celie reveals that her mother is ill and unwilling, at the moment, to sleep with Celie's... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
After these sexual assaults begin, Celie's father is nicer to her mother, but Celie knows that her mother will not live... (full context)
Letter 2
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
In a second letter, Celie describes how her mother dies "cussing and screaming." Celie is pregnant, and Celie's mother, as... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Celie writes that Pa took her first-born child away from her (this child is later revealed... (full context)
Letter 3
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie writes that Pa has taken her other child, the boy, from her. But Celie does... (full context)
Letter 4
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Celie's father marries a girl (not named; referred to as Celie's stepmother) who is nearly the... (full context)
Letter 5
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Celie's father beats her because he thinks she is winking at a boy in church, although... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Celie worries that her father will begin sexually abusing Nettie, so she changes her mind and... (full context)
Letter 6
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Mr. ____ asks for Nettie's hand in marriage, but Celie's father refuses, saying that Mr. ____ is surrounded by scandal, since he's a widower because... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Celie asks her stepmother who Shug Avery is. Her stepmother gets a picture of Shug, which... (full context)
Letter 7
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie's stepmother gets sick and must stay in bed. Celie tells her father to sleep with... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Mr. ____ comes again to ask for Nettie's hand in marriage. Celie's father says no, again, but tells him he can marry Celie, the older daughter, despite... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Mr. ____ says that Celie is unattractive, but her father says she is a good worker, that she can no... (full context)
Letter 8
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
It takes Mr. ____ most of the spring to decide whether or not to marry Celie. In the meantime, Celie and Nettie study together, although only Nettie is still in school.... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie's father took Celie out of school the first time she got pregnant, saying that Nettie... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...says he needs a woman to take care of his children, and asks to see Celie again. Celie's father repeats that Celie would be a good stepmother. Mr. ____ asks whether... (full context)
Letter 9
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
On the day of her wedding, Celie is attacked by one of Mr. ____'s children, the oldest boy, aged twelve. This boy,... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Celie tries, after the wedding ceremony, to detangle Mr. ____'s daughters' hair, and realizes the two... (full context)
Letter 10
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie, out in town one day (the "town" is not named explicitly, but it is probably... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie follows Olivia and her stepmother into a store. Celie asks who the child's father is,... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
The Reverend is not yet present to pick up his wife and daughter, so Celie invites them into her husband's wagon, waiting outside the store. They sit together for a... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie asks the mother the girl's name, and the mother says "Pauline," but that they call... (full context)
Letter 11
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...sexual advances, although Nettie feels guilty abandoning her stepmother to Pa's abusive ways. Nettie joins Celie and Mr. ____ in their home nearby. (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Celie reports that Mr. ____ still "has eyes" for Nettie. Nettie continues studying for school while... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...to have sex with her. Nettie refuses Mr. ____, thus angering him. Mr. ____ tells Celie, as a result of Nettie's refusal, that Nettie must leave their house. Celie gives Nettie... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...is happy to leave Mr. ____ and his "rotten" children, but feels guilty to leave Celie. She promises Celie she will write to her when she reaches the house of the... (full context)
Letter 12
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Mr. ____'s sisters, named Kate and Carrie, visit Celie at home with Mr. ____ and tell her about Mr. ____'s first wife, Annie Julia.... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
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...conceited, untrustworthy, and a woman who loves the company of many different men. They praise Celie's housekeeping skills, although they appear to acknowledge, implicitly, that Celie is not as attractive as... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
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Kate tells Mr. ____ that Celie needs new clothes; Celie has been wearing the same clothes in Mr ___'s house that... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...do all the work at home, even difficult labor like carrying in water. Kate tells Celie to fight Mr. ____, but Celie thinks that she knows better how to deal with... (full context)
Letter 13
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
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Harpo asks his father why he beats Celie; Mr. ____ answers that he beats her because she's his wife. When Celie is beaten... (full context)
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Harpo, who is seventeen, tells Celie he is in love with a girl who is fifteen. Celie says they are too... (full context)
Letter 14
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...not seen her for an undefined but significant period of time). He shaves and asks Celie to wash and iron his clothes, in order to make a good impression on her.... (full context)
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Celie sees a copy of the bill advertising Shug's show. Celie wants to go: not to... (full context)
Letter 15
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...the entire long weekend with Shug. When he comes home, without Shug, he is distraught. Celie wants to hear about her—what she wore, how she performed, what their time together was... (full context)
Letter 16
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Mr. ____ stops working in the fields altogether. He sits on the porch and tells Celie and Harpo that they must work in the fields and continue the plowing he has... (full context)
Letter 17
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...and then is shot in the stomach. Harpo wakes up from the dreams yelling, and Celie comes to him in the night to comforts him. (full context)
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People say that Celie is skilled with Mr. ____'s children, but the three children other than Harpo are mean... (full context)
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...again, that he wants to marry her, and reveals that he has gotten Sofia pregnant. Celie tells Harpo that Sofia's father will be angry about this, but Harpo thinks the situation... (full context)
Letter 18
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Harpo's and Sofia's wedding is small but relatively happy. Celie makes curtains for their new home. Harpo has begun working harder in the fields, since... (full context)
Letter 19
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...Harpo seems happy with his Sofia, but still wants her to "mind" him. Harpo asks Celie what to do; Celie says that, to make Sofia listen, Harpo must beat her. It... (full context)
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Harpo returns to Mr. ____'s home one day, looking cut-up and bruised. Harpo explains to Celie that he got in a tussle with an obdurate mule, but Celie knows that Harpo... (full context)
Letter 20
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One day, Celie is walking by Sofia and Harpo's shack, near the edge of Mr. _____'s property, when... (full context)
Letter 21
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Celie has trouble sleeping and is not sure why, at first. Then she realizes she has... (full context)
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Celie admits that she was jealous of Sofia's ability to stand up to Harpo; Celie is... (full context)
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Sofia admits that she feels sorry for Celie, who has no power over Mr. ____, but instead must do exactly as Mr. ____... (full context)
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Sofia and Celie end up laughing about Mr. ____, whom Sofia says Celie should crack on the skull... (full context)
Letter 22
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...is either tuberculosis or a "nasty woman disease," caught from one of Shug's many lovers. Celie begins helping the preacher out around the church, cleaning the pews after services, and the... (full context)
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...to his home, he has brought Shug with him. He calls to Harpo, Sofia, and Celie to prepare the house for their sick guest. (full context)
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Celie is excited that Shug is coming to stay with them—so excited, she can barely speak... (full context)
Letter 23
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When Celie talks to Mr. ____ about Shug, he says it's OK by him if Celie wants... (full context)
Letter 24
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...they have had three children together, Mr. ____ is nervous about giving Shug a bath. Celie therefore offers to bathe Shug, and gazes in wonder at Shug's naked body, which Celie... (full context)
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Shug asks if Celie has children; Celie replies that she has two, but that she does not know where... (full context)
Letter 25
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Celie cooks a large breakfast for the family—eggs, biscuits, ham—and asks if Shug would like some.... (full context)
Letter 26
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Celie helps Shug by combing out her hair, which hasn't been combed for a very long... (full context)
Letter 27
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...to her in her sickness. Mr. ____'s father considers Shug to be a "dirty" woman. Celie spits in Mr. ____'s father's water, because she is enraged by his crude statements about... (full context)
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...living taking in laundry for white families. He considers this disgraceful. Mr. ____'s father tells Celie that not many wives would allow their husband's "whore" to live with them. Mr. ____... (full context)
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...health and talks about his wife, Margaret, who, he claims, doesn't work as hard as Celie. Celie knows that Tobias and Mr. ____'s father, though they are concerned only with money... (full context)
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...comes out and says hello to Tobias. She then tries to learn to sew from Celie, who has been stitching on the porch during the conversation with Tobias, but Shug's stitches... (full context)
Letter 28
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Sofia and Celie have begun working on a large quilt that Celie wants either to give to Shug... (full context)
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Some unspecified time later, Sofia asks Celie why men eat as much as they do. Apparently Harpo has been eating a great... (full context)
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Celie observes Harpo's eating the next time Harpo comes to her house. Harpo has cornbread and... (full context)
Letter 29
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Celie finds Harpo one evening in her house, crying to himself. Harpo is upset that he... (full context)
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Celie says that she married Mr. ____ to look after his children; the two do not... (full context)
Letter 30
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Celie talks to Sofia, who is fixing the roof of her and Harpo's shack. Sofia tells... (full context)
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This conversation causes Celie to think about her own marriage. Celie thinks about her lovemaking with Mr. ____; he... (full context)
Letter 31
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...children (these children are not named) to stay with her sister Odessa for a while. Celie asks Harpo whether he wants to stop Sofia, but he says there's nothing he can... (full context)
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...child Sofia will take with her), as she quickly says goodbye to him and to Celie. Sofia mounts up on a wagon with her sisters and the children, and drives away. (full context)
Letter 32
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...six months. In the meantime, Harpo does some "traveling" of his own, as he tells Celie, and Celie realizes that Harpo has come to find that he's an attractive man, and... (full context)
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...police, as it will be hidden enough by the fields and the woods behind them. Celie asks Harpo what Sofia will think of the jukejoint, but Harpo replies that Sofia is... (full context)
Letter 33
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Shug prepares to sing one night, and Celie and Mr. ____ accompany her to the bar, despite Mr. ____'s protestations that Celie should... (full context)
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Shug sings a few songs, much to Celie's delight. But Celie enjoys looking at Shug so much, she grows confused and starts to... (full context)
Letter 34
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Shug begins growing stronger, and tells Celie it will soon be time for her to leave their Mr. ____'s home. Shug is... (full context)
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Shug asks why Mr. ____ beats Celie, and Celie explains that he's upset because Celie is Celie, and not Shug. He is... (full context)
Letter 35
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Shug begins staying in Mr. ____'s room, especially after she sings at Harpo's. Shug asks Celie whether Celie minds that she has sex with Mr. ____, and Celie says she doesn't... (full context)
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Shug asks Celie if she has touched her own clitoris, or if she knows that doing so will... (full context)
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Afterward, Celie repeats that she does not mind when Shug sleeps with Mr. ____. But Celie then... (full context)
Letter 36
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Celie realizes that Sofia has started a new life with Buster. Celie feels that her own... (full context)
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Sofia, however, as Celie describes, does not deal in slaps, but rather punches Squeak in the face, knocking out... (full context)
Letter 37
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Some unspecified amount of time later, Celie asks Squeak why Harpo is moping, and Squeak replies that Sofia has been thrown in... (full context)
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...He goes to the jail to do so, and eventually convinces the Sheriff to let Celie visit as well. Celie, when she visits later, combs Sofia's hair and is horrified by... (full context)
Letter 38
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When Celie and Mr. ____ visit Sofia in jail some time later, they find that Sofia has... (full context)
Letter 39
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At dinner later, Mr. ____, Celie, Shug, Odessa, Buster, and the rest of the family think of how to get Sofia... (full context)
Letter 40
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Shug, Mr. ____, and Celie dress Squeak up to resemble a white woman, applying extra make-up to her face to... (full context)
Letter 42
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...singing around the house. Her voice is strange and high-pitched, not formally trained, but everyone, Celie includes, grows to love it. Harpo is surprised by Squeak's singing, but he lets Squeak... (full context)
Letter 43
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Some months later, Celie visits with Sofia while Sofia is watching the mayor's children on the mayor's property (which... (full context)
Letter 44
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Sofia continues in her conversation with Celie by wondering how white people manage to do anything—Sofia believes white people are ignorant and... (full context)
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...the children, and care for the house, 24 hours a day. This is why, if Celie wants to see Sofia, she must visit Sofia on the mayor's property. (full context)
Letter 45
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...Mr. ____'s house with a man named Grady, whom she announces as her husband to Celie and Mr. ____. Celie feels at once that she does not like Grady, and Mr.... (full context)
Letter 46
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Mr. ____ and Grady spend the Christmas holiday drinking, and Shug and Celie catch up and talk. Shug has become incredibly successful, singing all over the country—she has... (full context)
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Shug asks whether Mr. ____ still beats Celie. Celie replies that Mr. ____ is kinder to her, in general, though he still beats... (full context)
Letter 47
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One day Mr. ____ and Grady go off together, and Celie and Shug talk again. Shug asks Celie about the father of Celie's children. Celie answers... (full context)
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At the end of the story, Celie begins to cry—the enormity of these feelings, about which she rarely speaks, having come back... (full context)
Letter 48
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...Mr. ____ return, and Mr. ____ tells Shug to leave the bed she's sharing with Celie (they have finished making love), so he can sleep with Celie, and Shug can sleep... (full context)
Letter 49
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This letter includes the full text of another letter Celie has received—from Nettie. The letter from Nettie says that she, Nettie, is safe and happy,... (full context)
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Shug reports to Celie that she has seen Mr. ____ at the mailbox, taking letters with "funny stamps" and... (full context)
Letter 50
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Shug and Mr. ____ become physically intimate again, and Grady and Celie are upset—since they both love Shug. Celie has trouble believing that Mr. ____ could be... (full context)
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One day, Celie becomes so enraged with Mr. ____ that she picks up a razor and considers slitting... (full context)
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Shug lies with Celie in Celie's room one night, and tries to talk with her, while Celie stews over... (full context)
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Shug says that, first, when she came to Celie's house, she wanted only to come between her and Mr. ____ But Shug quickly realized... (full context)
Letter 51
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Shug and Celie realize that Mr. ____ keeps the letters from Nettie in a trunk in his bedroom.... (full context)
Letter 52
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Nettie's first letter describes the immediate aftermath of her departure from Celie's and Mr. ____'s house, when Mr. ____ chased her down the road and tried to... (full context)
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Nettie fled into the town and stopped at the Reverend's house, where Celie had told her to go. Nettie recognized the young girl, the Reverend's daughter Olivia, as... (full context)
Letter 54
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...is following through on his promise—that he is not, in fact, delivering Nettie's letters to Celie, but rather hiding them somewhere, and that this is preventing Celie from responding to Nettie.... (full context)
Letter 55
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The next letter from Nettie arrives two months letter. Nettie has been writing Celie letters from a steamer ship; she is headed to Africa, with the Reverend and Corrine,... (full context)
Letter 59
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...finishing reading these letters from Nettie—and puzzling over the words in them she does not understand—Celie tells Shug that she again wishes to kill Mr. ____, for hiding the letters away... (full context)
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Celie says, by way of bargaining, that she won't kill Mr. ____ if Shug can convince... (full context)
Letter 60
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Celie is still angry with Mr. ____, and this dampens her sexual desires for Shug. Shug... (full context)
Letter 61
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Celie begins to feel proud that Nettie and her children are still alive—she "struts" around her... (full context)
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Celie opens another letter from Nettie; Celie and Shug have stolen all the trunk's letters, hiding... (full context)
Letter 62
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Celie reads another of Nettie's letters. Nettie has been working hard in the village, from early... (full context)
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...then describes her small hut, and says that she wishes she had a picture of Celie to put in it, next to her picture of Jesus Christ. (full context)
Letter 63
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Celie reads another of Nettie's letters. Nettie is visited by Tashi's father and mother, who argue... (full context)
Letter 67
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...(killed) the three black men and burned down the store. The owner they killed was Celie's and Nettie's biological father. (full context)
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Upon learning of her husband's death, Celie's and Nettie's mother then began a long slide into mental illness. A new man began... (full context)
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...the community, and pretended that the children Olivia and Adam were children he had by Celie's and Nettie's mother's, and not by Celie. Pa lied to Samuel, saying that the family... (full context)
Letter 68
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Celie writes a brief letter to God, in response to Nettie's information, saying she cannot believe... (full context)
Letter 69
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Celie decides that she wants to see Pa, to ask about the information she has just... (full context)
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Shug and Celie drive to Pa's house, which is a now a large white structure, on beautiful land,... (full context)
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Celie tells Pa, in front of Daisy and Shug, that she knows he is their stepfather.... (full context)
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Celie asks Pa where her biological father and mother are buried. Pa says he does not... (full context)
Letter 70
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...and Samuel attempt to convince Corrine that Nettie is the children's biological aunt, and that Celie is their biological mother. But Corrine refuses to believe, even though she has observed Nettie's... (full context)
Letter 71
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...again to convince Corrine, attempting to remind Corrine of the time she and Olivia met Celie in the cloth store back in Georgia. Nettie brings out a quilt made with the... (full context)
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Corrine suddenly announces that, on that day, she was afraid Celie was the real mother to Olivia, and that Celie would want to take Olivia back.... (full context)
Letter 72
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Nettie ends the letter to Celie hoping that the Olinka can somehow preserve their land in the face of the English... (full context)
Letter 73
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Celie tells Shug that she no longer writes to God—she writes to Nettie. This letter is... (full context)
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Celie and Shug have a discussion about religion, after Celie decides to stop writing to God.... (full context)
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Shug asks Celie what her God looks like, and Celie replies that her God is a white man.... (full context)
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...white man, to believing that God was found in nature, even found in human pleasure. Celie has trouble believing this at first, thinking that perhaps Shug is the one blaspheming, but... (full context)
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Celie continues, in the letter, by saying to Nettie that she is trying to find God... (full context)
Letter 74
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...maid to the mayor and his wife's children, six months early, and is released to Celie's and Mr. ____'s home. Her children have barely seen her and have grown up with... (full context)
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After dinner one night, Shug announces that she and Celie are leaving for Memphis, along with Grady, who is still living with Shug at Celie's... (full context)
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Celie tells Harpo, too, that he is partially responsible for Sofia's service to the mayor's family,... (full context)
Letter 75
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Celie begins to recognize that Grady is falling for Squeak, as they prepare (Grady and Squeak,... (full context)
Letter 76
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Celie loves Shug's house in Memphis, which is large and pink, and built on a circular... (full context)
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When Shug is home, she cooks large meals for Celie and Grady and Squeak, but when Shug is on the road she works hard, sings... (full context)
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Shug encourages Celie to make more pants and to start a small business selling these pants. For the... (full context)
Letter 77
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Celie hires two older unmarried women to help her to make the pants that she (Celie)... (full context)
Letter 78
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Celie goes back to Georgia, from Memphis, to visit Harpo and Sofia, who are having arguments,... (full context)
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Celie reports to Harpo and Sofia that, in Memphis, Grady and Squeak have been smoking large... (full context)
Letter 79
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Celie sees Mr. ____ at Sofia's mother's funeral. Mr. ____ has "found religion," and appears to... (full context)
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Celie remembers that Nettie once mentioned "African sickness" to her in a letter, and that this... (full context)
Letter 80
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Celie reads another of Nettie's letters. Nettie reports that she has married Samuel, and she begins... (full context)
Letter 82
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Celie addresses another letter to Nettie (it is implied that Celie has replaced her letters to... (full context)
Letter 83
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Celie writes again to Nettie, saying that Shug has run off with someone else—a very young... (full context)
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Celie tells Nettie how Shug described Germaine to her, and asked Celie to understand that her... (full context)
Letter 84
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Shug leaves Memphis with Germaine, and Celie returns to her new home in Georgia. There she watches Henrietta battle her illness. The... (full context)
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Mr. ____ and Celie have a conversation about Shug's departure and about Celie's pant business. Celie tells Mr. ____... (full context)
Letter 85
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Celie writes to Nettie, saying that she has received a note from the Department of Defense... (full context)
Letter 86
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Nettie writes to Celie, saying that Tashi and her mother have gone into the woods to live with the... (full context)
Letter 87
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Celie writes to Nettie, still believing that Nettie is alive, despite hearing no news from her.... (full context)
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Mr. ____ tries to talk to Celie, apologizing for keeping Nettie's letters from her. But Celie feels that she does not hate... (full context)
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Sofia tells Celie and Albert stories about Eleanor Jane, who is now married to a man named Stanley... (full context)
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Shug writes to Celie and says that she lives in Arizona, now, with Germaine, who teaches on an Indian... (full context)
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Celie and Albert talk more about Shug, each discussing how much they've loved her, and how... (full context)
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Celie teaches Albert how to sew a few stitches, and they begin talking about life in... (full context)
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Celie continues the story by saying that, when white Christian missionaries told the Africans about Adam... (full context)
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Celie finishes the story by saying that, for the Olinkans, white anger, and the desire to... (full context)
Letter 88
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Nettie writes to Celie, saying that Adam and Tashi have returned from the mbeles, where they saw a large... (full context)
Letter 89
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Celie has hired Sofia to work in her shop, as a clerk, and Sofia has made... (full context)
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Celie has another conversation with Mr. ____, whose transition into a good man appears to be... (full context)
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Shug returns, saying that Germaine has left her to go to college. Celie shows Shug her room in the new house, Celie's house, now painted purple and red,... (full context)
Letter 90
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Celie addresses this final letter to "God," but this time it is a new God—one of... (full context)
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After a long embrace, the families introduce themselves to one another, and Celie shares time with her two grown children. Everyone is so happy, the scene is nearly... (full context)
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...the novel's characters are now in one place for the first time. At the reunion, Celie remarks that the African family, especially Tashi, Adam, and Olivia "speak a little funny," but... (full context)
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Celie closes the novel by saying that, though she knows she is growing older, and has... (full context)