The Color Purple

The Color Purple

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Harpo Character Analysis

Mr. _____'s oldest son, who is raised by Celie. Harpo is an essentially good man, but he drives Sofia, his first wife, away by trying to get her to "mind" (or obey) him. Harpo later marries a woman named Squeak, or Mary Agnes, and opens a jukejoint (bar) on his property in Georgia.

Harpo Quotes in The Color Purple

The The Color Purple quotes below are all either spoken by Harpo or refer to Harpo. 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 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.

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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 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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Harpo Character Timeline in The Color Purple

The timeline below shows where the character Harpo appears in The Color Purple. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Letter 12
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Kate gets in an argument with Mr. ____ about Harpo, Mr. ____'s eldest son, who says that he won't work, that women are supposed to... (full context)
Letter 13
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Harpo asks his father why he beats Celie; Mr. ____ answers that he beats her because... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Harpo, who is seventeen, tells Celie he is in love with a girl who is fifteen.... (full context)
Letter 16
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...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 stopped doing.... (full context)
Letter 17
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Harpo's girlfriend's father says that Harpo is not good enough to marry his daughter—Harpo is too... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Harpo has dreams that his Annie Julia is being chased by her boyfriend, the man who... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...say that Celie is skilled with Mr. ____'s children, but the three children other than Harpo are mean to her, and they do no work. Bub, a younger son, is always... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Harpo says he is in love with Sofia Butler, his girlfriend (the same girl whose father... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia, seven months pregnant, comes to the house with Harpo to meet Mr. ____. Mr. ____ asks who the father is, trying to insult Sofia;... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Mr. ____ says he will not let Sofia and Harpo marry, even though Sofia is pregnant. Sofia says she doesn't need to be married at... (full context)
Letter 18
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Despite this, Harpo and Sofia soon marry. Harpo begins receiving a wage from his father (his father believes... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Harpo's and Sofia's wedding is small but relatively happy. Celie makes curtains for their new home.... (full context)
Letter 19
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Harpo tells his father that he cannot get Sofia to "mind" him, or obey him. Mr.... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
It is revealed that three years have passed since Harpo's wedding. Harpo seems happy with his Sofia, but still wants her to "mind" him. Harpo... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Harpo returns to Mr. ____'s home one day, looking cut-up and bruised. Harpo explains to Celie... (full context)
Letter 20
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
One day, Celie is walking by Sofia and Harpo's shack, near the edge of Mr. _____'s property, when she sees the two of them... (full context)
Letter 21
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...is not sure why, at first. Then she realizes she has wronged Sofia, by telling Harpo that he ought to beat her. One day Sofia comes to Celie and returns the... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie admits that she was jealous of Sofia's ability to stand up to Harpo; Celie is unable to do this with Mr. ____. Sofia explains that her brothers and... (full context)
Letter 22
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
...When he returns 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)
Letter 27
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...forced to sell off their land, bit by bit, to turn a profit. Celie's and Harpo's fields are the family's most profitable, and were once owned by Mr. ____'s father. (full context)
Letter 28
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...unspecified time later, Sofia asks Celie why men eat as much as they do. Apparently Harpo has been eating a great deal recently—whole pans of biscuits, six eggs, many glasses of... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie observes Harpo's eating the next time Harpo comes to her house. Harpo has cornbread and "clabber" (naturally... (full context)
Letter 29
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Celie finds Harpo one evening in her house, crying to himself. Harpo is upset that he cannot get... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...____ to look after his children; the two do not love each other. Sofia and Harpo, on the other hand, really do love one another, and Celie tells Harpo that this... (full context)
Letter 30
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...pleasure, and Celie dreams about Shug when they're having sex. Sofia complains, to Celie, that Harpo too thinks only of himself when the two of them are having sex. She tells... (full context)
Letter 31
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...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 do. Sofia's... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Harpo quickly changes the diaper of one of the children, who has wet herself. He then... (full context)
Letter 32
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Sofia is gone for six months. In the meantime, Harpo does some "traveling" of his own, as he tells Celie, and Celie realizes that Harpo... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
A friend of Harpo's named Swain begins coming by, and the two start constructing a jukejoint, or small shanty... (full context)
Letter 33
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Harpo's jukejoint opens several weeks later, with Swain playing some songs on weekends, but there are... (full context)
Letter 34
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...to leave their Mr. ____'s home. Shug is singing regularly on the weekends, now, at Harpo's bar. Celie grows distraught at this news, and tells Shug, finally, that Mr. ____ beats... (full context)
Letter 35
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Letter 36
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
One night at Harpo's bar, Sofia arrives with a new boyfriend, a boxer named Buster Broadnax. Mr. ____ asks... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...with Buster. Celie feels that her own "new" life began when she (Celie) met Shug. Harpo comes up to Sofia, who explains that she has come to the bar, with Buster,... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Harpo asks Buster if he can dance with Sofia, and Buster agrees. Harpo and Sofia dance... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...rather punches Squeak in the face, knocking out two of Squeak's teeth and bloodying her. Harpo clings to Sofia for a moment, after she has punched Squeak, then goes to help... (full context)
Letter 37
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Some unspecified amount of time later, Celie asks Squeak why Harpo is moping, and Squeak replies that Sofia has been thrown in jail, and Harpo is... (full context)
Letter 41
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...Squeak says that the warden has forced her to have sex with him. Squeak tells Harpo and the others that, first, the warden made her talk about her family, and then... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
...telling this story, Squeak, who is understandably traumatized by her encounter with the warden, asks Harpo if Harpo really loves her, or if he just loves the fact that she has... (full context)
Letter 42
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...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 continue to sing. One of her... (full context)
Letter 48
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
...her confidence. Shug believes that Squeak's strange and interesting voice would be a hit at Harpo's bar. (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Harpo doesn't like the idea of Squeak singing, but Shug tells him it will be OK—she'll... (full context)
Letter 74
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie tells Harpo, too, that he is partially responsible for Sofia's service to the mayor's family, since Sofia... (full context)
Letter 78
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie goes back to Georgia, from Memphis, to visit Harpo and Sofia, who are having arguments, just like old times, although they appear to have... (full context)
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Celie reports to Harpo and Sofia that, in Memphis, Grady and Squeak have been smoking large amounts of marijuana... (full context)
Letter 79
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 left for Memphis, Mr. _____ seemed to lose all will to live. He and Harpo would lie around together in their house, doing very little, saddened by their wives' departures... (full context)