Mr. ____'s sisters, named Kate and Carrie, visit Celie at home with Mr. ____ and tell her about Mr. ____'s first wife, Annie Julia. Annie Julia was not a good homemaker, nor did she watch the children and keep them clean and disciplined. The sisters report that Mr. ____ was always "chasing around" Shug Avery while Annie Julia was home with the children.
Annie Julia, like Shug, was not capable of caring for children, nor was she a particularly gifted homemaker. But she did not look like Shug—she was not as pretty—and Mr. ____ spent much of their marriage apart from his own family, thus causing Annie Julia to take a lover.
The sisters complain about Shug Avery, saying that, as a singer, she is 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 Shug.
Very few people in the novel find Shug to be spellbinding and a good friend—and most of them are men. Celie is that rare woman who is not frightened of Shug's sexual frankness, nor of her free-spiritedness.
Kate tells Mr. ____ that Celie needs new clothes; Celie has been wearing the same clothes in Mr ___'s house that she wore in Pa's. Kate takes Celie to buy shoes and a dress. Celie initially wants purple shoes, but their too expensive and so she settles for blue. Celie has never before worn a dress that was not bought second-hand.
The first mention of the color purple in the novel. Purple seems to represent, for Celie, something she wants and cannot have—a splash of brightness and excitement and luxury in a life otherwise dominated by abuse and obligation.
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 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 him. She says, in her letter to God, that she will continue to appease Mr. ____, and to give in to his demands, in order to keep the household running smoothly, and to help raise his children.
Harpo starts off, as a young man, like his father—unwilling to work, and arguing that work is for women, not for men. One of the novel's primary ideas is the way behavior gets cycled through generations. Here, Mr. ____ seems to model a kind of male behavior that is socially backward, but sadly common. It is the idea that men rule the roost and order women around, and that women are the ones who work, raise the children, and make sure the household is in order.