Shug Avery is sick, and everyone in town blames her illness on her "wild," independent ways. The townspeople believe it 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 preacher delivers a sermon chastising a nameless woman who has strayed from God. Shug is the implied subject of this fiery sermon.
It is never clear whether Shug's illness is, in fact, a venereal disease or the simple result of contracting tuberculosis. In either case, the town is all too willing to state that Shug has "earned" her disease, by living a lifestyle of freedom and independence. Only Celie and Mr. ____ seems to care for Shug despite these accusations and rumors.
After the sermon, Mr. ____ hitches his wagon and leaves for five days; he is enraged that even the preacher shuns Shug, and he resolves to help her. 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.
Mr. ____ demonstrates his generosity in this section of the novel. Of course, he has Celie take care of Shug, and mostly spends his own time sitting and worrying. But he is shown to care genuinely about the fate of another human being—no small thing for Mr. ____.
Celie is excited that Shug is coming to stay with them—so excited, she can barely speak to Shug as Shug is helped up the steps by Mr. ____. When Mr. ____ introduces his wife to his lover, Shug's only reply to Celie is to affirm that Celie is indeed very ugly, and to laugh.
Celie finally gets a chance to see Shug in the flesh. The cruelty of Shug's first comment to Celie will be reversed by many years of kind treatment; but it is hard to imagine how difficult this scene is for Celie, who has spent so much time idolizing Shug from a distance.