Celie writes to Nettie, still believing that Nettie is alive, despite hearing no news from her. (The previous letter from Nettie (86) was sent before the time of the supposed sinking of Nettie's ship—it, like the other letters, comes from Mr. ____'s trunk, and is therefore not recent.) Sometimes Celie receives postcards from Shug, with information about Germaine, but this upsets Celie, and she wonders how Shug ever found her attractive, how she ever loved Celie.
Celie's relationship with Shug, by letter, is an interesting counterpoint to her relationship with Nettie. Shug's postcards are short, and seem only to discuss her new life with Germaine. Celie, feeling abandoned, directs her feelings of sadness back on herself, blaming herself based on her insecurities about her looks, as she used to do. This feels sort of like a "first stage of grief" kind of thing.
Mr. ____ tries to talk to Celie, apologizing for keeping Nettie's letters from her. But Celie feels that she does not hate Mr. ____ (whom she now calls Albert), since Shug loves him still, and since he still loves Shug. Celie tells Albert that her children were fathered by her stepfather, and Albert is appalled by this information. He feels even deeper regret for the abuse he handed out to Celie over so many years.
Mr. _____'s transformation seems to be genuine, and his growing relationship with Celie is marked by the fact that she now calls him by his actual name. He no longer is just a man who controls her. He is becoming a person to her, and so she shares her history with him, which affects him deeply.
Sofia tells Celie and Albert stories about Eleanor Jane, who is now married to a man named Stanley Earl, and who has a child named Reynolds. Eleanor wants Sofia to comment on how cute Reynolds is, but Sofia finally interrupts Eleanor, saying that, as her black maid, she was forced to care for Eleanor—that it was her job—but she wants Eleanor to recognize that she, and any other black woman, did not and does not want this work, and that she does not consider Eleanor her child, nor Reynolds her grandchild.
Sofia is permitted this final monologue to describe, to Eleanor Jane, the nature of black servitude in the South. White families tended to believe that their black house-staff genuinely loved the children—that they were sort of less privileged family. Sofia puts that idea to rest, emphasizing that the black staff are servants, just doing a job.
This speech hurts Eleanor, but Sofia is glad to have spoken her mind, finally, to the family that once employed her. Eleanor leaves Sofia's house in tears.
Eleanor will come to realize that Sofia's statement is true, and Eleanor will be saddened by the fact that her family demanded Sofia's services for so long. Yet, at the same time, the degree to which this news hurts Eleanor indicates that Eleanor does feel familial love toward Sofia.
Shug writes to Celie and says that she lives in Arizona, now, with Germaine, who teaches on an Indian reservation, and who is treated with indifference by the Native Americans there. This treatment upsets Germaine, who wants to help the Native Americans as best he can.
Germaine's treatment at the hands of the Native Americans on the reservation exactly mimics Nettie's feeling among the Olinka—that her presence is not wanted, and that she can never "blend in" with society there.
Celie and Albert talk more about Shug, each discussing how much they've loved her, and how they've now spent a good part of their lives loving Shug, even though she continues to run away, and to pursue her own interests and the expense of others' feelings.
Celie and Mr. ____ become united by their love for Shug. Although they develop a genuine friendship, too, their love for Shug is the initial bond that draws them close.
Celie teaches Albert how to sew a few stitches, and they begin talking about life in Africa, as they sit on the porch making pants together. Celie tells an African myth that she heard from Nettie (in a letter not included in the novel), in which white people are considered the children of black people.
Another inversion of gender roles: Mr. ____, who never wanted to do any work around the house, now spends his time happily sewing—doing "women's work"—with Celie on the porch.
In this myth, the Olinkans believe that black people, the first people on earth, began having white children, but many of these children were considered abnormal and killed. Adam was the first white child to survive.
An inversion of the Adam and Eve story, in which Adam is not the first man, but merely the first white man who survives at the hands of his black forebears, who are afraid of his whiteness.
Celie continues the story by saying that, when white Christian missionaries told the Africans about Adam and Eve, the Africans laughed, since "white" and "naked" in their language are the same word. Thus Adam and Eve were kicked out of Paradise for their whiteness and their nakedness, whereas black persons are "clothed" by their color.
Celie finishes the story by saying that, for the Olinkans, white anger, and the desire to kill black people, derives from the fact that white people were kicked out of Paradise by black people. White people, therefore, will stop at nothing to harm those whom they believe to have harmed them first. Albert replies that the Olinkans sure have "a heap of time to sit and think about" these things.
The Olinka myth explains why white people seem to want to destroy black life and culture. The Olinka justify this hatred by arguing that, in the past, black people wanted to destroy white culture. The Olinka believe this cycle of destruction will be repeated for all time. Albert's reply is interesting, in that it implies that all of this is overthinking things, that there is no such "single reason" for racism or mistreatment.