The Color Purple Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Color Purple

The transformation of a woman's life from serial tragedy, illiteracy and abuse to transformation, rebirth and joy. THE COLOR PURPLE
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The Color Purple, both a novel and a movie, takes place in the 1930's in rural Georgia, a most oppressive time and place for African Americans.

The story opens with our protagonist, Celie, a teenage African American girl, whose mother has just died and whose father ceaselessly beats and rapes her. Celie has had two babies, a girl and a boy, as a result of being raped by her father. In each case her father has taken the newborns away and they are never again seen by Celie. Celie appeals to God, through letters, which detail her situation.

A man, know as “Mister,” comes courting for Celie's younger sister Nettie, who is everything that Celie isn't--pretty, smart and determined. However, their father will having nothing of it, as he has his eye on Nettie for himself. Instead the father offers up Celie, who Mister, at first, rejects, then begrudgingly accepts, as he is in desperate need for someone to take care of his very rambunctious children.

Celie marries Mister and enters a new level of hell. His home would have long ago been condemned, if someone had cared to pass judgement, his children actively torment Celie and Mister beats her for reason great and small or no reason at all.

After a short while Celie brings order and well prepared meals to Mister's home. And after yet more time she brings a ‘respectable' level of discipline to Mister's children. However, Mister continues to beat her, castigates her for the sin of being ‘ugly,' brutally rapes her and waxes on continually about how much he loves another woman, Shug Avery. Shug Avery is the woman, who wisely got away.

Nettie shows up at Mister's home having run away from her father's home, in a desperate attempt to escape his sexual advances. Soon, however, she must escape the sexual advances of Mister, who is set on having her as his own.

Celie arranges for Nettie to escape Mister via an arrangement with a woman, who she believes has adopted her two children, but she can't be sure. The woman and her husband are missionaries and they are happy to take Nettie with them. Nettie makes a promise to Celie, as she reluctantly leaves her beloved sister--that she will write to her constantly. Mister beats Celie for Nettie's disappearance and Celie's life thereafter becomes little more than torturous ritual.

In time all of Mister's children save for Harpo leave. Despite the fact that Celie is now a grown woman, her rituals have changed very little. Mister continues to beat, rape, belittle her and dream aloud about ‘his' Shug Avery.

Harpo soon falls in love, impregnates and then marries, Sophia, a high-spirited and independent woman, despite Mister's objections. Together, Harpo and Sophia begin to raise a good-sized family. Celie is quite taken by Sophia, who will not back down from Harpo. Celie and Sophia become good friend and confidants as a result.

Mister constantly mocks Harpo for his inability to bring Sophia in line. Harpo, in many ways afraid of Sophia reaches out to the least likely person for advice--Celie. Celie, perhaps a bit envious, perhaps trying to ‘curry favor,' advised Harpo to “hit Sopia.” Harpo decides to take Celie's advice.

A short time later Sophia storms up to Mister's house to confront Celie, who by this time is quite sorry for what she has advised. Sophia looks in to Celie's eyes and tells her what she thinks of her advice and how she has always looked after her. Celie can do little more than bow her head. And unfortunately for Harpo, he took Celie's advice and has suffered a fine beating.

And then Shug Avery shows up at Mister's house. She is at the edge of death. Mister is beside himself and happily welcomes Shug and promises to take care of her. Celie is very curious and a little enamored with this attractive, worldly woman. Though Shug is initially hard on Celie often calling her ‘ugly' and throwing her meals about, the two soon become fast friends, confidants and lovers.

Celie tells Shug about her abusive relationship with Mister and how he beats her when Shug is away. Shug decides to say around for a while to protect Celie and sing at Harpo's newly opened nightclub.

One night, however, when Mister is away, Celie and Shug together discover a secret that Mister has long kept from Celie. As Celie has never received a letter from her sister, Nettie, she has long ago believed her to be dead. What Celie and Shug discovered locked in a box is that Mister has been stealing the letters to keep them from Celie. Celie is beside herself with anger and discovers through this anger a backbone.

Celie with new found resolve decides to leave Mister, but not before she curses him and his to ruin. Celie travels away with Shug and Harpo's second wife Squeak, who dreams of a singing career like Shug.

Celie settles down and makes her way through life as a seamstress. Celie finds a bit of contentment, though she misses her sister dearly. Celie discovers that her father has died and that she has inherited his land and all holdings. She moves home to start her life anew.

For Mister ruination has found him and all that Celie has cursed has been made real. This has changed Mister profoundly and he now looks to make things right with Celie. He does the last thing that anyone would expect of him. He reaches out to Nettie and her new husband in Africa and informs them of what has happen to Celie and where she can be found.

Nettie, her husband (whose wife had died and was the woman that Celie believed adopted her children) and two children return to the U.S. from Africa. Mister has arranged to pick them up and deliver them to Celie's door.

In the final scene Celie, unaware of what has and is happening, moves to her door to find out who these people are, that are approaching her house. She soon realizes that one is her sister, Nettie and she experiences great joy. And thereafter she is reunited with her children, who she has not seen in over twenty years, and their African mates. Celie is more joyous still, as God has finally answered her long years of prayers. Mister rides off having brought a bit of balance to his life and a lot of joy to Celie's.
Best part of story, including ending: The journey, literally, from hell on earth to heaven and how a woman's fear slowly transformed to strength and joy.

Best scene in story: The ending where things are made right, after so very many years of horrific abuse, pain and invisibility.

Opinion about the main character: I loved her spirit, her steadfastness, her humility and then her power, that allowed her to save herself.

The review of this Book prepared by Kermit E. Heartsong a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Nettie teaches her sister Celie to read and write after Celie is forced to leave school because she's pregnant with their father's child. In return, Celie protects Nettie from their father. But that's just the beginning of the story. Celie marries and it is then that she meets Blues singer Shug Avery. Shug is Celie's husband's lover who has come to stay while she recovers from sickness. Ironically, Shug Avery becomes Celie's second teacher by showing Celie her own strengths and even teaching her about sexuality.

This book deals with feminism, homosexual relationships, abuse of a sexual, physical, and verbal nature, incest, murder and a myriad of other subjects.
The review of this Book prepared by r sharma

The Color Purple is the story of Cecil. She is raped when she is a young girl and then is married off to Albert. Albert is cruel and is in love with Shug Avery. Shug is a famous entertainer. The letters Cecil writes are to her sister who is in Africa who has not written Cecil back in years. The story is about women, their strengths, and their struggles. The book is about a hard life but it keeps true to the idea that what goes around comes around and good things come to those who wait.
The review of this Book prepared by Kristy Pastore

Chapter Analysis of The Color Purple

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Ethnic/Regional/Religion    -   Black people in America/Europe Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Ethnic/regional/gender life    -   Yes Woman's story?    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Female Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Black (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () United States    -   Yes Africa    -   Yes Farm/Ranch?    -   Yes Farm/Ranch:    -   farm

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   impregnation/reproduction    -   lesbians!    -   rape/molest Amount of dialog    -   significantly more dialog than descript

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Alice Walker Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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