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The Color Purple

Alice Walker

Letters 34–43

Letters 22–33

Letters 34–43, page 2

page 1 of 2


Harpo say, I love you, Squeak. He kneel down and try to put his arms round her waist. She stand up. My name Mary Agnes, she say.

(See Important Quotations Explained)

Celie is upset that Shug is soon leaving the house. Longing for Shug to stay, Celie tells Shug that Mr. ______ beats her when Shug is away. When Shug asks why he beats her, Celie answers, “For being me and not you.” Shug kisses Celie on the shoulder and declares she will not leave until she knows Mr. ______ would not even think about beating Celie.

Shug and Celie’s relationship grows increasingly intimate, and Shug coaxes Celie to talk about sex for the first time. Celie’s words, not surprisingly, are dismal. She says she despises sex and that during the act she typically pretends she is not even there. Shug tells Celie that, in her mind, Celie is still a virgin. To Shug, a woman’s real loss of virginity is not her first sex act, but the first time she experiences the pleasure of an orgasm. Celie finds the idea of pleasure sexy, otherworldly, and shocking.

Shug makes Celie take a mirror and look closely at her own sexual organs for the first time in her life. They act like little girls, giggling and worrying about getting caught. When Celie gets her first long, bold look at herself “down there,” she is not disgusted by what she sees, but states plainly that it is hers. Celie tells Shug that she does not care if Shug sleeps with Mr. ______, but later when she hears them together Celie cries.

Shug continues to sing at Harpo’s juke joint, to increasingly large crowds. Sofia makes a surprise visit one night, looking healthy and happy with a new boyfriend in her arms. Sofia and Harpo dance and make conversation, infuriating Harpo’s new girlfriend, Squeak, a young mixed-race woman who does anything Harpo says. Not knowing the trouble she is getting herself into, Squeak calls Sofia a bitch and slaps her across the face. Sofia promptly knocks out two of Squeak’s teeth, and coolly departs with her new man.

Sofia’s boldness soon gets her in trouble. When the mayor’s wife, Miss Millie, notices the cleanliness of Sofia’s children and asks Sofia to be her maid, Sofia responds with a curt “Hell no.” The mayor slaps Sofia for her sass, and Sofia knocks him down, an offense that lands her in jail. Upon visiting, Celie finds Sofia badly beaten, and her ribs and skull cracked. Celie is scared, but sits down and grooms Sofia. At home, everyone decides they need to get Sofia out of jail. Squeak admits that she is the niece of the white prison warden, so Mr. ______ tells her to go plead for Sofia’s release. Celie and the others dress Squeak up “like she a white woman” and send her off, armed with fraudulent words to trick the warden into granting Sofia’s release.

The warden does not release Sofia and instead brutally rapes Squeak, who comes home limping, her dress in tatters. Devastated, she tells the others what happened. She demands that Harpo call her by her real name, Mary Agnes. Sofia, rather than being released from prison, is sentenced to work as a maid for the mayor’s wife. Squeak helps Sofia with the mayor’s children, and begins to sing—first Shug’s songs, then songs she makes up herself.

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Celie's Abuse

by sprinze, April 16, 2014

I think it's important to specify that her abuse was psychological, emotional, physical, and sexual. Rape is one of the most traumatic crimes committed and I'm certain it contributed to her sense of powerlessness and low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness and her revulsion towards sex. Both her husband and her father raped her repeatedly. It's important.


11 out of 12 people found this helpful

Shug and Celie

by sprinze, April 16, 2014

There's no note of sexuality here, which is also important. Celie was raped repeatedly by Mr., her husband, and her step-father. She grew numb to it, which can happen with repeated abuse especially when it happens so often. The only sex she ever enjoyed was the completely consensual and compassionate time she shared with Shug. That makes Celie possibly gay/lesbian/bisexual/queer, or even asexual because she wasn't actually concerned about the act but more the emotional attachment and connection with Shug. Without any other positive sexual ex... Read more


64 out of 75 people found this helpful

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