Harpo is Mr. ______’s son. After Harpo’s mother, Mr. ______’s previous wife, is murdered by her affair partner and dies in Harpo’s arms, Celie takes on the role of “mother” for the family. Although neither Harpo nor Celie feels any sort of familial bond for one another, the two do form a practical relationship, with Harpo coming to Celie for advice on romance and women. He soon marries Sofia Butler. At his core, Harpo is a goodhearted, sensitive man, but the misogynistic worldview that he has inherited from his father begins to poison his marriage. He has been taught that women are inferior to men, and that they should always defer to their husbands, but Sofia is not a submissive wife. Although she’s an excellent partner and mother, Harpo becomes consumed by her refusal to obey or capitulate to him. He begins to beat her in an attempt to dominate her, but Sofia fights back, often winning against Harpo and physically injuring him. Being the dominant party in the relationship becomes an obsession for Harpo, and he even attempts to make himself physically larger—and therefore capable of beating Sofia—by consuming copious amounts of food. Eventually, Harpo’s obsession destroys the marriage.
There is a tragic element to Harpo’s on-and-off relationship with Sofia—the two truly love each other, but Harpo’s obsession with traditional gender roles and his learned belief that women should submit to their husbands prevents him from being able to have a happy, supportive marriage. Even though Harpo secretly enjoys traditionally feminine household chores, like doing the dishes, he can’t allow himself to be flexible with gender roles, as his self-identity—as well as how his father and other men perceive him—is partly based on his masculinity and superiority to women. Had he been able to accept Sofia’s independence and abandon the oppressive gendered beliefs that were limiting his own life and behavior, they likely would have enjoyed a harmonious marriage. As Harpo grows older and finds himself without a female partner, he becomes increasingly comfortable fulfilling the traditionally feminine roles of parenting and housekeeping. In fact, both Harpo and Mr. ______ learn, in some ways, to let go of the entitlement and patriarchal values that had been holding them back from having genuine relationships with women. Because of this, he and Sofia are able to rekindle their relationship later in life. In fact, it’s clear that, although Harpo attempted to find a more servile partner in Squeak, Sofia was the love of his life despite their marital issues.