The Color Purple

by: Alice Walker

Nettie

Quotes Nettie
No matter what happen, Nettie steady try to teach me what go on in the world. And she a good teacher, too . . . Most days I feel too tired to think. But Patient her middle name.

Celie reflects on Nettie’s innate ability to teach. From the start, Celie loves and feels protective of Nettie. She tries to keep her safe from their father, Alphonso, but after Celie leaves home to marry Mr. ____, she cannot protect Nettie from him. Soon, Nettie runs away from home and comes to live with Celie, where a new problem brews: Mr. ____ still has eyes for Nettie, the girl he originally wanted as a wife. Despite the tension within the household, Nettie does her best to help Celie with her lessons along with the other children too.

But she keep on. You got to fight. You got to fight. But I don’t know how to fight. All I know how to do is stay alive.

While Nettie lives with Celie and Mr. _____, she admonishes Celie not to let the children and her husband take advantage of her, not to let them have what she calls the upper hand. Celie admits to her sister and to herself that she has never been a fighter. For her, life has been about survival, never control or retaliation. She has not yet found her voice or her strength.

Albert is not going to let you have my letters and so what use is there in writing them. That’s the way I felt when I tore them up and sent them to you on the waves. But now I feel different.

With Shug’s help, Celie reads Nettie’s letters in the order in which they were postmarked. From Nettie’s lines here, Celie realizes that Nettie has written many letters over the years including a letter every day that she was on the boat to Africa. However, when she reached shore, she tore up the letters and threw them in the water, knowing that they would never reach Celie. Nettie loved and missed Celie so much that she found comfort in the mere act of writing the letters.

Anyway, when I don’t write to you I feel as bad as I do when I don't pray, locked up in myself and choking on my own heart. I am so lonely, Celie.

In her letters to Celie, Nettie tells the story of her life after leaving home. She stayed with the family that includes Celie’s two babies, Olivia and Adam. Fate took her to Africa with them on a missionary ministry, and she shares her travels and discoveries with Celie in these letters. The letters open up the world—both the real and her inner worlds—to Celie.

“Hard times” is a phrase the English love to use, when speaking of Africa. And it is easy to forget that Africa’s “hard times” were made harder by them. Millions and millions of Africans were captured and sold into slavery—you and me, Celie!

In letters to Celie, Nettie recounts her travels to Africa and the studying that she did to prepare for them. She shares her new understanding of slavery, details about England and the people there, and her questions about history and culpability. For Nettie and, in turn, Celie, the history becomes personal when Nettie realizes the truth about slavery and oppression.

And we kneeled down right on deck and gave thanks to God for letting us see the land for which our mothers and fathers cried—and lived and died—to see again. Oh, Celie! Will I ever be able to tell you all?

Nettie recounts to her sister the story of their journey to Africa. As soon as they saw the African coast, something in Nettie rang like a bell. She felt overwhelming awe at the vistas of this continent and all the history the land held for her people. Nettie’s letters reveal much about her adventurous and compassionate spirit and her love for the sister she left at home.

What girlhood I might have had passed me by. And I have nothing of my own. No man, no children, no close friend, except for Samuel. But I do have children, Adam and Olivia.

In one of her letters to Celie, Nettie confesses how much she misses Celie and also admits how empty her life in Africa really feels. She claims that she does nothing but work and worry. Her words are prescient, however, because she eventually marries Samuel and loves and raises Celie’s children, Olivia and Adam, as her own.

Celie, it seemed as good a time as any to put my arms around him. Which I did. And words long buried in my heart crept to my lips. I stroked his dear head and face and I called him darling and dear. And I’m afraid, dear, dear Celie, that concern and passion soon ran away with us.

The death of Samuel’s wife, Corinne, frees Nettie to allow herself to fall in love with Samuel, and here she confesses what happened in one of her letters to Celie. Nettie’s love for Samuel as a friend changed into a romantic love, and Nettie reveals their intentions to marry. In the same letter, Nettie also tells Celie that she has been honest with Olivia and Adam about who their mother is: Celie.

And they are so happy. So happy, Celie. Tashi and Adam Omatangu. Samuel married them, of course, and all the people left in the compound came to wish them happiness and an abundance of roofleaf forever.

In one of her last letters to Celie, Nettie describes the happily-ever-after story of Adam and Tashi and their deep love for each other. Olivia stood up with the bride, and immediately after the wedding, the whole family leaves the compound and heads back to the United States. This marriage marks the beginning of the book’s final movement, which is one of completion and joy.

Me and Nettie finally git up off the porch and I hug my children. And I hug Tashi. Then I hug Samuel.

Celie describes the actions in the climax of the novel—the reunion of Celie’s family after decades of separation. Nettie has returned home from Africa and brought the others with her. Mr. _____ and Shug are there, too, as they have been living in Celie’s home. This scene marks a joyful moment in which the two sisters embrace for a long time, speak each other’s names, and finally end their lifetimes apart.