Us sleep like sisters, me and Shug.

See Important Quotations Explained

Sofia complains that the mayor’s family is backward. To illustrate its backwardness, she tells a story: Miss Millie pestered her husband into buying her a car, but he refused to teach her to drive. Miss Millie finally asked Sofia to teach her to drive, which she did, with some success. As a Christmas reward, Miss Millie said she would drive Sofia to see her children, whom she had not seen in five years. Miss Millie said Sofia could visit the children for an entire day. However, only a few minutes into the visit, Miss Millie tried to drive back into town but got stuck in the driveway because she did not know how to operate the car in reverse. Frustrated that she had stripped the car’s gears, Miss Millie refused to allow Sofia’s brother-in-law to drive her into town, saying she could never ride in a car “with a strange colored man.” Miss Millie demanded that Sofia drive her home, even though Sofia had been able to spend only fifteen minutes with her children. Whenever Sofia mentions this incident, Miss Millie calls her “ungrateful.”

Shug writes that she has a big surprise, which turns out to be a new husband, Grady. Grady rubs Celie the wrong way, as he makes a flamboyant display of spending Shug’s money. Celie and Mr. ______ feel left out, as the love of their lives has returned home with another man. During Christmas, Grady and Mr. ______ drink while Shug and Celie spend time together. Shug’s singing career has grown rapidly, and she knows many famous musicians. Shug asks whether sex is going any better between Celie and Mr. ______, and Celie says it has not improved much, so she thinks she is still a virgin. Shug sleeps in Celie’s bed, where the two return to sisterly conversations about sex. Celie finally tells Shug her entire life story. It is the first time Celie tells about the rape by her stepfather, her silence, her pregnancies, and Nettie’s disappearance. When Celie finishes her story, tears flow, and Shug says that she loves Celie. Their conversation, kisses, and intimacy turn highly sexual.

One night in bed Shug asks Celie to tell her more about Nettie because—aside from Shug—Nettie is the only person Celie has every really loved. Celie says she fears Nettie is dead because she has not received any letters from her. Shug mentions that she often sees Mr. ______ taking mysterious letters from the mailbox and hiding them in his coat pocket. A week later, Shug recovers the most recent of these letters, which has stamps from Africa on it. The letter is from Nettie. Nettie says she is alive and well and that she has been sending letters all along. Knowing Mr. ______, she assumes Celie has received none of them.

Celie realizes that Mr. ______ must be keeping all Nettie’s letters in his locked trunk. Shug gets the key, and the two women open the trunk one night when they are home alone. Inside, they find dozens of letters from Nettie, some opened, some still sealed. Shug and Celie steam open the sealed letters and replace the empty envelopes in the trunk. Shug helps Celie put the letters in chronological order. Crying and struggling over unfamiliar words, Celie reads only the first seven letters before Grady and Mr. ______ return.

Celie reads that when Nettie first left Mr. ______’s house years ago, he followed her and tried to rape her. When Nettie fought back, Mr. ______ cursed her, saying that she would never again hear from Celie. It turns out that the woman whom Celie saw in the fabric store years ago, whose daughter looked just like Celie’s daughter, is named Corrine. Nettie became friends with Corrine and her husband, Samuel, who were members of a Christian ministry planning to travel to Africa for missionary work. Nettie developed a huge appetite for learning, and after reading all of Samuel and Corrine’s books about African history, decided to accompany them to Africa to help them start their missionary school. Nettie also learned that Samuel and Corrine’s children, Olivia and Adam, are, in fact, Celie’s lost children. Nettie traveled to New York and marveled at black society in Harlem, where liberated blacks own wealthy-looking houses. Nettie then crossed the Atlantic by boat, stopping first in Senegal, then Liberia, and finally a small village where she is doing missionary work. Nettie writes that she is amazed by the richness of African culture and the darkness of the native Africans’ skin.

Celie is nearly blinded with rage when it sinks in that Mr. ______ has been hiding Nettie’s letters from her. She feels sick and numb and has an overwhelming desire to kill Mr. ______. Trying to keep the peace, Shug tells Celie lengthy stories about her past with Mr. ______, who had once been a fun, sexy young man who made Shug very happy. But Celie remains in her own world, unafraid of Mr. ______ and even numb to Shug.