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The Color Purple

Alice Walker
Summary Letters 61–69
Summary Letters 61–69

Nettie, believing that Olivia and Adam are in fact Celie’s children, finally requests in private that Samuel explain how he adopted them. Nettie learns that Celie and Nettie’s father had been a farmer who decided to open a dry goods store. The store was very successful and always teeming with customers. Competing white storeowners were furious at Nettie’s father for taking all the black business away from them, so they burned his shop and lynched him. At the time, Nettie’s mother had already had Celie. Soon after her husband’s death, Nettie’s mother went into labor and gave birth to Nettie. Though she never fully recovered from the mental anguish of her husband’s death, she remarried, to a man named Alphonso, and continued having children until she died.

Alphonso and Samuel know each other from Samuel’s wild days, before Samuel became religious. One day, Alphonso showed up at Samuel’s door, saying that his wife was too ill to care for their two youngest children. When Alphonso offered the two children to Samuel, Samuel could not refuse because he and Corrine had been unable to have children of their own. Samuel never revealed the identity of the children to Corrine, so when Nettie showed up, both Samuel and Corrine had assumed, from the resemblance, that Olivia and Adam were Nettie’s children.

Dazed after learning that Alphonso is not her real father, Celie stops writing to God and begins writing to Nettie instead. Shug decides to move back to Tennessee and asks Celie to move with her. Before they leave, however, Celie wants to go see Alphonso. She and Shug find a new house with a beautifully landscaped yard built on Alphonso’s old property. Alphonso has a new wife, Daisy, who is only fifteen years old. Alphonso confirms that Celie’s real father was lynched and that he is really only her stepfather. Celie and Shug stop by the local cemetery, but they are unable to locate Celie’s mother and father’s gravesite because it is unmarked. Comforting Celie, Shug tells her, “Us each other’s peoples now,” and kisses her.

Analysis

Throughout The Color Purple, Walker makes it clear that storytelling and communication are crucial to self-understanding. By this point in the novel, we have seen problems due to failed communication between Celie and Alphonso; between Celie and Mr. ______; among Nettie, Samuel, and Corrine; and between Celie and Nettie. As the novel progresses, some of these ruptures in communication are repaired through narratives of one kind or another. Celie finds Nettie’s letters, Samuel tells the story of his children to Nettie, and Celie confirms this story with Alphonso, learning the truth of her own family history. However, aside from communication failures in these specific relationships, Walker highlights many broader, more general communication problems in the world that remain unresolved. She points to failed communication between men and women; between American blacks and American whites, between American blacks and Africans, and between Africans and European imperialists.

Celie’s discovery of her true family history brings about a major change in her pattern of communication, as she develops surrogates for God and her parents, in the form of other women. After learning of her tragic background, Celie feels that she has lost some of her faith in God, and closes what she intends to be her final letter to God by chiding, “You must be sleep.” Instead, Celie begins to write letters to Nettie. Likewise, though Celie is unable to locate her parents’ graves, to which she looks for closure, Shug tells Celie, “Us each others peoples now.” These strong, surrogate ties that Celie makes with other women allow her to create a new family in the face of the tragedies she has endured. Celie ceases to wait for the kingdom of heaven and begins to search for peace and happiness in her own life.

Nettie’s voice, likewise, has burst forth after being obscured for so long. We see that Nettie has become highly intellectually curious and sophisticated, and is now a missionary, a job that is centered around articulating a narrative. Nettie is very vocal in her attitudes toward the native Africans, especially the self-centeredness she perceives in them, and their clear sexism.