The Color Purple Summary đź“–

The plot of ‘The Color Purple’ is anchored on Celie’s life struggles as a black girl in America who is subjected to abuse and deprivation.

The Color Purple

Alice Walker

The Color Purple has a powerful plot that touches on love, family, identity, surviving trauma and abuse, and many other social issues. It is a story that delights as much as it horrifies.

“Spoiler-Free” Summary

Celie’s mother’s health deteriorates after her last childbirth, and she begins to deny the character of Alphonso, her husband, sex. Alphonso begins to molest and rape Celie and warns her not to tell anyone but God about it. Celie gets pregnant the first time and gives birth, but Alphonso takes the child away, making Celie believe the child is dead. Then she gets pregnant again, and Alphonso also snatches the child away.

Celie’s mother dies after a prolonged illness, and Alphonso marries another woman while continuing to rape and molest Celie.

A widower, known as Mister, comes to ask for Nettie’s hand in marriage, but Alphonso persuades him to marry Celie instead of Nettie, and he agrees and marries Celie.

Celie’s suffering continues in Mister’s home, Mister physically and emotionally abuses her, and Mister’s four children give her a tough time; the first child Harpo even breaks Celie’s head with a stone on her wedding day.

Nettie runs from Alphonso, who tried to rape her, to Celie and Mister. At first, Mister is welcoming to Nettie but decides she must leave the house when she refuses his sexual advances. Nettie runs away to Reverend Samuel and his wife Corrine, as suggested by Celine.

Harpo falls in love with a woman called Sofia and gets her pregnant. His father disapproves of her and they do not get married at first, but he later defies his father and marries Sofia.

Harpo and Sofia begin to have misunderstandings, and when Harpo asks Celie for advice, Celie advises Harpo to beat Sofia. Sofia learns about it and confronts Celie, Celie apologizes, and they become friends.

Later, Sofia complains of being unhappy in her marriage and leaves Harpo. When Sofia leaves with their five children, Harpo begins a juke joint in their home.

Mister brings his lover, Shug Avery, who is ill, to live with them, and Celie begins to nurse her. Shug Avery gradually regains her health and becomes friends with Celie. Shug, who is a singer, begins to perform at Harpo’s juke joint.

Sofia visits Harpo’s juke joint with her new boyfriend, Henry Broadnax. Harpo’s new girlfriend, Squeak, gets jealous and slaps Sofia, making Sofia retaliate with a heavy punch that knocks some of Squeak’s teeth off.

The mayor’s wife meets Sofia in the streets and asks Sofia to come work as her maid. Sofia replies, as quoted from ‘The Color Purple,’ “hell no” which makes the mayor himself slap Sofia. Sofia retaliates and is arrested and sentenced to twelve years in prison. After six months, she is sent to complete her sentence working for the mayor’s wife as a maid.

Nettie and Reverend Samuel’s family travel to do missionary work in Africa.

Celie, through Shug Avery’s help, gains confidence in herself and begins to confront her abusers and later begins a business of her own which empowers her financially.

Complete Plot Summary

Warning: This article contains important details and spoilers

Celie is repeatedly raped by her father Alphonso, leading to two pregnancies. Alphonso snatched both babies away from her after their birth, leaving Celie to believe that he killed them.

Alphonso marries Celie off to a widower they call Mister, who asks to marry Nettie. Celie moves in with Mister, and Mister molests and abuses Celie too.

Celie sees a little girl who looks just like herself and believes the child is her lost daughter. The little girl is accompanied by a classy black woman, and Celie engages her in conversation. From the conversation, Celie confirms that the little girl is her child.

Nettie runs away from home and comes to live with Celie after fighting off Alphonso, who tried to rape her.

Mister makes sexual advances at Nettie and sends her away when she refuses. Celie directs Nettie to go to the classy woman she saw with her daughter because, according to her, that was the only woman she ever saw with money. Celie asks Nettie to write her letters, and Nettie assures her that only death can stop her from writing letters to Celie. When years go by without any letter from Nettie, Celie believes Nettie is dead.

Harpo gets married to Sofia, and they move into a cottage close to Mister and Celie’s house. Harpo complains that Sofia does not listen to him and asks Celie for advice, and Celie advises him to beat Sofia.

Sofia confronted Celie when she discovered Celie advised Harpo to beat her. Celie apologizes, and they reconcile and become friends.

Sofia is unhappy in her marriage with Harpo and leaves him, moving in with her sister Odessa. Harpo converts their home into a juke joint.

Mister brings sick Shug Avery home, and Celie begins to nurse and care for her. As she gradually regains her health, they become friends and later lovers.

Shug Avery finds letters written by Nettie to Celie, which Mister had been hiding gives them to Celie, who begins to read those letters.

Nettie, in her letters, tells Celie that her two children are alive and are the foster children of Corrine, the classy woman Celie saw in town with the little girl. She tells Celie that she lives with them and that they take care of her and treat her well.

The mayor’s wife sees Sofia in the streets and asks her to come work as her maid Sofia indignantly responds, ”hell no” which makes the mayor himself slap her, and when she retaliates, she gets arrested and sent to prison. She is later sent to serve as a maid to the mayor’s wife for eleven and half years.

Nettie, Reverend Samuel, his wife Corrine, and their children Adam and Olivia go to Africa to do missionary work. Adam and Olivia make friends with an African girl named Tashi.  Corrine falls sick in Africa and dies. Adam later marries Tashi, while Nettie and Samuel eventually get married after Corrine’s death.

Celie confronts Mister and curses him for all the wrong he has done to her. She leaves him and travels to Memphis with Shug Avery. There, Celie begins to design and make pants and establishes a clothing store called Folkspants Unlimited.

Nettie writes to Celie, telling her that Alphonso is not their biological father but their stepfather. Their biological father was a wealthy store owner who was lynched by envious competitors, and the shock of the incident led their mother to a mental crisis which Alphonso capitalized on the take over her properties.

Shug Avery breaks Celie’s heart by informing Celie that she’s in love with someone else. Mister tries to make amends for his evils and begs Celie for forgiveness. They both become friends and reminisce on their mutual love for Shug Avery and their respective heartbreaks from her.

Alphonso dies, and Celie discovers that the store and the fields and all her father’s properties had been left to her by her mother, but Alphonso hid that from everyone.

Celie moves back to her childhood home and establishes her pants business at the store. Shug Avery comes back to Celie and begs forgiveness for breaking her heart.

Nettie returns from Africa with Reverend Samuel, Adam, Olivia, and Tashi, and they all reunite happily.


What happened at the end of The Color Purple?

The Color Purple has a happy ending. Celie establishes a prosperous pants business of her own; Mr___ regrets his evil acts and tries to make amends; Sofia finally regains her freedom from servitude at the mayor’s house; Shug Avery makes peace with her children she abandoned; Nettie falls in love with and gets married to Samuel; and ultimately, Celie reunites with Nettie and her long lost children.

What was wrong with Shug Avery in The Color Purple?

Shug Avery was critically sick in The Color Purple, but her sickness is not clearly stated in the novel. There are only rumors spread by some women in town that Shug is suffering from tuberculosis or some sexually transmitted disease but her exact diagnosis remains unnamed in the novel.

Were Celie and Shug Avery in a relationship?

Yes, Celie and Shug Avery were in a relationship. Celie had been in love with Shug Avery from the first time she saw Shug Avery’s picture, and she was also so loving in caring for Shug Avery when Shug Avery was sick that they became friends. As they got closer in their friendship, they began to pleasure each other sexually and later acknowledged they were in love with each other.

How old is Celie at the end of The Color Purple?

The Color Purple begins in the year 1909 with Celie as a fourteen-year-old girl. The story ends in the year 1947, and Celie was fifty-two years old by then.

Why did Celie marry Mr___?

Celie married Mr___ because she did not have a choice in the matter. She was young, and her cruel stepfather Alphonso concluded the marriage arrangement between Celie and Mr___ without seeking Celie’s consent.
Mr___, on his part, only married Celie for the convenience of having a woman babysit his children and keep house for him as his first wife was killed. He had initially wanted to marry Nettie, but Alphonso refused he marry Nettie and persuaded him to marry Celie instead.

Onyeka Osuji
About Onyeka Osuji
Onyeka is a lecturer of Public Administration and a Literature enthusiast. After gaining accreditation in English Literature, Onyeka analyzes novels on Book Analysis, whilst working as an academic and writing short stories.
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