The Color Purple by Alice Walker: A Short Summary
In this poignant epistolary novel that relates the story of two sisters Celie and Nettie, Alice Walker condemns racial and sexual oppression and severely criticizes the brutality that victimized the black women especially in the South. This is an extraordinary tale, painful and uncomfortable that plays out over two decades of Celie’s life through her letters beginning at age 14, when she is sexually abused by her stepfather, who later removes her children.
Celie’s real nightmare begins with her marriage to Albert, who rather needs a servant than a wife to take care of his four children, look after his house, and work in his fields but Celie is happy to marry him to save her younger sister Nettie from her father’s clutches. However the latter constrained to leave for refusing the sexual advances of her sister’s husband goes to Africa as a missionary after promising to write to Celie. With this painful separation and a complete silence from Nettie, her life worsens and Celie begins writing to God; a correspondence without any hope of reply but yet these missives save her from despair… She continues addressing to “Dear Good Lord” and relates her miserable condition, describing the nightmare of the violence and isolation but also hope, when her husband brings home his mistress Shug Avery for Celie to nurse her back to health.
This girl unlike Celie is sexy and independent and with Shug she discovers the mystery of Nettie’s silence for her husband has been hiding her sister’s letters in a locked trunk and finding them unlocks a new world to her. With the sensual Shug Avery, Celie familiarizes with her body, learns self-esteem and also love; realizing the full extent of the abuses suffered from her husband also gives her the strength to start a new life with Shug. Her sister’s letters completely transform her when she learns that her father was not actually her biological parent and her childhood house actually belonged to her and Nettie since their mother passed away.
These letters also reveal that her sister Nettie is living with a Reverend who has adopted her two children and several decades later, when they return the sisters at last have a blissful reunion. In this excellent novel, the author uses the themes of violence and sexual abuse to a stunning effect and the development of the main character Celie, displays her transformation from an unhappy, miserable person into a happy, successful, independent woman.