Notes on Characters from The Color Purple

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The Color Purple Major Characters

Celie: Celie begins as a young girl, raped by her father, forced to give away her babies (born from incest). She is told that she is dumb, useless, and ugly. Her father forces her to marry Mr.____, a man much older than she, with four children from a previous marriage. He lusts after Celie's sister Nettie and Celie hopes Mr.____ will allow Nettie to live with them since he's so taken with her. Celie marries Mr.____ and raises his children, who soon become her friends and kin. Throughout her life, she writes letters to God and her sister Nettie, who she prays will return to her one day. Celie falls in love with Shug Avery, Mr.____'s singing mistress and learns how to love herself. Shug teaches her about her own body, sensuality, singing, living, and loving. After moving to Memphis with Shug, abandoning Mr.____, and starting her own clothing company (Folkspants), Celie learns that she has inherited her old home. She returns to it, waiting for Shug, Nettie, and her children to return to her, so that they may live as one family.

Nettie: Nettie is Celie's younger sister, bright, attractive, and strong. She gets kicked out of her home for refusing Mr.____'s advances and discovers an entirely new life. With her missionary friends, Corrine and Samuel, she leaves for England and Africa, where they live, teach, and learn. Corrine and Samuel's adoptive children are Celie's biological children, Olivia and Adam. Nettie writes to Celie throughout her entire travel abroad and looks forward to a reunion as well. She falls in love with Samuel and marries him in a small ceremony in England before saying goodbye to the Olinka tribal community in Africa.

He (Pa): Nettie and Celie's father is continually referred to as 'He' throughout the first part of the book. He beats and rapes his children, threatening them with everything from insults to death. Through brute force, he impregnates Celie twice and takes the babies away in the forest where he plans to kill them. Instead, he gives them away. He later marries a young woman named Daisy, whom he also mistreats. Towards the end of the book, Celie learns that He is not her true father, but rather her stepfather, and her children are not born out of incest.

Mr._______ (Albert): Mr._______ is given no surname throughout the book and is only called by his first name, Albert, by Shug Avery. Initially a cruel man, Mr.______ beats Celie and forces her to do nothing but work, while he plays with his mistress, Shug Avery. However, as he grows older and loses people in his life, he discovers the importance of religion and kindness.

Shug Avery: Shug Avery is the exotic singer and entertainer who steals both Mr._____ and Celie's heart instantly. She performs a famous nightclub act, known as the 'Queen Bee', develops a reputation for sinning and drinking, falls ill with the woman's disease, moves in with her lover, Mr._____, and eventually falls in love with Celie. She teaches Celie the beauty of femininity of love of relationships and kindness. Even though she moves around the country and sleeps with many men, she ultimately loves Celie with all her heart.

Harpo: Harpo is Mr. _____'s eldest son and the one child with whom Celie associates the most. He is not as strong, independent, and 'manly' as other boys, thinks and acts with his heart, and falls in love young with a girl named Sofia. He marries her and they live nearby with their four children until Sofia leaves him to find her own wild life. He grows with her, with his girlfriend Squeak, and eventually opens up a nightspot in his old house called, Harpo's.

Sofia Butler: Sofia is a robust youthful pregnant fifteen year old girl when Harpo introduces her to his family. Outspoken, independent, and strong, she speaks out to Mr.____ and Celie, lives with her sister Odessa, and loves Harpo. After four children and a mundane life together, she leaves Harpo after he beats her. She eventually returns home with her new beau, the prizefighter, punches Harpo's new girlfriend in the mouth and leaves town again. After a violent fight in the park with Miss Millie, the mayor's wife, Sofia is thrown in jail for nearly eight years. She develops a murderous streak and expresses her hatred towards white people. Miss Millie eventually pardons her and allows her to come to her home to raise her children and live as her maid. She spends a majority of the rest of her life raising young Eleanor Jane and running the household. Eventually she returns home to Celie and Harpo's after years of growing, learning, and changing into a kindhearted person.

Squeak (Mary Agnes): Squeak is Harpo's girlfriend after Sofia leaves him. She is quiet and obedient, doing anything he asks of her. She is the complete opposite of Sofia. After Sofia punches her in the mouth at Harpo's jukejoint, she starts to develop a backbone, standing up to her man and his family. When Shug Avery comes home, she teaches Squeak how to sing in public. As the family tries to help Sofia break out of prison, Sofia realizes that she is cousins with the white warden and tells everyone that her real name is Mary Agnes. She travels to Memphis with Grady, Celie, and Shug to escape Mr._____ and live a glamorous life, until she and Grady escape to Panama together to live on a plantation. Squeak ultimately returns home in her old age to live with her daughter, Suzie Q.

Minor Characters

Miss Addie Beasley: Miss Addie Beasley is the girls' grade school teacher in their rural town. She praises both Celie and Nettie. She pleads for Celie to be allowed to return to school, but ultimately gives up when she sees Celie is "big" (with child).

Carrie : Carrie is one of Mr.___'s two sisters.

Kate: Kate is the other of Mr. ____'s two sisters. She visits Celie alone and takes her shopping to buy a purple dress. She also gives her advice on how to survive in the masculine world.

Annie Julia: Annie Julia is Mr. ___'s first wife. He maltreated her and constantly ran off with Shug Avery, while married to her. She, therefore, found her own lover, who soon killed her, leaving Mr.____ to raise their four children.

Old Mr. _______: Old Mr._____ is Albert's obstinate father. He shows no emotion and constantly puts down his son. He never approved of Shug Avery and thinks Mr.____ has done well by marrying Celie. He complains that his money and houses are going to bad people - his own son and grandson.

Tobias: Mr.____'s obstinate brother who visits once with his father in order to show Mr.____ up. He visits to see the famous Shug Avery, for he believed she died. When he sees her laying sick in Mr.____'s house, he reprimands his brother for allowing such a dirty woman in his house.

The prizefighter: The prizefighter is Sofia's new boyfriend with whom she has Henrietta. He arrives with her at Harpo's night joint, shocking everyone. After punching Squeak in the mouth, Sofia flees with him away again.

Miss Millie: Miss Millie is the mayor's wife who Sofia attacks after provocation. Because of the incident with Miss Millie, Sofia is beaten to the point of near-death and placed in prison for nearly eight years. Miss Millie brings Sofia home to work as her maid. From that point on, Sofia raises her children and cleans her house - she does exactly what she hates - work in a kitchen for white people.

Odessa: Odessa is one of Sofia's amazon sisters. She takes Sofia in when she is alone and running away from her father and later when she runs away from Harpo. She helps raise Sofia's children with her loving husband, Jack, while Sofia is in prison.

Hodges: Hodges is the warden in Sofia's prison. The family attempts to contact him so that they can help Sofia and calm her of her murderous desires. Squeak realizes that she is his niece, through a biracial union, and therefore visits him. When Hodges recognizes her, he rapes her and keeps Sofia in prison longer.

Billy: Miss Millie and the mayor's little boy who plays ball outside near Sofia and Celie. On the playground, Sofia is indifferent to his bloody foot injured by a rusty nail.

Eleanor Jane: Eleanor Jane is the mayor's little girl who Celie believes is beautiful on the playground. Sofia practically raises her, when let out of prison, and Eleanor develops a strong attachment to Sofia. However, Sofia does not feel the same way. Eventually, Eleanor begins to understand the mistreatment and injustice that blacks have suffered and attempts to make up for it, at least to Sofia, by caring for Henrietta, Sofia's daughter.

Grady: Grady is Shug Avery's husband. Shug leaves him to go back work, but nobody is hurt because Grady is a boring, unattractive man, who eventually moves to Panama with Squeak to open a plantation and smoke marijuana.

Corrine: Celie tells Nettie to find Corrine. Corrine is a missionary who takes Nettie into her home as an equal. With her two adoptive children, Olivia and Adam, they travel to England and Africa, teaching English and Christianity. While in Africa, Corrine becomes ill with African fever and dies. Her love for her family never ceased, even during her times of doubt and confusion.

Samuel: Samuel is Corrine's missionary colored husband, who travels to England and Africa. Corrine wonders if her children belong to Nettie and Samuel. After Corrine passes away, Samuel and Nettie fall in love and marry. They leave Africa for economic reasons and because Olinka is no more. Samuel loves Nettie deeply and tries to help her and Celie as much as possible, as soon as he discovers who she is.

Joseph: The baptized African man who helps show Nettie, Corrine, and Samuel around the village of Olinka.

Tashi: Tashi is a young African girl with whom Olivia and Adam play and learn. She is a traditional follower of the Olinka culture and painfully undergoes the traditional facial scarring and ceremonial entrance into womanhood, much to Adam's dismay. She eventually marries Adam and moves to America with the rest of the family.

Daisy: Daisy is the young new wife of Celie and Nettie's father. She is pregnant, uneducated, and unkempt.

Jack: Odessa's loving and doting husband who helps raise Sofia's children on their farm. He is the initial inspiration for Celie's pants.

Henrietta: Sofia's youngest child with the prizefighter, not Harpo. Harpo loves her the most.

Jerene and Darlene: The twins in Memphis who help Celie sew pants and learn how to speak correct English.

Doris: Doris is the elderly, white British woman who sails back to England with Nettie and Samuel. She comes from aristocratic blood and old money, yet fled to Africa to live the exciting life of a single missionary. She writes successful adventure novels under the pen name Jared ____ and adopts numerous children, including Harold, the child of one of her adopted children.

Harold: Harold is the young African boy who travels to England with Doris as her adoptive grandchild.

Stanley Earl: Stanley Earl is the charming white man with whom Sofia has a relationship. However, he impregnates and marries Eleanor Jane.

Reynolds Stanley Earl: Reynolds Stanley Earl is the child of Eleanor Jane and Stanley Earl, who loves to play with Henrietta and cause trouble.

Germaine: Germaine is the nineteen year old man with whom Shug Avery has an affair. She travels around the country with him for more than the six months she originally promised, leaving Celie brokenhearted.

James: James is Shug Avery's only child who is willing to see her. He lives on an Indian Reservation in an adobe hut and is thrilled to learn about his mother.

Olivia: Olivia is Celie's biological daughter from the rape of her stepfather who is taken away at birth. She is adopted by the Christian missionaries Corrine and Samuel, who raise her in Africa. Nettie also helps raise Olivia, and considers her one of her children, as well.

Adam: Adam is the second of Celie's biological children from another rape of her stepfather who is also taken away at birth and adopted by Corrine and Samuel. Also raised in Africa, Adam grows into a strong and healthy boy who falls in love with the African woman, Tashi. Confused and angry by some African ceremonial traditions of scarring and female circumcision, Adam reprimands Tashi and then chases her into the forest. In order to prove his love for her, he undergoes the same facial scarring so that they will look alike as a married couple in America.

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