The Color Purple Part 1: pg. 11-50
The book is written as a series of narrations to God, and opens as a fourteen-year-old Celie tells God that she is a good girl and always has been. She wants a sign from God letting her know what will happen to her in the future. As a child, her mother has too many ill children, and therefore leaves her alone with her father to visit the doctor. One day while her mother is away, her father ("He") grabs hold of her and rapes her. "He start to choke me, saying You better shut up and git used to it. But I don't never git used to it. And now I feels sick every time I be the one to cook" Part I, pg. 11.
Celie's mother dies painfully on the bed giving birth to another child. Her lover holds her hand, trying to keep her alive, yet angry about the child's questionable paternity. Simultaneously, Celie gives birth to a screaming baby, born out of incest and rape. "He" takes her mother's newborn out into the woods and kills it and then steals Celie's little boy and sells him to a couple in Monticello. Celie does not know what to do anymore, for she knows "He" hates her and treats her as if she is pure evil. Celie secretly hopes Mr._____ will find another woman to marry and worries when he sees her look at her little sister. Celie promises, with God's help, that she will take care of her siblings.
"He" finds a new woman named Gray and marries her. They are constantly touching one another in front of Celie and her sisters. Celie's little sister, Nettie, has a new boyfriend who resembles their father named Mr._____. He has children from a previous relationship. Celie warns her that it is harsh and difficult to take care of someone else's children - just look at what happened to their mother.
Celie's father continues to beat her after church. One day he beats her especially hard when he thinks she winked at a boy. Celie certainly never even looks at women, let alone men, and claims to have done nothing of the kind. She feels sorry for her mother for having to live with such a man for so long. "He" still looks to Nettie often with lustful desires, despite Celie's constant warnings. However, after this day, Celie never rubs her eyes in church again. "But me, never again. A girl at church say you git big if you bleed every month. I don't bleed no more" Part 1, pg. 15.
Nettie's boyfriend, Mr. _____ asks for her hand in marriage, despite the rumors about Shug Avery and a bad reputation he holds from his wife's murder. Her boyfriend killed her in front of him and the children. Shug Avery is a passionate, sexual, feminine lounge singer, with a reputation for sinful behavior with whom _____ has been in love for years. He cheated on his late wife with her.
Celie hopes the "He" continues to play with her instead of Nettie, so she dresses up nicely, putting on make-up and high heels. Because of her attire, "He" screams at her for dressing like a tramp and proceeds to rape her nonetheless. Mr. _______ comes over that evening and sees Celie crying hysterically in her room, comforted by Nettie and the new mammy. Mr.____ tries to speak with "Him" about marrying one of his daughters. He offers Celie, even though he divulges the information that she is spoiled goods. "He" claims nobody needs a fresh woman. He talks her up, through insults and desperation, claiming "He" needs to get rid of her because she is too old to be living at home with the others. He also tells Mr. ____ that she is twenty years old and tells lies.
"Well, next time you come you can look at her. She ugly. Don't even look like she kin to Nettie. But she'll make the better wife. She aint smart either, and I'll just be fair, you have to watch her or she'll give away everything you own. But she can work like a man." Part 1, pg. 18
Mr. ____ takes the entire Spring season to decide whether or not he wants to marry Celie. The family concentrates on Nettie's studies and learning the history behind Columbus and the discovery of America. Their Pa pulls Celie out of school early, claiming she is dumb and has no need for education. Nettie supports Celie by telling him that she is smart, according to their teacher Miss Beasley. Celie accepts that she is dumb and fat and that Nettie has surpassed her in their learning. And although Nettie persists in complimenting her older sister, Pa ignores her beneficial comments about Celie, and plans to prepare her for marriage.
On Celie's wedding day, she is taunted and beaten by Mr.____'s four children from his previous marriage. The two girls and two boys accuse Celie of murdering their mother and throw a stone at her head. The girls' hair has not been combed since their mother's death, and although she wants to shave their heads to start anew, Mr.____ does not allow it, claiming it bad luck. Celie cooks dinner and thinks of Shug Avery while her new husband lay on top of her in bed that evening. If Shug Avery liked Mr.____, then maybe she can, too.
One day while Celie and Mr.______ go to town, Celie thinks she sees her baby girl who was taken away six years ago. She had named her Olivia. While Mr.____ is in the dry goods store and Celie waits in the wagon, she begins to speak to the woman and the young child nearby. She continually asks them questions, following them into a nearby cloth store. They exchange stories, curious as to the paternity of young Olivia, who the mother calls Pauline. The wealthy, kind woman is married to Reverend Mr.______ in town. She knows of Celie's husband by reputation, claiming he is an attractive man. Celie cannot remember which month she gave birth to her baby and thanks the woman for her hospitality before she leaves to go back home on the wagon.
Nettie comes to live with Celie and Mr._____ after running away from home. Celie is thrilled to have her sister around, helping with the studying and cleaning. Mr.___ perpetually compliments Nettie on her skin, hair, and teeth, which she transfers over to Celie. His children are mean and nasty, forcing Celie into perpetual manual labor. However, Mr._____ eventually asks Nettie to leave, regardless of whether or not she has a place. Celie is sad to see Nettie go, and Nettie tells Celie how miserable she feels for her sister, seemingly buried in this new life. Celie thinks that being buried would be better, for she would not have to work all the time. However, none of it matters, for as long as she can spell G-O-D, she is not alone. Celie tells Nettie to find the wife of Reverend Mr.____ for help.
Two of Mr.____'s sisters come to visit, Carrie and Kate. They speak poorly of his late wife, Annie Julia, calling her a nasty woman who never cared for the house or children. They were always ill and dirty, spreading scandal in the neighborhood. He apparently brought her to his home and never spent any time with her, chasing after Shug Avery all day long. The sisters claim that Shug is too black and cannot bear to speak of her any more. Celie, however, desperately wants to hear more about this fantasy woman. They compliment Celie on her housework and cooking, claiming their brother could not have done better in the marriage department.
Kate comes to visit Celie alone another day, hoping to bring her shopping for a new dress. They look for a purple dress, but find nothing, eventually deciding upon the color blue. Kate tells Celie she deserves more than what she has with Mr. _____. At home, the oldest boy, Harpo, refuses to help Celie with the housework, especially bringing water in from the well, for he claims it is all women's work. Kate reprimands him and advises Celie to fight in order to survive. "I don't say nothing. I think bout Nettie, dead. She fight, she run away. What good it do? I don't fight, I stay where I'm told. But I'm alive" Part 1, pg. 29.
Harpo asks Mr.____ why he beats Celie. He claims that he does so because she is his wife and she is stubborn. Mr. ____ reminds Celie of her father. Harpo proceeds to ask Celie why she is stubborn, but does not inquire why she is his father's wife. Harpo tells Celie he loves a girl and plans to marry her, despite her tender age of fifteen and his of seventeen. He has not spoken with the girl's mother or father and has only winked at her in church.
Celie is thrilled, for she learns that Shug Avery is coming back to town with her orchestra. Mr.____ spends hours shaving and primping, while Celie hopes to go to her show not even to hear her sing or dance, but simply to lay eyes upon this glorious woman. Mr.___ is gone the entire weekend with Shug Avery, leaving Celie and his children to work on the chores and wonder about his whereabouts. Celie questions him about his love affair with Shug with curiosity, yet he simply sits on the porch and stares out at the fields. Harpo is the same physical size as his father and is frustrated from the perpetual work in the fields. Mr.____ claims he no longer needs to work because Harpo is around to do all the work for him.
Harpo spends his time thinking of Sofia Butler, the girl he wants to marry. He tells Celie that she is beautiful and bright (light-skinned), and may be smart, too. Unfortunately, her father does not approve of Harpo, because Harpo's mother was killed years ago, leaving him seemingly helpless. She comes to meet Celie and Mr. ____ one day, some seven to eight months pregnant and not too light-skinned. Mr.____ does not approve of the marriage because a pretty girl like Sofia can control Harpo and open her legs to any man in sight. She does not care what he thinks and tells Harpo that she is living with her sister and brother-in-law and will be waiting with the baby for him when he is ready.
Harpo marries Sofia in a small ceremony with her sisters as the witnesses and the newborn baby crying and nursing throughout. They set up a small home near Mr._____ and Celie and work all the time. Mr. ____ is just waiting - in his mind - for Sofia to change the established family rules and take control of Harpo. Harpo speaks to his father about his wife's back talking, headstrong mind. His father says nothing and continues to smoke on the porch. Harpo is embarrassed when he tells his father that he never beats his wife. Mr. ____ stops smoking to tell him a bit of advice: "Well how you spect to make her mind? Wives is like children. You have to let 'em know who got the upper hand. Nothing can do that better than a good sound beating" Part 1, pg. 42. Harpo is happy for three years, yet comes home with bruises and scars from, what he says, are beatings from his mule in the field. Yet, he still cannot figure out how to make his wife mind and be quiet and controlled.
One day while she is in the fields, Celie hears a loud crash from the porch of her house. She runs to see what it is and finds Harpo and Sofia fighting like two men, destroying everything around them. She has no idea how long this violence has been occurring. The following Saturday morning, Sofia and their two babies pack up to visit Sofia's sister, Odessa.
Celie tells God that she has trouble sleeping. She wonders if it is because she has sinned against someone else, and realizes that she has, in fact, sinned against Sofia for telling Harpo to beat her. Sofia visits Celie soon enough angry with her for betraying her female bond of trust. She has had to fight her entire life against her entire family of men and never thought she would at home. Celie admits that she was jealous of her for being happy and safe and feels terrible for anything she has done. Sofia tells Celie that she should bash Mr.___ 's head in. The two women share stories and laugh together, and soon enough, Celie sleeps with no trouble.
Shug Avery falls sick with a terrible illness that becomes the gossip around town. Even the preacher speaks about loose women and short skirts, knowing full well that everyone believes his subject to be Shug. The preacher adores Celie for her hard work and devotion to the church and her family. One day, Mr. ____ visits Harpo and tells him to get the wagon ready. He returns with Shug inside, extremely ill, yet still well dressed. He tells Celie to prepare a room, for Shug will stay with them until she is healthy. Celie looks inside the wagon at this infamous woman. When they meet, Shug tells Celie that she sure is ugly, as if she had been told it before and just now believes it.