The Color Purple: Novel Summary: Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

Pages 102-125

In this section, Shug and Mr. __ begin flirting again.  It seems that marriage vows are quite loose in this community.  The strange thing is that no one seems to mind if his spouse cheats on him.  Combine this with the extended family structure and the reader perceives a very dysfunctional family situation.

When Mr. __ leaves the house, Shug takes his key to a drawer in which he has hidden Nettie’s letters.   After Celie reads the letters and finds out how much Mr. __ has kept from her, she experiences a transformation.  No longer is she the submissive wife who obediently takes a beating at the hands of powerful men in her life.  Now she has the courage to stand up to her oppressors, thanks to the influence of Sofia and Shug, two strongly independent women.  In order to keep from killing Mr. __, Celia takes up the hobby of sewing pants.  

The following is a brief summary of Nettie’s first letter to Celie:
     After Nettie had left their house (following Mr. __’s demand that she leave), Mr. __ followed her on horseback and tried to rape her.  In the struggle, Nettie hurts him, making him swear that she will never communicate with her sister again.  Soon Nettie begins working for a missionary family (the same family which adopted Olivia and Adam, Celie’s two children) which is preparing to leave for Africa.  Nettie too, decides to go on the mission trip.  Reading on the ship and later in England, Nettie learns much about her race’s history, which she recounts to Celia in the letter.  For example, Nettie is pleasantly surprised that even black people are in the Bible.  Next, Nettie and her new “adopted” family head to Liberia where they plan to serve as missionaries.     

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