The Color Purple: Novel Summary: Chapter 6

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Chapter 6

Pages 126-150

Most of this section is taken from the narrative of the letters from Nettie to Celie.  In Liberia, where Nettie and company are being missionaries, there are many strange customs which they must get used to. 

The tribal people, called the Olinka, are not used to black missionaries— all the previous ones were white.  They have a natural disdain for them— for years missionaries have come and gone, trying to help them and convert them but never getting much accomplished.

The Olinka worship the roofleaf, a kind of plant which covers their huts.  They don’t respect women and don’t believe in their education.  In this way, Nettie and Celie are both striving for the same causes, just on different continents.  Nettie attempts to advance women’s rights in Africa by secretly teaching Olivia and her friend Tashi in the hut.  Nettie explains to Tashi’s father, “The world is changing.  It is no longer a world just for boys and men.”

The Olinka don’t accept responsibility for selling their ancestors into slavery.  In fact, they regard the missionaries with resentment.  Many of the men have several wives.  These women, as in Celie’s world, are treated as second-class citizens, always at their husband’s beck and call.

The main conflict in the Olinka village is the arrival of English road builders.  Although at first the natives admire the builders, they quickly change their tune when they realize the road is going through their village, uprooting huts and churches.  The Olinka are further hurt when they realize they must move their village to make way for the rubber tree industry which needs land to grow trees.

Some good news, however, is revealed to Nettie and Celie when Samuel tells the story of how he adopted the children.   It soon becomes evident that the sisters’ “Pa” is not their real father, but just a step-dad.  This encourages both Nettie and Celie, since no biological incest has occurred.  

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