Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
SHORT PLOT/CHAPTER SUMMARY (Synopsis)
Nettie began to work for Corrine, the minister's wife, and moved into their house. Eventually, she traveled to Africa with the family when they went to be missionaries. . Nettie writes Celie how surprised she was to find that Christ was dark skinned and that Africa was a colonized country. She also writes that she lives among the Olinka tribe, who worships the roofleaf as a god. She explains that their village is set up on a patriarchal model and that none of the Olinka girls are permitted an education. Olivia, however, is being taught. She, in turn, teaches her lessons to her Olinka friend named Tashi. When Tashi's parents find out that she is being taught, they forbid her from learning.
After Nettie has been in Africa for five years, a road is built through the Olinka village, and the tribe is forced to go to work for an English rubber company. Life begins to change for everyone. Tashi's father dies, and Tashi's mother lets her go to school, as do other Olinka mothers. Corrine becomes sick and reveals her suspicions that Nettie is Olivia and Adam's mother. Nettie explains that the children belong to her sister, Celie. Corrine dies in peace knowing that her husband and Nettie had not betrayed her.
Samuel tells Nettie the history of Olivia and Adam, explaining that Fonso had brought the children to him and offered to sell them. Pitying the two young children, he took them in and raised them as his own. Samuel also tells Nettie that Fonso is her stepfather, not her real father. Nettie shares all this information with her sister through the letters that she writes. When Celie hears that Fonso, her supposed father, was not her real father, Celie doubts God's existence and ceases to write him letters. Instead, all her correspondence is addressed to Nettie.
Shug announces that she is leaving for another road trip and is taking Celie with her. When Albert protests, Celie tells him how he has caused her years of pain. Sofia, who is out of prison on parole, speaks up for Celie. Albert becomes enraged and tries to hit his wife, but Celie stabs his hand. Celie leaves the farm forever, living with Shug and starting a successful business that makes pants. Celie's departure forces Albert to change dramatically. He begins to work both inside and outside the home and even takes care of his children.
Celie continues to receive letters from Nellie. She learns that her sister has married Samuel, the minister, after the death of his wife, Corrine. The two of them travel to England to fight for the Olinka against the rubber company that mistreats them. When she returns to Africa, Nettie finds that her good friend Tashi has gone through the ceremonies of genital mutilation and facial scarification. She is determined to bring Tashi to America to get her away from her barbaric African existence. Nettie writes Celie that she will soon be coming home to Georgia.
Celie learns that Fonso, her cruel stepfather, has died and that he has been stealing what rightfully belongs to Nettie and her, including the house and the land. Shug and Celie go to see the house, and Celie begins cleaning it up in preparation for Nettie's return. When Shug has an affair with a young man, Celie leaves her, takes up residence in her own house, and continues to devote herself to the pants business. When all of her letters to Nettie are returned to her, Celie thinks that Nettie's ship has been lost at sea. In Africa, Tashi and her mother, Catherine, leave the tribe to join a rebel group living in the jungle. Adam goes after them and brings Tashi back. He then has his face scarified so she will not feel strange and isolated when she goes to America. The two of them depart Africa with Nettie, Samuel, and Olivia. Nettie can hardly wait to see Celie.
In Georgia, Sofia begins to work in Celie's store while Harpo stays at home to take care of their daughter, who has a strange blood clotting disease. Celie enjoys the company of her friend at the store. She also learns that Albert, her ex-husband, has really changed and becomes friends with him now that he is much kinder. Shug also returns to Celie after tiring of her young male lover.
Celie's last letter is a letter of celebration; it is addressed to God, the stars, the sky, the people, and everything else. She writes about the homecoming of Nettie, Olivia, and Adam. It is wonderful to see her beloved sister again and to get to know her own children for the first time. They have a big family reunion on the Fourth of July. She ends her last letter as if it were a prayer and closes it by saying "Amen."