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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Nettie's next letter to Celie tells about the news of Adam and Tashi. The young man caught up with Tashi and her mother, but they refused to return. As a result, Adam accompanied them to the Mbeles encampment, which he found to be an extraordinary place, set in a huge depression in the earth, where thousands of people lived. The Mbeles now include people from dozens of tribes, who have set up farms, a school, an infirmary, a temple, and a militia that sabotages white plantations.
Finally, Adam convinced Tashi to leave the Mbeles, but she still refuses to marry him and go to America. Tashi is convinced no one in the States will like her, especially because of the scarification on her face and the extremely dark color of her skin. She also fears that Adam will eventually abandon her, attracted by a light-skinned American Black, and she will be alone in America with no country and no people. Adams tries to reassure her, and Olivia tells her that she will always be her "sister."
The next day Adam has his own face scarified to make Tashi feel better. Understanding the depth of Adam's love, Tashi agrees to marry him. Samuel performs the wedding ceremony. Immediately after the wedding, they all head to the coast to catch the ship. Nettie tells Celie that she and her family will be home in a few weeks.
Walker shows the problems of internalized racism, which occurs when people begin to believe the lies and stereotypes told about them. Tashi recognizes that in America light-skinned African Americans are valued over those of darker skin. She has seen advertisements for a cream to allow Blacks to bleach their skin to a lighter color. She worries that she will be rejected because her skin is so dark. Olivia is wise enough to know that the best way to combat internalized racism and feelings of inferiority is to assert solidarity, to love one another. Adam shows his love for Tashi by having his own face scarified, so she will not feel so different in America. His plan works, for Tashi agrees to marry him. The wedding takes place just before they all depart for America.
Even though Celie has been told that Nettie has perished at sea, she refuses to accept it and continues to write her letters. Even if she has to wait until she's ninety years old, she knows she will see Nettie's face again. In the letter, she tells Nettie that Albert has telephoned Shug several times lately, informing her that Nettie and her family have been lost at sea. Shug, always a woman of action, goes straight to the State Department and the Department of Defense and tries unsuccessfully to find out exactly what has happened. It is obvious that in the middle of a war the government is not terribly concerned about a sunken boat filled with Blacks.
Celie informs Nettie that she has hired Sofia to work in the store as a clerk, along with a white man. Sofia waits on the Blacks, to make certain they are treated with proper respect. She has proven that she is a good salesperson, always chatting pleasantly with the customers and never pressuring them to buy anything. Harpo has no problem with Sofia working since it seems to make her happy. He helps to take care of the house, and Sofia, in a touch of irony, has hired Eleanor Jane to help with Henrietta when needed. All the white people are scandalized that Eleanor Jane would work for Blacks, but she retorts that it was a scandal that a woman like Sofia had worked for white trash.
Celie writes that she and Albert have continued to be friends even though she has refused his offer of re-marriage. He is even trying to design a shirt to go with Celie's pants, one with plenty of pockets, loose sleeves, and no ties. One day when she sat on the porch with Albert, he told her that all he ever wanted in life was Shug Avery; in the past, he has felt miserable because he could not have her. Celie tells him that everyone loves Shug because she knows how to love back. Albert agrees and says that he has learned to love too. He used to wonder why people suffered, why they were Black, why they were born. Now he knows the answer is to love one another. Albert admits that the more he has loved others, the more he has felt loved, by Sofia, by Harpo, and by the children.
Shug writes to say that she is coming to Georgia. Celie tries to stay calm, telling herself, "If she come, I be happy. If she don't, I be content." She realizes it was this lesson that she needed to learn all along. When Shug steps out of the car dressed like "a movie star," she tells Celie she missed her more than she missed her own mother. She praises Celie's house, especially Celie's pink room. Celie then shows Shug the room she has decorated for her - in the color purple with touches of red and yellow.
When Celie asks about Germaine, Shug says that she regards now him as a son or a grandson. Shug then asks Celie what she and Albert have been up to. Celie tells her they just sew and make idle conversation. Celie is surprised to see that Shug seems jealous. Celie reassures her that she and Albert talk about how much they love her. Shug responds by putting her head on Celie's shoulder and sighing.
This letter reveals a number of reversals from earlier in the novel. Celie is a totally changed person. Her business is successful, and she is self-sufficient. Kind and gentle as always, she is able to forgive Albert and forge a relationship with him; she feels close to him because of their mutual love for Shug. When she hears that Shug is coming to live in Georgia, Celie is excited but has no false expectations, saying she can now be content without her.
Shug does return to Georgia to live with Celie; she now regards Germaine as only a son or a grandson. When Celie explains that her life is filled with sewing and idle conversations with Albert, Celie seems to be jealous. Although Shug is as glamorous and beautiful as a movie star, Celie's calm life seems desirable to her. She now longs for what Celie has.
The letter also shows the complete change in Albert. He is trying to help Celie, designing shirts and sewing for her, treating her with respect; he also philosophizes about life's wonders, saying he has learned to love the little things. This is the lesson that Shug taught Celie years earlier when she said God wanted people to recognize the beauty of creation like the color purple. Because Albert has learned to love others, he also feels loved.
Sofia's life has also changed. She is now working as a clerk in Celie's store with Harpo's blessing. He has obviously changed, graciously allowing her to escape the normal patriarchal role of mother and housekeeper. She has also accepted Eleanor Jane and has ironically hired her to help care for Henrietta. The white townsfolk, however, have not changed at all. They feel it is outrageous that a white woman should do work for Blacks.
It is significant to note that this letter, one of the most complex in the novel, is written to Nettie. Even though she has been told that her sister is dead, the faithful Celie refuses to believe it and continues to write her letters. It is also important to note that the kind and sensitive Celie has remembered to paint Shug's room purple.