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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
Celie writes that Shug Avery is sicker and meaner than Celie's mother when she died. Surprisingly, Albert is nicer than normal. He tells Celie that she should say if she minds having Shug at the farm. She quickly says she wants Shug to stay; her answer comes so rapidly that Albert fears Celie might be thinking of harming Shug. He obviously does not know his wife at all.
Albert often sits in the room with Shug, but she does not allow him to hold her hand. She accuses him of being a boy who cannot say no to his father. He defends her, and his eyes water when he remarks that no one stands up for Shug. He obviously has much deeper feelings for this woman than he does for his wife.
For the first time in the book, Albert is seen as something other than an oppressive figure. Far from the domineering husband and father he has been, he turns into a doting lover around Shug. He even shows some concern for Celie, asking her if she minds having the woman around. When Celie gives a positive answer so quickly, Albert, not knowing his wife, misreads the response.
Noticing Albert's kindness, Celie sees her husband in a new light. He does not seem such a powerful figure, especially when she notices his weak chin and his dirty clothes. It is another step in Celie's maturing process.
Although Shug has had three of Albert's children, he is nervous about bathing her and asks for Celie's help. She stares at Shug's naked body so intently that the woman asks Celie if she has ever seen a naked woman before. Shug tells her she is welcome to take a good long look and even puts her hands on her hips and bats her eyes. Celie feels like she is praying when she bathes Shug, for they really talk to each other. They discuss their children and realize that both of them have children who are absent. When Celie asks if she misses them, Shug says she does not miss anything.
Shug seems quite unworthy of Celie's reverential love for her. Equating washing Shug with praying reveals Celie's devotion to this woman, who has become almost an idol to her; it also shows that Celie's feelings of longing and desire can only, at this point, be channeled in a way which is imbued with Christian devotion. Celie can feel comfortable bathing Shug's nude body, for she is helping the sick, as the Bible directs. Celie has not become aware of herself as a sexual being though she obliquely alludes to her feelings when she says that she feels like a man at the sight of Shug's nakedness. Despite Shug's mean comments and rude ways, Celie excuses her and blames her behavior on the facts that she has lost her children and been ostracized from the community.
Celie eventually brings Shug back to life through her unconditional love for her. It is the kind of Christian love taught by Christ and learned from the Bible.