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Free Study Guide-The Color Purple by Alice Walker-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES

CHAPTER 33

Summary

The juke joint is completed and named Harpo's. At first, there are almost no customers. Harpo and Swain are alone most of the time, except when Albert or Shug joins them. Harpo invites Celie to come, but she declines. Celie notices Harpo staring at Shug, amazed that the woman will say whatever enters her mind, even if it is mean. Later, he asks Celie if she thinks Shug would sing at his joint, which would help bring in customers. When he questions Shug about it, she says she will sing at Harpo's, although the place is not as classy as where she is used to singing.

The old pink announcements of Shug's last performance are located, and the old establishment's name is scratched out and changed to Harpo's. On opening night, more people arrive than can be seated inside the joint. They are excited to hear Shug again, for many thought she was dead. Celie also wants to watch Shug at work. Albert, however, says his wife cannot go to such an establishment. Shug tells him it is a good thing she is not his wife. She also insists that Celie attend her performance, saying she might need Celie's help.

Shug sings a song called "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and talks about her friend Bessie Smith. Celie admires her beautiful black skin against her tight fitting red dress. She also sees that Shug looks at Albert occasionally as she sings, and Celie notices that it makes him look "puffed up," even though he is a little man. She wishes Shug would look at her instead of Albert. Celie suddenly feels tears in her eyes, even though she understands this is the way it is supposed to be. Then, Shug announces Celie's name and says that the next song is called "Miss Celie's Song," because Celie "scratched it out of my head when I was sick." The song is about a man doing her wrong, but Celie just listens to the tune, proud to have a song named after her.


Notes

This letter reveals an awakening within Celie. For the first time since Nettie left, she actually feels loved and valued by someone. First, Shug stands up to Albert for her sake, insisting that Celie be allowed to come to the juke joint to hear her sing. Shug then dedicates a song to Celie, affirming her importance and raising her self-esteem. The chapter also sheds a new light on Shug. It becomes more apparent that she truly cares for Albert, as the watches him as she sings. She also shows her appreciation for the fact that Celie has nursed her back to health, allowing her to sing again.

CHAPTER 34

Shug sings every weekend at the juke joint, always bringing in customers; but she is growing restless. Finally, she tells Celie she must leave at the beginning of the next month. Celie feels as pained as when Nettie left. She tells Shug that Albert beats her when Shug is not there. Shug hugs her and later kisses her. She says she will stay until she is confident that Albert will not abuse Celie anymore.

Notes

This chapter reveals a major breakthrough for Celie. She actually speaks up for herself and reveals that she will be beaten by Albert if Shug leaves. She has begun to value herself as a person and realizes that the patriarchal abuse she receives is wrong. She also displays, through her confession to Shug that she has established trust with someone for the first time since Nettie left. Shug again shows her positive side. Indebted to Celie for helping her in a time of need, she now promises to protect Celie from Albert's beatings. Even though she is ready to move on from the farm, Shug will stay until she is certain that Albert will not abuse her friend. The chapter clearly establishes a reciprocal love between Shug and Celie.

CHAPTER 35

Summary

Shug and Albert sleep together almost every night. Shug asks Celie if this upsets her, but Celie does not seem to care. Shug explains that she would have married Albert, but he was too weak and acts like a bully. Celie asks her if she likes sleeping with Albert, and Shug confesses she does, laughing. Celie says that with her Albert just does his business and rolls over. Shug again tells Celie that she is still a virgin since she has not experienced sexual pleasure. She explains to Celie that she has a clitoris that can be stimulated to create great enjoyment. She gives Celie a mirror and tells her to go look at herself. When Celie touches herself, she feels a spurt of pleasure, "enough to tell me this is the right button to push." Celie, however, feels like she has been doing something wrong. Although Celie has told Shug she does not care if she and Albert sleep together, it often makes Celie cry. That night in bed, Celie touches her "button" and cries as she thinks about Shug and Albert.

Notes

Celie's love for Shug begins to take on a tragic tone. Wanting Shug to remain at the farm, she assures her that she does not mind her sleeping with Albert. In truth, Celie does not want to sleep with Albert, for he just uses her and rolls over. There is never a concern about Celie's feelings. Still Celie often cries at the thought that Shug sleeps with her husband, for she knows she would like to be the one sleeping with Shug.

Shug's teaching Celie how to enjoy her body is an important part of Celie's path to claiming ownership of herself. Shug teaches Celie the pleasures of autoeroticism, the ability to make herself feel sexual enjoyment without being dependent on anyone else. This clitoris-centered sex frees Celie from the phallic-centered sex of the patriarchal world in which she lives. Nevertheless, Celie still longs for Shug as a partner.

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