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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Celie writes back to Nettie and tells her that the maid she saw with the mayor's wife many years before was her friend, Sofia. Now Sofia has been away from home for more than eleven years, and her children no longer know her. They refer to Odessa and Squeak as "mama" in front of Sofia and call her "miss."
Since Sofia is out on parole, everyone comes over to have dinner with her. During dinner, Shug announces that she and Grady are leaving for Memphis, and Celie is going with them. Albert looks at Celie and asks her why, for he honestly thought she was finally happy. Every one is shocked when Celie tells him, "You a lowdown dog is what's wrong, I say. It's time to leave you and enter into the Creation. And your dead body just the welcome mat I need." Albert is too shocked to speak; but everyone else begins to argue about the sexes. Celie continues by stating it has been very hard to raise Albert's unappreciative children; she then adds that their father "ain't dead horse's shit." Albert tries to slap her, but she stabs his hand with a knife.
All the men band together, each offering what the consequences will be if Celie leaves Albert. Shug and Celie look at each other and giggle, then laugh outright; Mary Agnes and Sofia laugh too. Harpo says that it is bad luck for a woman to laugh at a man, but Sofia looks him in the face and tells him she has already had her bad luck. Albert then tells Celie that she will not get any of his money; Celie responds she does not want anything from him. Next Shug announces that Mary Agnes is going north with them to sing. Harpo protests, but it is futile. He calls her Squeak, but she tells him that her name is Mary Agnes.
The dinner party is interrupted by Miss Eleanor Jane, the mayor's daughter; she asks Sofia to return to the mayor's house for a little while. As she leaves with Eleanor Jane, Sofia promises to be back soon.
This letter contains the climax of the novel, with Celie finally telling Albert how she feels about him and announcing that she is leaving with Shug and Grady to go north. Everyone is amazed at the depth of her resentment. Her vocalization of her anger causes a battle of the sexes amongst the dinner guests. The women complain of how they have been abused, and the men blindly deny the charges. Ironically, the women seem to wield more power than the abusive husbands who have tried to keep their wives in place.
Since the climax comes in a letter written to Nettie, the reader is somewhat surprised to see the determination of Celie. There has been no indication that she has even thought about leaving Albert nor has been making travel preparations. The reader, however, is pleased to learn that Celie has finally stood up for herself with dramatic dignity and that Mary Agnes also insists on finding her voice, both literally as a singer and figuratively
Back at home on parole, Sofia quickly regains a sense of her old self and shows her independence, demanding her rightful place. When Eleanor Jane interrupts and asks Sofia to come to the mayor's house, she obliges, for she has emotional ties to this young woman whom she has raised.
In the developing relationships between Shug and Celie and Mary Agnes, Walker appears to be making a parallel between these Southern women and the African women who also bond together with solidarity.
While they are driving to Memphis, Grady tries to sit next to Mary Agnes. When Shug and Celie sleep, he talks to her incessantly about the north. Celie comments that all men are the same.
Albert appears as if he does not care if Celie is leaving. Then he tells her that she will soon be back because no one else in the world would have her. In contrast to Shug who has talent and spunk, he claims that she has nothing to offer. He lists her failings by telling her, "You ugly. You skinny. You shape funny. You too scared to open your mouth to people . . . you black, you pore, you a woman. . .you nothing at all." He adds that she isn't even a good cook and that his house has not been cleaned properly since his first wife died. After his tirade, Celie is brave enough to ask Albert if any more letters for her have come. He is shocked into silence by her question; when he recovers, he says if any letters did come, he would not give them to her.
Albert tells Celie that he just did not whip her enough. He adds that he should have locked her up and let her out only to work. Celie tells him that the jail he plans for her is really the one in which he will rot. Before Celie leaves, she tells Albert, "I'm pore, I'm black, I may be ugly, and can't cook. . .But I'm here." Shug says, "Amen" several times.
This letter reinforces the climax of the novel given in the previous chapter; it also adds an almost mystical element. Walker implies that in coming into her own, Celie has tapped into a larger power, that of the universe. She feels that she has gained her voice not out of some individual sense of self; instead, she becomes a medium, speaking the truth of the world. In fact, Celie admits that her words even surprise her.
In anger over the pending loss of his wife, Albert names all the characteristics by which Celie has been oppressed: her poverty, her color, her gender, and her looks. He even criticizes her years of hard labor, saying her work was inferior. Celie is not affected by his harsh criticism; she is now beyond Albert's world and its cruelty. She answers her husband by simply asserting her being - "I'm here." Celie knows that Albert is incapable of taking her existence away from her. With newfound confidence, she curses him to the kind of existence he has forced her to lead, as the lowliest, least loved, and loneliest.