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

CHAPTER 86

Summary

Celie receives another letter from Nettie, stating her eagerness and anxiety about returning to America. She writes that she can hardly believe she and Celie have not had personal contact for nearly thirty years. She wonders if Celie will be the same gentle soul she once knew. The children have asked about their real mother, and Nettie has told them that Tashi reminds her of Celie. Unfortunately, Tashi and her mother have gone to the forest to join the Mbeles.

Nettie reveals that her idea of God has shifted in ways parallel to Celie's idea of God. For her, God is "more spirit than ever before and more internal." She adds that most people think God has to look like something, a roofleaf or Christ, but that for her and Samuel, "not being tied to what God looks like frees us."


Nettie also writes of her concern over money. She assumes that it will be years before she and Samuel will have the money to buy a house after they return to America. She also worries about how Olivia and Adam will handle racism when they have grown up in Africa, free of any feelings of animosity towards them because of their color. Nettie cuts off the letter, for she has learned that Adam is missing.

Notes

Even after Celie receives the news of the shipwreck, letters continue to arrive from Nettie, sent before her departure. Their poignancy is more acute because of what has happened. For Celie, there is a strangely spiritual undertone in this letter, as if Nettie is speaking to her from the great beyond.

This letter addresses Nettie' anxieties about returning to America. She worries that Celie may no longer be the same loving soul she knew when she left. She also worries about money and a place to live, for she is unaware of the fact that her financial future is secure with the house, store, and land from her real father. Finally, she is concerned about how Olivia and Adam will react to racism, which they will feel for the first time in their lives.

Even though her life has been very different from her sister's, Nettie has reached some of the same conclusions Celie has. Her picture of God is no longer as a white person reigning on high. Instead, she has no mental picture of God, but believes Him to be an internal spirit, an image much like Celie has.

Nettie brings in another part of the African subplot at the end of this letter. Tashi has run away to join the Mbeles, and Adam has gone in search of her. The move away from Africa is obviously not easy for any of the family. The ties they have made, especially to Tashi and her mother, are strong and hard to sever.

CHAPTER 87

Summary

Without Shug around to encourage her, Celie begins to question herself. She stands naked in front of a mirror and wonders why Shug ever loved her. Even though Shug writes her letters, she does not mention joining Celie in Georgia. The last letter stated that she and Germaine were in Arizona visiting one of her sons and his wife and children.

Sofia and Harpo keep trying to set Celie up with men in town, but she has no interest. She even appreciates the fact that Albert tries to save her from suitors by announcing himself as Celie's husband. The two of them even spend time together. Celie feels close to Albert, because they both love Shug and share the heartbreak of losing her. Celie tells Albert what she has learned about Olivia and Adam. She also tells him stories about Africa that Nettie has shared with her. She explains how the Olinkas have their own version the Adam and Eve story and claim that Adam was the first "white" man, not the first man. They believe that the Africans predated Adam, whom they banished for his "whiteness," which they call nakedness. Feeling rejected, the "whites" think of Blacks as snakes that they would like to crush to death.

Celie also spends time with Sofia. She is constantly intruded upon by Eleanor Jane, the mayor's daughter, especially now that she has a baby of her own. She wants Sofia to love and bless her little boy, but Sofia refuses. She explains that her little white boy will probably grow up and cause her problems, since Whites do not normally like Blacks. Eleanor leaves feeling sad and tears are in Sofia's eyes.

Notes

This is a long, complex letter that reveals that Celie, now living alone and without Shug, is again struggling with her old demon of low self-esteem. She does admit, however, that she still feels "young and fresh," even though she is aging. She is glad that has been able to forgive Albert and enjoys his company from time to time. She shares many of Nettie's stories from Africa with him.

Celie never identifies herself as a lesbian. Even when Albert presses her why she does not like men, she simply discusses her aversion to them because of the past cruel and abusive treatment she has received. Albert will never understand the relationship between Shug and Celie. Sofia and Harpo want to actually change Celie, constantly trying to set her up in a heterosexual relationship.

Walker subtly addresses racism and the reaction to it in this chapter. Eleanor Jane, Miz Millie's grown-up daughter, still dotes upon Sofia, who had been her nanny and friend for years. Sofia, however, is too embittered by her past to make any room in her heart for this young woman. When Eleanor Jane brings her new baby boy for a visit, hoping that Sofia will love and bless it, she is crushed by the rejection they both receive. Sofia explains that she expects the boy will simply grow up to oppress Blacks. The story of the relationship between Eleanor Jane and Sofia is typical of what often happened in the South between Black nannies and the white charges they helped to raise.

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