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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The novel is set in the first half of the twentieth century in Macon County, Georgia. The novel covers the span of a woman's life -- from adolescence to old age. It is set primarily in the African- American community of a small town, though minor parts of it are set within penal system of the town, which is dominated by white people.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
The main character and protagonist of the novel. She is an African-American woman who is treated badly, especially by men. In spite of the hardships she endures, she maintains a beautiful spirit of perseverance and love. Throughout the book, Celie writes letters to God and to her sister Nettie, revealing all of her struggles and longings.
Celie's sister. She moves with a missionary couple to Africa, where she eventually marries the minister. Nettie and Celie write letters to one another during the years of their separation. Celie truly loves her sister.
Celie and Nettie's father, who turns out to be their stepfather. Shortly after Celie's real father is killed, Fonso marries her mother. He then sexually abuses Celie, gets her pregnant, steals her babies, and gives them away. He also steals Celie and Nettie's inheritance. He marries a variety of very young women.
A blues singer who is a lover to both Celie and Albert. She tries to give Celie self esteem. She also gives the novel its title when she tells Celie that God gets angry when people do not stop to admire the color purple.
Albert (usually referred to as Mr. ____)
The small-time, cruel farmer who Fonso chooses as Celie's husband; he abused Celie and neglected his children. After years of living alone, he comes to recognize the wrongs of his past attitudes and actions and becomes a loving and gentle man.
The wife of Harpo. She is a strong, outspoken woman in spite of the hardships she must endure. She is harassed by the patriarchal mindset of her husband and the racist white authorities of her town. After spending years in prison for a minor infraction, she is forced to work for the mayor's wife. Later, she is reunited with her family.
An unnamed woman who dies after the first chapter. She goes crazy when Celie's father is lynched. She soon marries Fonso and is always pregnant and sick.
Sofia's husband, Albert's son, and, for a time, Mary Agnes's lover. Harpo is forced into playing the role of the dominating husband by his father. Later, when he is reunited with Sofia, he takes care of the house and enjoys a more egalitarian relationship with her.
Fonso's very young second wife whom he marries after Celie's mother dies.
Fonso's last wife. He marries her after May Ellen deserts him.
Daisy and Fonso's cook.
An infant child of Celie's mother.
Celie and Nettie's schoolteacher.
Celie's daughter, who is sold by Fonso to the minister in town and taken to Africa, where she is raised by Nettie. Celie never sees until years later.
Celie's son who is also taken from her and raised in Africa. He marries Tashi.
The wife of Samuel, a Christian minister and missionary. She becomes the adoptive mother of Celie's babies, Olivia and Adam, after her husband buys the children from Fonso.
A Christian minister and missionary who spends much of his time in Africa. He is Corrine's husband and the adoptive father of Olivia and Adam. He marries Nettie after Corrine dies.
An Olinkan African, who is Olivia's friend. She eventually marries Adam. Nettie says she reminds her of Celie. She goes through the female initiation rites of her culture, including genital mutilation and scarification of the face.
Tashi's mother, who at first goes along with the Olinkan prohibition on girls' education. Later she becomes friends with Nettie and gives permission for her daughter to be educated.
Kate and Carrie
Albert's two sisters. They come to see Albert and Celie when they are first married.
A young man who drinks excessively, does not work regularly, and is often in jail.
A musician. He helps his friend Harpo build his juke joint.
Harpo's lover during his separation from Sofia. Harpo calls her Squeak and treats her badly. Unlike Sofia, she submits to his rule until she decides to go on the road with Shug Avery as a blues singer. She is raped trying to save Sofia from death in jail.
Albert's father. He is a mean old man who shames his son into abusing and using his wives. He denigrates his son's lover, Shug, and forbids Albert to marry her.