Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
Albert continues to beat his children and wife with a belt, but he does not beat the children nearly as often. When she is hit, Celie tries not to cry by imagining she is a tree. One day Harpo asks Albert why he physically abuses Celie. He responds that he beats her because she is his wife and because she is stubborn.
Harpo announces to Celie that he is in love and will get married soon. She tells him he is not old enough and asks if he has even gotten permission from the girl's family. He admits that he has not spoken to the girl or her family about marriage. In actuality, he has only winked at her when he has seen her at church; she reacts with shyness or fear.
This letter reveals that some time has passed since the last correspondence. Harpo is now a young man interested in getting married. He reveals, however, that he is as ignorant of dating and sexual matters as Celie is. Harpo does seem to be somewhat sensitive. He asks his father why he physically abuses Celie. Albert's response again reveals his patriarchal mindset; he responds that he beats Celie mainly because she is his wife (his property) and can do what he wants to her.
In this chapter, Alice Walker again reveals the cycle of oppression in Black families. Children who grow up in abusive, patriarchal households are trained in these ideas and primed to accept them and act in the same way. In the last chapter, Albert teaches his son, Harpo, that he should not do house chores, for they are woman's work. Now he teaches Harpo that a man is expected to beat his wife, to keep her in line.
Celie's only method of escape from the abuse is to imagine that she is not a person, but a tree. This image provides her a means to manipulate her emotions and weather the beatings. When Albert says that Celie is stubborn, he is partially right. Celie is not about to totally give into Albert; she fights back her tears and tries to hold her ground.
Celie is excited that Shug Avery is coming to town. Albert is excited too. He dresses and redresses in front of the mirror; for the first time ever, he even asks Celie's opinion about his looks. She is shocked by his question. She is also saddened that she cannot go to the Lucky Star with her husband. She desperately wants to see Shug. Celie even carries around the pink announcement about Shug's arrival in her pocket and often thinks about her.
The reader's anticipation of the arrival of Shug Avery is almost as sharp as that of Celie and Albert. She has become a symbol of life, love, and the glamour of freedom in the novel. It is symbolic that Shug is singing at the "Lucky Star," for she seems to be swinging upon one. Celie desperately wants to meet her, and Albert is eager to renew his sexual relationship with Shug.
It is important to notice that for the first time ever Albert asks Celie's opinion. He wants her to comment on his appearance, because he is going off to see Shug Avery and wants to look his best. Celie is shocked that Albert would want to hear her thoughts. She, however, misses the irony that the question is asked by her husband who is going off to chase the woman that Celie loves.