Letters 13-18: Summary and Analysis
Sofia Butler: Harpo’s new wife
Harpo starts to ask questions about Mr.____’s marriage and confesses to Celie that he is in love. Harpo met a girl in church and even though they haven’t even spoke to one another, he already plans to marry her. Meanwhile, Mr.____ becomes excited when Shug Avery comes to town to play in a nightclub. He fixes himself up in a way that he has never done for Celie. He tries to keep it from her, but Celie already knows. She wishes she could go and meet the woman she has pictured in her mind for so long. Mr.____ is gone for the weekend, and when he finally returns, he acts so strangely that Celie becomes even more curious about Shug. Even though she has “a million question to ast” about Shug, she is unable to get any answers.
Harpo’s relationship with the girl becomes real, and Harpo confesses to Celie that the girl, Sofia Butler, is pregnant. Harpo has already met Sofia’s father, and did not receive a blessing from him, on account of the scandal caused by his mother. Harpo then takes Sofia to meet his own father. Mr.____ looks at Sofia and refuses to give her permission to marry Harpo because he believes his son is young and limited and she could be tricking him into marrying her. Sofia laughs at this and says that she doesn’t need Harpo or Mr.____’s property. Sofia moves to her sister’s house and tells Harpo that she will be waiting for him when he is ready. Harpo, unable to convince his father, gets married in secret and then brings Sofia and their new baby home. Harpo and Sofia move into the shed behind Mr.____’s house and Mr.____ gives his son some money for working at the farm.
Up to this point in the novel, the male characters have been represented by the cruel and hateful Mr.____ and by Celie’s and Nettie’s father. As Harpo becomes older, a new example of male behavior is established. Harpo’s questions about Mr.____ and his treatment of Celie show that he is ignorant of male roles save the one his father uses. Mr.____ tells Harpo that he beats Celie because she is his wife, and expects him to understand that it is normal for husbands to abuse their wives. However, when Harpo is in love, his feelings contradict the callous attitude that Mr.____ shows for Celie. Harpo is left without true understanding of a relationship, and turns to Celie for help.
This lack of understanding is even harder for Harpo when he is rejected by Sofia’s father. Sofia’s father specifically rejects Harpo because of the scandal in which his mother is involved. His mother’s murder was the result of an ongoing affair; her lover killed her because he wanted her dead before she returned to her husband. The values of society place the blame upon the wife; wives are beaten because they are “stubborn,” and Annie Julia’s lover’s role in the affair and subsequent murder is overlooked. In this society, it is not so unusual that men cheat on their wives, but wives who cheat apparently deserve to be killed. The bond between mother and child allows Harpo to look at this situation from a different perspective. When he complains to Celie that “it not her fault somebody kill her,” he is making a point that Celie knew all along. For a male, however, this is a significant statement. It contradicts the values with which he was brought up.
Even Mr.____ displays true emotion and character in this section, although it is Shug Avery’s appearance that brings about this emotion. His primping and preening in preparation for his visit with Shug amuses Celie because she has never experienced such behavior from him. Celie becomes even more fascinated by Shug because she is able to provoke this reaction out of Mr.____ without even seeing him. The effect is only heightened when Mr.____ returns...
(The entire section is 1,035 words.)