Letters 22–27: Summary and Analysis
The news goes out all over town that Shug Avery is sick. Nobody wants to take her in, and she has been abandoned by her parents. Furthermore, the town seems to be delighted by Shug’s sickness; even the town preacher gives a thinly veiled sermon in which Shug is chastised for her lifestyle. Celie is outraged by this treatment of Shug but does nothing. Mr.____, on the other hand, quickly calls on Harpo to prepare the wagon, and he leaves town. He returns five days later with Shug Avery, and tells Celie to prepare the guest room.
Mr.____ tries to take care of Shug, but she is weak and unhappy from her sickness and pushes him away. Celie starts to take care of Shug on her own, and Shug begins to slowly improve. When Celie bathes Shug she feels as if she had turned into a man, since she gets a feeling that she has never had before. Shug starts to eat and lets Celie comb her hair, which causes her to sing.
While Shug is recovering, Mr.____’s father, who owns the farm that they work on, visits and complains about Shug’s presence. Mr.____ finds an unexpected ally in Celie during this argument. Old Mr.____ chastises his son for letting Shug Avery stay and Celie spits in his water. When Celie and Mr.____ defend Shug against Old Mr.____ Celie notices that this “is the closest us ever felt” since they have been married.
When Shug is able to get on her feet, Celie teaches her how to quilt. They have another visitor at the house, Tobias, Mr.____’s brother, who presents Shug with a box of chocolates. Everyone is in a pleasant mood, and as Mr.____, Tobias, Shug, and Celie sit around talking, Celie says that “for the first time in my life, I feel just right.”
The long-awaited appearance of Shug Avery comes after many instances of foreshadowing, the most dramatic of which is the announcement that she has fallen ill. Celie finds out about the town’s reaction in the church, which once again becomes a symbol of false protection for women. Even though Celie works hard to keep the church clean and the priest thanks her by calling her Sister Celie, Mr.____ uses this opportunity to collect glances from the neighborhood woman. The priest uses Shug’s illness as a cornerstone of his sermon, proving in his eyes that punishment falls upon the wicked. The irony in this speech is that no one in the town comes to her defense, even though many of these same women have been victimized by this type of judgment. The town is caught up in a display of self-righteousness, and Walker shows us once again that what takes place in this town’s church has little to do with what takes place in God’s kingdom.
Shug Avery’s lifestyle was definitely contrary to the standard of behavior that was expected in a rural community. The standards of such a community were exceedingly moral, especially for women. Celie is respected by the church and the preacher because she is a good cook and cleans the church very well. It is never acknowledged that Celie is unhappy with her life. Shug’s greatest sin seems to be enjoying herself and not caring what others think. Shug’s behavior in many ways (drinking, smoking, and dressing wildly) parallels the behavior of Zora Neale Hurston, a black author who lived during the setting of the novel. Hurston was also criticized for her behavior. Walker, a Hurston scholar, might also be speaking out against the injustice of this moral code because it affected a person who was a gigantic influence upon her life.
When Mr.____ decides to retrieve Shug, the action seems a little hypocritical. Mr.____ can easily shed tears for Shug and say that “nobody fight for” her, even while telling Celie that it “won’t do no good” to argue with him about the point. Mr.____’s kind treatment to Shug could be a blow to Celie’s pride, but Celie forgets about Mr.____ because Shug, the woman that Celie has been waiting to meet for so long, is finally in their house. The first meeting between Shug and Celie is anticlimactic,...
(The entire section is 1,271 words.)