Letters 28–31: Summary and Analysis
One night while Sofia and Celie are making another quilt together, Sofia asks Celie why a man eats. Sofia tells her that Harpo has been eating voraciously for the last few days, even though he isn’t hungry. Neither one of them can figure out why he would do this to himself. The next time he visits Celie he begins to go through the pantry and eat whatever food he can get his hands on. Celie doesn’t understand this at all, especially since Harpo doesn’t seem to be enjoying the food that he is eating.
Harpo grows fat, and one night shows up at Celie’s, this time crying and with two black eyes. Celie accuses him of bothering Sofia and wonders why he would do such a thing to a wonderful woman. Harpo admits that Sofia gave him the black eyes but can’t understand why she won’t listen to him. Harpo wants Sofia to do what he says. Celie quickly tells him that Mr.____ had married her to take care of his children, and that she had no choice in the matter. Celie tells Harpo that Shug, the woman that Mr.____ had wanted to marry, would “tell him his drawers stink in a minute.” This revelation makes Harpo cry and vomit, as if he were throwing up “every piece of pie” that he ate.
The next day, Celie visits Sofia, and tells her that Harpo had been eating in order to make himself bigger. He wanted to be as big as his wife, so that he could make her obey him. Sofia sadly nods and admits that she is tired of Harpo. She still loves him but ever since their marriage “all he think about...is how to make [her] mind.” She thinks it might be best to visit her sister, Odessa, who is alone now that her husband has been drafted. She tells Celie that she hardly feels anything anymore when she and Harpo have sex, and the worst part is that she thinks he doesn’t care. “He git up there and enjoy it just the same. The fact he can do it like that make me want to kill him.” Sofia is not sure if she will leave yet, but laughs and says that she definitely needs a vacation.
Eventually, however, Sofia does decide to leave. Her sisters come to pick her up along with her children. Celie decides to give Sofia the quilt they were working on.
The situation between Harpo and Sofia has not changed, and the fault lies squarely on Harpo’s shoulders. He seems intent on forcing a conflict where none should rightly exist. Sofia is pleased that Harpo enjoys cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the baby. In other words, Harpo enjoys what is considered by society as “women’s work.” However, this work also compromises his ego, so he cannot receive any satisfaction from this happy marriage. This is ridiculous, of course, but it is the same sort of logic that causes Harpo to force-feed himself. He is torturing himself in order to make himself bigger, so that he can beat up Sofia, even though he doesn’t want to hurt her. He has enjoyed his role in the marriage, yet he continually insists that Sofia obey him, even though this insistence will cause the marriage to break up. The root of this problem is Harpo’s insecurity. He has already been considered limited by Mr.____, and his inability to control Sofia only adds to this perception. He was brought up in a house where he learned that “the wife spose to mind,” but he doesn’t understand that Celie doesn’t love Mr.____. He connects Sofia’s refusal to obey with a lack of love. Celie points out that the rightful analogy should be Mr.____’s relationship with Shug Avery, since this relationship is based upon love, and Shug certainly does not obey Mr.____’s every wish.
The reader notices the change in Celie’s character that has come about due to her relationships with Sofia and Shug. Earlier, Celie had tried to drive a wedge between Sofia and...
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