Letters 32–36: Summary and Analysis
Swain: Harpo’s friend
Henry “Buster” Broadnax: Sofia’s new companion
Squeak (Mary Agnes): Harpo’s new girlfriend
Six months after Sofia leaves, Harpo has become a different man. He takes his old house, and builds a jukejoint (bar and nightclub) along with his partner, Swain. No one comes to the new place, so Harpo begs Shug to perform at his bar. Shug, who by now has almost fully recovered, agrees to perform, and the club fills up in anticipation of her arrival.
Celie is excited that she will finally get an opportunity to hear Shug perform. Mr.____ does not want Celie to be there, but Shug insists upon it. Celie and Mr.____ sit down at the same table, and Shug begins to sing a song that is meant for Mr.____. Celie starts to cry without understanding why, and then she realizes that Shug loves Mr.____ more than Celie. Then she hears Shug yelling Celie’s name. Shug announces to the crowd that she has written a new song, called “Miss Celie’s Song.” It is the same tune that Shug was humming when Celie fixed her hair. Celie hums along with the tune, saying that it is the “first time somebody made something and named it after me.”
Now that Shug is well, she tells Celie that she will probably leave soon, but then she sees that Celie is scared. Celie tells Shug that Mr.____ will probably start beating her again. Shug vows that she will stay until she knows Albert won’t even think about beating Celie. Shug also asks Celie if it matters to her that she sleeps with her husband. Celie says she doesn’t mind because she never enjoys sex with Mr.____ anyway. Upon hearing this, Shug is surprised. She asks Celie if she has ever seen herself naked. Even though Celie is embarrassed, Shug asks Celie to examine herself in the looking glass. She tells Celie that women have a “button” “...that gits real hot when you do you know what with somebody.” Celie examines herself and gingerly touches her “button,” which gives her a feeling that she has never felt before. After she discovers this, however, she becomes sad when she can hear Shug and Mr.____ making love in the next room.
One night in the club, Sofia walks in with her new friend, a big man named Buster. Sofia is overjoyed to see everybody, especially Celie, but then Harpo, who has become fat once again, wants to know why Sofia is there. Sofia says she just wanted to hear Shug sing. Harpo asks Sofia to dance, which enrages his new girlfriend, Squeak. Squeak tries to attack Sofia, and loses two teeth. Squeak orders Harpo to kick out Sofia, but Harpo just stands between them, unable to decide. Finally, Harpo tends to Squeak’s wounds while Sofia and Buster “get out the door and don’t look back.”
Sofia’s departure causes Harpo to revert to old stereotypes of masculine behavior. He replaces his wife with a male friend and proceeds to build a nightclub, the name of which indicates his ego and self-importance. The fact that he creates the nightclub out of his old house is proof that he has rejected his previous life as husband. Harpo also shows that he has a flair for business, as he and Swain tell Celie the advantages of having the club in a relatively secluded place. Harpo recognizes that it is possible to make money within the black community. The elaborate reworking of his club, however, does not mean that the club is a success. The club’s initial failure shows that Harpo is still the same sort of man without Sofia, a man whose self-worth is much greater than his actual worth. It is Shug’s performances that make the club a success. Even though Harpo will never admit it, he needs a strong woman to compensate for his own weakness. His chauvinism will continue to stand in the way of his success.
This chauvinism is also evident in his choice of a new girlfriend. Squeak reminds Celie of herself, mostly because “she do everything Harpo say.” She approaches Harpo’s ideal of a woman more closely than Sofia ever did, which makes...
(The entire section is 1,459 words.)