Letters 45–48: Summary and Analysis
Grady: Shug’s new husband
Shug has been on the road and making money, and is now very successful. She writes to Mr.____ and Celie that she is coming home for Christmas and has a big surprise for them. Mr.____ and Celie are shocked to discover that the surprise is Grady, Shug’s new husband. Celie knows “the minute she say [that they are married] that I don’t like Grady.” Nevertheless, they make him feel welcome. Mr.____ spends most of the vacation drinking with him.
Celie spends a lot of time talking with Shug, who now owns a house in Memphis and 100 pretty dresses. Shug asks her if she has had a better life with Mr.____ ever since Shug convinced him not to hit his wife anymore. Celie says that he tries “to play with the button but...don’t git nowhere.” Celie guesses that she is still a virgin.
When the talk turns to sex, Celie reminisces to Shug about the time she was raped by her father. She had hidden the pain and shame of it for so long that she begins to weep when she tells Shug about it. She goes on to cry out against Mr.____, who always “clam on top of me” without once thinking about how she feels. When she finishes, she morosely says that “nobody ever love me.” Shug replies “I love you, Miss Celie,” and kisses her. Celie, at first surprised, then kisses Shug back, and they continue to kiss each other and touch each other until they fall asleep in each other’s arms.
When everyone gets together for a party, Shug once again compliments Mary Agnes on her beautiful voice, and begins to advise her on a singing career. Harpo starts to object, but Shug quickly dismisses him. Shug also notices that Grady keeps “making goo-goo eyes at Squeak,” but doesn’t draw attention to it. Celie tries to like Grady but finds that there is “one thing I sure nuff can’t stand, the way he call Shug Mama.”
Shug’s marriage brings a moment of crisis to the novel, and to the lives of Celie and Mr.____. For Mr.____, her marriage is a rejection of him and his life, since he has devoted himself to Shug. It also proves that Shug is able to resist his control. However, another question is brought up by Shug’s marriage. How will the marriage affect her character? After the debilitating effect Mr.____ and Harpo have upon the women they marry, the reader becomes suspicious of Grady and his effect upon Shug. Shug never seemed to be the type of person to marry, since we connect marriage with ideas such as sacrifice and compromise.
Perhaps this change in character is brought about by Shug’s new success as a singer. Now that she has money, she might have to surround herself with the trappings of success, such as the new car and the new husband. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that Shug’s new marriage is a selling out, a marriage that is made so that she might be perceived as a normal woman in society. Grady is certainly not a dominating character; Shug seems to have control over the relationship. Grady calls Shug “Mama” and is dependent on her for money and things as if she were his mother. Celie’s first reaction to all of this is that she has been betrayed; Shug seems to have abandoned her previous life in favor of these new possessions.
This question is ultimately resolved, however, by the consummation of love between Celie and Shug. It is Shug’s love that finally allows Celie to confront her rape and the injustices of her life. She...
(The entire section is 946 words.)