Letters 74–77: Summary and Analysis
Jolentha (Suzie Q): the little daughter of Squeak and Harpo
Henrietta: the little daughter of Sofia
Jerene and Darlene: twins who help Celie with her sewing
Sofia is released from the mayor’s house after serving eleven and a half years of a twelve-year sentence. To celebrate, everyone goes to Odessa’s house for a dinner. At this dinner, Shug and Grady announce that they are returning to Memphis. Everyone, especially Mr.____, is disappointed when they hear this news, but that disappointment turns to shock when Shug announces that Celie is coming to Memphis as well. Mr.____ starts to protest, and Celie confronts him about hiding Nettie’s letters and abusing her. No one can speak from the surprise of hearing Celie stand up for herself. Shug then announces that another person will come with them as well. Everyone thinks that this person is Sofia, but Sofia tells everybody that her home is with Odessa and Jack and her children. At that moment, however, Eleanor Jane comes to the door to ask Sofia for help. Sofia leaves with her. Squeak then announces that she wants to sing professionally, and will go to Memphis too. Squeak asks Sofia to take care of Harpo while she is gone.
As they prepare to leave, Mr.____ tells Celie that she won’t be able to survive on her own because she is “black,” “pore,” “ugly,” and “a woman.” Celie feels a surge of energy run through her and tells Mr.____ that “until [he does] right by” her, “everything [he does] will fail.”
As they travel up to Memphis, Grady tries to be as close to Squeak as possible. When they arrive in Memphis, Shug gives Celie a bedroom in her house. Celie is unsure about what she wants to do. While she thinks about her future plans, she continues to sew pairs of pants for Shug to wear on stage. When Celie finally makes the “perfect pair of pants,” Shug spends her time looking in the mirror and showing off to everybody. Squeak asks Celie if she can have a pair. Soon, all of her friends want pants and Shug tells Celie to put an advertisement in the paper. Celie signs her letter to Nettie as the head of her new company, “Folkspants, Unlimited.”
Celie’s argument with Mr.____ is the climax of the novel. It is also the moment of the text that the reader has been waiting for. This is one of the most dramatic scenes in modern American literature, and also one of the funniest. Mr.____ and Harpo are revealed as nothing more than ineffectual buffoons, whose only power came from manipulating women too scared to fight back. Now that Celie has fought back, she seems to be unstoppable.
Because of Celie’s declaration of freedom, the relationships between men and women have been permanently changed. Harpo is completely emasculated by Squeak’s departure and Sofia’s revelation that he is not the father of Henrietta. Harpo had attempted to use the same devices of control that he had employed while he was married to these women, but he is outdone by both women so badly that he has nothing left to say. He refers to Mary Agnes by the nickname, Squeak, and is quickly quieted, indicating that Mary Agnes wants nothing more to do with his derision and suppression. Mr.____ is forgotten by the rest of the group. When he does finally lash out at Celie, just as she is ready to leave for Memphis, he sounds like a little child throwing a tantrum. Celie replies with words that she says “come from the trees.” With her new perspective of God, she seems to have answered her own prayers. Celie’s friends, along with Celie’s new faith, have given her the strength to fight back and the guidance with which to use this strength.
This strength and guidance is symbolized in the pants that she makes for everybody. The clothes that have been made in this...
(The entire section is 1,029 words.)