The Color Purple Letters 78–79: Summary and Analysis
by Alice Walker

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Letters 78–79: Summary and Analysis

Summary
Hearing that Sofia’s mother died, Celie comes back to pay a visit to Harpo and Sofia. She has changed so much that Mr.____ doesn’t even recognize her as she walks across his farm. As she approaches their house, Celie can hear Harpo and Sofia fighting. Sofia intends to be a pallbearer at her mother’s funeral but Harpo thinks that “peoples use to men doing this sort of thing.” Sofia is adamant, and during a lull in their argument Celie knocks on the door. They both stop everything and greet Celie warmly.

Harpo wants to know why Mary Agnes acts so detached, and Celie tells him that she has been constantly smoking marijuana. Grady grows and sells marijuana from his backyard, and Celie shares a cigarette with Sofia and Harpo.

At the funeral, Sofia and her sisters look like “amazons.” They march in carrying the coffin, and the other mourners “act like this is the way it always done.” After the funeral, Celie notices how clean Mr.____ looks. Mr.____ comes up to Celie and talks politely, but is clearly afraid of her. He tells her that Henrietta, Sofia’s youngest daughter, has a blood disease and might die soon. He is concerned about Sofia. She has already lost her mother and losing her daughter would cause her even greater suffering.

After he leaves, Sofia tells Celie that Mr.____ was a wreck after she left him. He lived “like a pig” and refused to take care of himself. It was Harpo who cleaned and fed him because Mr.____ was “too gone to care.” Sofia says that she fell in love with Harpo again when she saw him holding his father in his arms while he was sleeping. Mr.____ started to improve after Harpo forced him to give Celie the rest of her letters from Nettie, prompting Sofia to say “you know [that] meanness kill.”

Analysis
Celie returns to Mr.____’s farm a changed woman, to the point that Mr.____ doesn’t even recognize her. Her dramatic change in appearance reflects her change of character, but it also shows that Mr.____ had never looked at Celie as a woman, which is why it is hard for him to recognize her now. Celie walks by in full regalia, including the pants that she made for herself. She is dressed, literally and symbolically, as an empowered woman. She shows a bit of her power when she convinces Harpo and Sofia to try marijuana; both of them hear something that they had never heard before when they try the cigarette. It sounds to them like “everything,” indicating that they are in contact with something more powerful than they have usually experienced. They are able to have this contact because Celie is there with them.

However, when she gets to Harpo’s and Sofia’s house, it sounds as if Harpo is up to his old tricks again. Harpo does not want her to be a pallbearer because he considers it men’s work. Harpo tried to force his ideas upon his wives because he believed, from watching Mr.____, that it was normal for him to do so. Now society dictates the social rules, and no one has a problem with Sofia and her sisters doing this work. This causes Celie to exult that she loves “folks,” because they have now become smart enough to let women do what they desire. Harpo’s ideas have now become anachronistic, and his chauvinism is powerless.

Celie uses marijuana to help Sofia and Harpo understand how she feels and what this transition in her life has meant to her. Alice Walker has been an advocate of marijuana, and her views are embodied in Celie’s philosophy of its use. Celie differentiates her occasional use from Grady’s and Squeak’s abuse of the drug. Just as Walker and Zora Neale Hurston felt that occasional use stimulated creativity, Celie uses it only when she wants to “feel closer to God.” Now, she feels so wonderful she doesn’t need it, but Celie decries the overuse of Grady and Squeak, which has left...

(The entire section is 1,018 words.)