The Color Purple Summary

The Color Purple is a novel by Alice Walker. Written in epistolary form, the narrative is told through a series of letters that protagonist Celie writes to God.

  • Fourteen-year-old Celie is sexually abused by her father, and she has two children as a result. Her father takes the children away from Celie and forces her to marry Mr.—, an abusive older man.

  • Celie befriends Shug Avery, a singer and Mr.—'s ex-girlfriend, who encourages Celie to leave Mr.— and live for herself.

  • After discovering a stack of letters that Mr.— hid from her, Celie reunites with her sister Nettie and her long-lost children.


Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

The Color Purple is a novel by African-American author Alice Walker. It was published in the United States in 1982 and won the National Book Award for Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983. Despite gaining great critical acclaim by critics and awards, the novel also caused controversy and was censored due to its sexual and violent content. It was later adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg in 1985 and into a Broadway musical in 2005. The Color Purple is considered one of the best works of African-American literature.

Illustration of PDF document

Download The Color Purple Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Plot Summary

The Color Purple is told through a series of letters written by the protagonist Celie to God. Celie is a fourteen-year-old teenage girl who lives with her father, Alphonso, and her twelve-year-old sister, Nettie, in Georgia. Alphonso is abusive to both children. He rapes Celie regulary, which results in her giving birth to two of his children. The first child is a son named Adam; the second, a daughter named Olivia. Alphonso takes both children away to somewhere that Celie doesn’t know. A man called Mr. __ intends to marry Nettie, because he needs someone to take care of his children, but Alphonso convinces him to marry Celie instead.

Mr. __ and Celie get married. Both Mr. __ and his children treat Celie horribly. Mr. __ beats and rapes Celie just as Alphonso did. Some time after Celie gets married, Nettie runs away from home and goes to Celie’s house. Mr. __, who initially wanted to marry Nettie, makes sexual advances toward her, which causes her to leave the house. Celie advises Nettie to find the woman she once met at a store. Celie doesn’t know what happens to her sister after she leaves. She doesn’t hear anything from Nettie and assumes that she is dead.

Time passes, and Mr. __’s son Harpo marries a girl named Sofia despite Mr. __’s wishes. Harpo and Sofia have six children. Celie, whom Mr. __ continues to abuse, is surprised by Sofia’s resistance to Harpo, who tries to control his wife like her father controls Celie. Celie is jealous of Sofia’s stance against Harpo and advises him to beat Sofia to make her submit to him. But Sofia resists Harpo’s beatings and finds out that Celie advised him. Sofia is angry at Celie for what she has done, but once Celie explains the abuse she has endured and her jealousy, the two women become friends. Sofia tells Celie that she doesn’t have to endure Mr. __’s abuse and advises Celie to fight back. Sofia has had enough of Harpo’s treatment of her. She takes their children and leaves him.

Celie finds out that Mr. __ has been having an affair with a jazz singer named Shug Avery, who has three children by Mr. __. When Shug becomes ill, Mr. __ lets her stay at the house. Celie doesn’t mind taking care of Shug and soon becomes very interested in the singer. Shug is mean to Celie, despite Celie’s assistance, but after a while they start a friendship. Shug finds out that Mr. __ beats Celie and tries to protect her.

Shug and Celie start having a sexual relationship, and Celie falls in love with Shug. Shug tells Celie that her sister, Nettie, sent letters but Mr. __ hid them. Shug shows her the letters, and Celie finds out that her sister is alive. Nettie is living with a missionary couple: Corrine, the woman Nettie met at the...

(The entire section contains 1006 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this The Color Purple study guide. You'll get access to all of the The Color Purple content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Summary
  • Chapter Summaries
  • Themes
  • Characters
  • Analysis
  • Critical Essays
  • Teaching Guide
  • Short-Answer Quizzes
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Chapter Summaries