The Color Purple by Alice Walker is one of the most defining novels in African American fiction. The story follows the life of Celie, an African American woman living in the South during the Jim Crow era. She writes in a series of letters to God, maintaining a voice of sincerity and belief in a higher power, despite the adversities she faces every day and her own inner doubts about herself – caused especially at the hands of the men around her. She falls in love with a woman, a controversial topic even today, and through Shug Avery she finds her sense of self-worth and her identity; eventually, she also finds her dear sister Nettie is still alive, and addresses her letters to Nettie.
Celie is a young African American girl who has already borne two children by her father. She is worried because he seems to be setting his sights on her little sister Nettie. He wants to marry her off to Mr. (later revealed to be Albert), but she doesn’t want to leave Nettie behind. She eventually does marry Albert, and Nettie comes to live with them, but once she spurns Albert’s advances, he kicks her out.
Celie is miserable in her life and marriage, raising Albert’s children and trying to avoid his beatings. Albert is in love with a singer named Shug Avery, and resents Celie for not being her. Celie has a crush on Shug as well, and when Shug falls ill and Albert brings her to the house to take care of her, Celie has a hard time hiding her feelings.
Shug becomes a friend and confidant to Celie, and Celie begins to find her own voice in spite of Albert. Shug uses her influence to stop Albert from beating Celie, but when Shug leaves, both Celie and Albert are heartbroken. Harpo’s wife Sofia is locked up for sassing the mayor’s wife, but they get her out to go work for the mayor’s household as a maid. Shug returns with her new husband Grady,and Shug and Celie finally begin a romantic relationship with one another.
Through Shug, Celie discovers that Albert has been hiding letters from her sister Nettie, who is now a missionary in Africa with Samuel and Corrine, the two people who are raising Celie’s children Adam and Olivia. Celie also discovers that her Pa is actually her stepfather. Celie is overcome by a murderous rage at Albert for hiding the letters for so many years. Nettie tells her that she and Samuel and the kids are coming back to America soon. Corrine passed away from a sickness, and Nettie and Samuel are now married.
Shug and Grady take Celie with them to Memphis, where Celie learns she’s a talented seamstress and begins to make pants. Pa dies, and Celie inherits his house, land, and general store because it all actually belonged to her real father, and then to her mother. She moves back to fix up the house, and Shug falls in love with a 19-year-old flute player. She takes off with him. Celie and Albert become friends, as Albert seems to have changed his ways. Both love Shug and have been left by Shug.
Shortly after Shug leaves, Celie receives word that the boat carrying her sister and family was downed by a German mine, but she refuses to believe it. Shug eventually returns, having left Germaine, and she, Albert, and Celie live a content life. Sofia and Harpo are back together, too. Suddenly, one night a car drives up and Nettie, Samuel, Adam, Olivia, and Adam’s Olinka wife Tashi get out. At the family reunion a few days later, Celie feels younger than she has ever felt before, and finally happy.