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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
Walker plots The Color Purple in a circle, from separation back to wholeness. The main plot revolves around a series of reunions. Celie's children are taken from her as infants. Much later in life, she finds out that they have been sold by Fonso to Samuel and Corrine, who adopt them and raise them as their own. Ironically, Nettie is taken in by Samuel and Corrine to be a nanny to the children. Her letters to Celie keep the children alive in Celie's heart, and she longs for the day she will see them again. At the end of the novel, Olivia and Adam, now adults, return to Georgia and are re-united with their real mother.
Celie also has a reunion with her sister Nettie. By protecting Nettie from Albert's advances, Celie is told by her husband to send her sister away from the farm. She suggests that Nettie seek employment with the minister and his wife. Thinking that Nettie is the mother of the children they have adopted, because they look like her, Samuel and Corrine take her in. When they go to be missionaries in Africa, they take Nettie with them. Nettie faithfully writes to Celie about her life, but Albert takes the letters and hides them from Celie. It is not until much later that Shug discovers Nettie's hidden letters and shares them with Celie, who is delighted to be re-united with her sister on paper; but she longs to see Nettie in person and declares she will wait for her until she is ninety years old, if necessary. Even when Celie is told by the State Department that Nettie has drowned in a shipwreck, Celie refuses to believe that her sister is dead. Therefore, when Nettie arrives at Celie's house in Georgia, it is a totally joyful reunion.
Celie is also re-united with Shug several times in the book. She has always adored the blues singer, even before she meets her. Then when Shug comes back to be with Albert for awhile, Celie gets to know her and falls in love with her. When Shug leaves and later marries Grady, Celie is heart-broken. Then Shug returns to the farm, and Celie is delighted over their reunion; they even begin a sexual relationship. Shug then convinces Celie to leave Albert and travel with her to the north. Celie is happier than she has ever been in her life. Then Shug decides to have one last fling with Germaine, a nineteen-year-old in her band. Not willing to share her love for Shug, Celie leaves and returns to Georgia. She does not, however, give up hope of having a reunion with Shug. As a result, she decorates a room for her, painting it purple. When Shug returns to Georgia to live in the room, it is another happy reunion for Celie.
There are also many minor reunions in the novel. Celie is re-united with Albert in friendship at the end of the novel. During the story, Sofia leaves her husband, Harpo, only to be reunited with him again. She is also taken from her family and put in prison, but is later released and re-united with them. Samuel and Nettie are separated by Corrine's jealousy; after her death, they are re-united and marry. Even the Blacks in Africa and America seem to be re- united by the experiences of Olivia, Adam, and Nettie and Tashi's marriage to Adam and subsequent move to America.
Besides being held together by its circular structure, the novel is held together by the fact that each chapter is really a letter, written either by Celie or Nettie. The repetition of this structure helps to overcome the diversity of the plot in character, time, and place. Although Celie is at the center of the plot, there are many varying characters that enter the action. The location of the novel is also varied, as Nettie travels to Africa and Celie travels with Shug away from Georgia. The greatest variety, however, comes with the time factor, for the novel really spans the majority of Celie's life, from early adolescence to old age.
The novel is also united by the fact that it is developed along the traditional plot line. The protagonist of the story is clearly Celie. She and her conflict - her low self-esteem and the abuse she receives-are introduced in the first few chapters. The rising action begins when she escapes from Fonso, only to find she has married into the same type of abuse. She does, however, manage to have Nettie escape from the abusive system that she must endure. Celie then meets and falls in love with Shug Avery, who teaches her to value herself and be more self-sufficient. The climax of the novel occurs when Celie announces to Albert that she is leaving him and traveling with Shug. After many long years of submissive service, Celie proves her independence by escaping the patriarchal system that has enslaved her. The falling action shows her recognizing her own self-worth and starting her own business. When Shug decides to have a fling with a nineteen-year-old, Celie is strong enough to leave her and return to Georgia. The conclusion comes in the last few letters, when Shug returns to Georgia to live with Celie and Nettie and the children arrive from Africa. The plot ends as a comedy in every way, for Celie has overcome all of her antagonists and is joyfully reunited with those she loves.