Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
In this letter to God, Celie writes that Fonso is beginning to regard her as if she were evil, accusing her of doing bad things. In reality, it is Fonso that is totally evil. Celie has just delivered her second child, a boy. Fonso immediately stole the infant and sold him. As a result, Celie is miserable; her breasts are swollen and dripping milk. Fonso displays disgust towards her about the milk and tells her to dress more decently; unfortunately, the girl has nothing else to wear. She tells God that she hopes Fonso will soon find a woman to marry him, for he is beginning to show interest in Nettie, her little sister. She has promised Nettie that she will protect her.
In this letter, the reader discovers that possibly both children have been stolen from Celie and sold. Instead of being appalled, Celie feels relieved, even though the selling of children alludes to the horrible historical period of Black slavery. For Celie, it is a blessing that the children are alive, and she has genuine hope that they may have a chance for a better life, breaking the horrible cycle of abuse.
It is obvious that Celie has no control over her life or her body. Raped repeatedly by her father, she feels helpless to break the cycle. Her lack of control over her fate is also vividly symbolized in her swollen breasts. The emotional pain of her child being stolen from her is physically echoed in her painful breasts. She is made to feel even more miserable when Fonso screams at her about her disgusting appearance.
Celie's promise to protect Nettie from Fonso's abuse is the first sign of her taking a stance to prevent the horrors which are occurring in her patriarchal existence. Although she totally devalues her herself, Celie finds her sister very valuable, worth protecting. Her selflessness and lack of bitterness are evident here.
In this chapter, Celie writes to God about Fonso's new wife; she is sixteen, the same age as Celie. Celie knows that her stepmother is overwhelmed with the number of children in the family and the work that must be done to care for them. Although she married Fonso because she was in love with him, she is already becoming disillusioned.
Celie also reveals that Nettie is being courted by an older man, a widower whose wife was killed by her lover. His main concern is finding a woman who can care for his three motherless children. Celie advises her sister to study books and learn instead of looking after someone else's children.
There is another broad space of time that has passed between the second and third letters. Although some things have changed on the surface, nothing has really changed in the lifestyle. Fonso has married again; his wife is an unnamed girl the same age as Celie. The reader assumes he will abuse her as badly as he did Celie and Celie's mother. Nettie has also matured and is being courted by an unnamed widower who is only looking to find a mother for his three children. Both the new stepmother and the suitor do not have names because they are meant to be symbols of the never-ending cycle that occurs in abusive, dysfunctional environments. In this patriarchal lifestyle, Black women are used up, discarded, and replaced in rapid succession.
Celie continues to be concerned about Nettie, her younger sister. She knows that the suitor does not really care for Nettie, but only wants to use her. Celie strongly advises Nettie to ignore the man and study her books instead. Although Celie has some relief from her abusive father due to the new wife, she is still burdened with hard work and a life devoid of emotional warmth. The only pleasures in life for Celie are the time she spends at church and the reciprocal love she and her sister have for each other.