The Color Purple

The Color Purple Summary and Analysis of Section 5

One day, Sofia’s strong sisters come to pick her up. Harpo sits, pretending he does not care that she is leaving him. The children ask their father if he is going away, too, but he says no. The baby farts and Harpo hurries to change it, even though there is no need, and he uses the dry diaper to wipe his tears away. Sofia leaves with her children and her sisters.

Six months later, Harpo is helping his friend Swain build a juke joint. The first week it is up and running they get one customer, the second week three or four, and the third week, one again. Harpo considers getting Queen Honeybee Shug to sing, and she agrees. They use one of Shug’s old flyers and write “Harpo’s of ______ plantation” on it. The first Saturday night after that, so many people turn up that they all will not fit inside. Everyone thought that Shug had died, and all are pleased to see her performing again. Mr. ______ forbids Celie from going to the event, but Shug insists that she must. Mr. ______ and Celie love watching her sing, but when she is singing, she only looks at Mr. ______ and Celie starts to cry. But Shug then sings a song dedicated to Celie, the one that Celie helped scratch out of Shug’s head. Shug calls it Miss Celie’s song.

Soon, they have decked the place out really well—Celie has made candles for the tables—and every week Shug sings there, getting stronger and stronger. One day she decides that it is time to go, and she plans to leave early next month. In an attempt to keep Shug with her, Celie tells her that Mr. ______ beats her when Shug is not there. This persuades Shug to stay until she is sure that he will no longer beat her. Shug and Mr. ______ sleep together almost every night. When they discuss it, Shug tells Celie that she loves sleeping with him. Celie tells her that she does not get any pleasure from him and never has from anyone. Shug cannot believe that Celie is thus, in her mind, a virgin. Shug teaches Celie to examine herself and tells her about which part of her body gives her pleasure (Shug calls it her button). Lying awake at night, listening to Shug and Mr. ______ together, Celie cries herself to sleep, feeling her button.

One night when Shug is singing at Harpo’s, Sofia arrives. She has a big man on her arm. Harpo tells her that it is scandalous for her to be out at a juke joint when she has five children. Sofia actually has six children now. Harpo and Sofia begin to dance, but Harpo’s new yellow-skinned girlfriend, Squeak, becomes unhappy. She confronts them and Sofia quickly backs off, for she is not trying to steal Harpo back, but Harpo insists that they continue dancing. Squeak slaps Sofia, and Sofia punches her to the ground. Sofia and her boyfriend Buster leave.

Celie soon learns that Sofia is in jail. The story is that the Major and his wife, Millie, were passing Sofia, Buster, and the children when Millie stopped to play with the little ones. She thought they were very cute and clean and asked Sofia if she would like to work as her maid. Sofia replied, Hell no. The Major slapped Sofia’s face, and Sofia fought him back until the police came, beat her up, and jailed her.

Sofia works in a prison laundry and is allowed to see her family twice a month for half an hour. When asked how she copes with doing what she is told, she says that she thinks of Celie and does what she must. Sofia works there for twelve years, during which time she says that all she thinks about is murder.

Celie, Shug, Mr. ______, Squeak, Buster, Odessa, and Sofia’s other sisters all wonder how Sofia will survive. Mr. ______ decides that something has to be done. While the others are suggesting what to do, Celie fantasizes about angels coming down and carrying Sofia home. The group decides that someone should approach the warden’s only black relative, Bubber Hodges, whose brother Jimmy is Squeak’s father. They tell Squeak to go to see her uncle the warden.

They dress Squeak up and tell her to tell the warden that she is living with Sofia’s husband and that Sofia’s husband says that Sofia is not being punished enough. The idea is that she would be punished worse if she had to work for a white woman or do work at home. That is, the idea is that she is happy in jail.

Squeak returns having been abused by the warden. From now on, she makes sure that Harpo calls her Mary Agnes. Six months after her experience with the warden, Mary Agnes starts to sing. She starts by singing Shug’s songs and then makes songs up herself. One song is about the colors yellow and black.


This section opens out into the characters’ community. We saw one form of it at the church, but otherwise, the story focused on Celie. We see a new social center where people can meet now that Harpo and his friend have built the juke joint (also spelled as one word, jukejoint). The juke joint was an important cultural icon for black communities. The community was never far away, for people remember Shug’s singing. But now, Celie is a part of it all. She looks after Shug and helps with the joint’s decoration. Shug’s old fans make up most of the audience. Quickly this quite residential area is becoming a focal point for many. Watching Shug’s renewed empowerment is an inspiration for Celie.

The closest active romantic relationships in this section involve Shug, the Queen Honeybee, though we should not forget Sofia’s relationship with her sisters as important family relationships. There is tension between Harpo’s wife and his new girl. Mr. ______ and Celie have never been an item. Although Buster and Sofia arrive together, Celie does not comment that they seem particularly suited to one another—in fact, Buster’s comment that he would not fight Sofia’s battles for her seems decidedly non-committal. But when Shug is singing, Mr. ______ and Celie cannot their take their eyes off her.

When Shug dedicates her song to “Miss Celie,” it is her greatest gift yet for Celie, the gift of identity. Shug recognizes that she is not the only creator of the song. In a sense, the song is their baby. Celie’s name and creative potential are announced in a positive way in public. After such an intense emotional moment for Celie, she and Shug become even closer.

Celie’s sexual education from Shug is uninhibited and confident. She is the one who teaches Celie how to please herself. Shug thus awakens Celie’s sexual potential, which has been growing since she first saw the photograph of Shug years ago. Celie associates this awakening with Shug, listening as Shug sleeps with Mr. ______. Notably, Celie uses a mirror to examine herself; she is reassessing herself once again.

As for Sofia, she is still a fighter. Things seem peaceful enough between her and Buster, but once she rejoins the community we have come to know in the novel, she gets in two fights and then ends up in jail. In jail Sofia must turn to a serious mental fight; she has to keep herself going under terrible conditions. The only reason she knows how to continue in this fight is because she has seen Celie do it day after day. The comparison here is clear: Celie’s home life has been like being in prison.

Even though Celie was once jealous of Sofia because she could fight back, here we see that Sofia has learned from Celie’s ability to endure. Celie’s ability to fight is internal; she keeps going despite the situation. For instance, when the others are working out a plan for Sofia’s escape, Celie imagines angels rescuing her. Despite years of subordination, Celie’s imagination has flourished, and in this way she is to be envied herself. Celie is successful with the weapon of her writing.

This section finally brings out the story of Squeak, renamed as Mary Agnes. She is powerless before the warden. In this section, the warden acts as the antagonist against the black community. If Sofia’s black family and friends are, in this instance, the protagonists of the story, trying to save Sofia from an unjust sentence, then this white warden is single-handedly the antagonist. He represents the much greater dismissal by the governing whites of the black community.

It is also significant that he is related to Squeak: even though they are family, the color of their skin is enough of a gulf between them that he can completely abuse and demean her without a second thought. When she comes home after the ordeal, she insists that Harpo call her Mary Agnes, for she both needs and deserves the affirmation of choosing her own name. The name is symbolically important. “Agnes” is a play on agnus or “lamb,” which in the Christian context symbolizes someone who sacrifices herself for someone else. Squeak has sacrificed herself, temporarily, for the sake of Sofia. After her ordeal, she summons the courage to continue on. Six months after she is abused, she regains her voice and starts to sing—surviving, fighting, and expressing herself through music.

Again, color remains important. Although Celie has figured Shug as a queen, deserving the color purple, with maybe some red as well, Shug’s most common color seems to be red, suggesting sexuality, sensuality, and romance. The colors yellow and black in one song of Mary Agnes’ seem related to the skin colors of the characters in this section.