Summary and Analysis Letters 46-48


The reappearance of Shug, now with a husband, reawakens Celie's interest in herself. Unlike the years when she didn't mind being plain and ragged (because "it bees that way sometimes"), Celie now minds a lot. Shug is back, and Shug has reawakened Celie's sense of values. Now, however, the sight of Shug makes Celie feel plain and insignificant once again. Celie is jealous of Grady; she doesn't want to share Shug with such an unworthy man — especially with a man who calls Shug "Mamma." Clearly, Shug dominates Grady; even Celie realizes this.

Shug, in turn, realizes that Albert still treats Celie demeaningly, and she is loud about the value that she puts on Celie. She tells Celie that if Celie were her wife, "I'd cover you up with kisses stead of licks." Shug knows now that no matter how seemingly kind Albert was to her when she was ill, he is ultimately incapable of showing affection and deep appreciation. To Albert's credit, we should be aware that he does try to stimulate Celie sexually, but fails. His doing so, however, seems more of an effort to please Shug than it does to please Celie.

Therefore, Celie has still not experienced sexual orgasm, but she has "awakened" to the distinction between rough sex and making love. She knows that rough, ramming sex is not love; rape of one's wife is barbaric and, in contrast, making love is pure and natural and tender. But Celie has never yet made love to a man.

Now that Celie has shed her stoic, protective husk, she can admit and even indulge in a little self-pity. She tells Shug that nobody ever loved her, which is not wholly true. Nettie loved Celie; she still does. But no one has ever "made love" to Celie — not in the sense that a physical lover would make love to her. Therefore, Shug tells Celie that she loves Celie, and their passionate kissing and fondling is so intense that it overwhelms Celie. She describes feeling as though she were a "little lost baby." Celie makes love for the first time (Letter 47); she is no longer a virgin.

Shug, the flashy blues singer whom some people think of as shallow and immoral, is a strong, positive character in this novel. She gives great value to Celie's life, and, likewise, she does a similar thing for Squeak. She encourages Squeak to sing, despite Harpo's old-fashioned notion that "good" women don't sing in jukejoints. Not surprisingly, Shug gets her way, and Squeak realizes that she, Mary Agnes, can sing.