Summary and Analysis
With Fonso's death, Nettie and Celie can enjoy financial security, a matter that the two sisters never considered before; in fact, they have never before had any place that they could call "home." In keeping with her basic, sturdy humility, Celie has never even thought about having a home of her own (homes always "belonged" to men), but the quick cedar smoke exorcism that she and Shug perform is a simple and powerful way of showing that Evil (of which Fonso is the most dramatic personification) has been purged from her life.
Evil has been purged, perhaps, but not pain. Very quickly, Celie is pained by Shug's taking a new lover, a male. Once again a man brings pain to Celie. For Walker to have made Shug doggedly loyal to Celie, however, would have been unrealistic. Shug enjoys men. She enjoys and loves Celie, but she enjoys men too, and she knows that eventually Germaine will hurt her "worse than I'm hurting you [Celie]." Shug needs a "last fling." Celie cannot understand Shug's needs, though. Celie is a simple woman, one who has been hurt very often and very deeply.
Albert, too, has been hurt, and he has suffered. While we watch him and Celie tending to Henrietta, we realize that not only does caring for the girl keep Celie going, but that it gives meaning to Albert's life. Suffering and a developing concern for Henrietta are slowly reforming Albert. But without Shug, neither Celie's nor Albert's life is complete. Albert even tries to confront Celie with the truth about her aversion to him, but Celie cannot bring herself to utter the truth. Albert asks Celie if she rejects him because he is a man; Celie never tells him precisely that, yes, she rejects him because he is a man, but that is her reason. In fact, men are less than human to Celie. They are "frogs." No man has ever given Celie pure love. Only women have done that for Celie.
At the moment when Celie seems to be at her lowest emotional bottom, she receives a telegram from the Department of Defense, stating that Nettie and the children are dead. Then all of Celie's letters to Nettie are returned unopened, taking Celie even further into the depths of depression. This depression, though, will be the measure of Celie's final joy when, at last, she experiences the peak of ecstasy: her reunion with her beloved sister, Nettie.