‘The Color Purple’ Ending Explained & Film Summary: Does Celie Reunite With Nettie And Her Children?


The Color Purple is a difficult story to sit through. The musical aspect of it makes it slightly easy, but the emotions it raises will still not leave you for a long time. At any other time, we may have commented on the need to properly explore Celie’s character by giving her more time and not overshadowing it all with musical performances. But as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that it was not required, simply because it is a story we are all aware of by virtue of having known women like that, whether we talk about it or not. Meanwhile, the following is the summary and ending of The Color Purple.

Spoiler Alert

Why does Celie think that Nettie is dead?

Celie and Nettie were each other’s only comfort while growing up. Their father, Alfonso, was abusive, and his main target was Celie, who got pregnant twice, and both her children were given away by him for adoption. He did not touch Nettie because he said that she was the ‘smart’ and ‘beautiful’ one, but the reason could have been that she wasn’t as compliant as Celie, who had grown up believing that she was unloveable and had no prospects except to be at the mercy of the men around her. Celie eventually gets married to Mister, who had come for Nettie’s hand but had taken Celie instead because Alfonso made a good ‘bargain.’ Celie is taken to Mister’s house, and from the first moment itself, it is clear that she has traded one hell for another. Nettie comes to live with her because Alfonso tried to abuse her the same way he did Celie, but unfortunately, Mister doesn’t prove to be an exception. When Nettie fights back, he throws her out of the house and forbids Celie from contacting her ever again. Celie and Natalie promise to write to each other, but years pass, and Celie doesn’t hear a word from her sister. She believes that she may be dead, but what she doesn’t know is that Mister has been keeping Nettie’s letter from her in the spirit of spite. If she ever asks about the mail, he either intimidates her or tells her there is nothing.

Celie’s son, Harpo, marries Sofia, who is carrying his child, and in so many ways, their relationship was doomed to fail from the start. Harpo never wanted to introduce Sofia to his parents, and it only happened because Sofia was tired of his excuses. He built a house for her, but from the first moment on, he couldn’t stand her outgoing nature and defiant attitude. Harpo even tells his mother that he wanted someone more compliant like her, and Celie, in a fit of jealousy over her daughter-in-law’s independence and the respect she commanded, told Harpo to beat her. But instead of subduing Sofia, it made her more angry. She confronts Celie for her advice, and the latter shamefully admits why she did that. Sofia forgives her while saying that she would not follow in these footsteps, that she had fought so hard against her whole life. Saying that, she leaves the house and the marriage. With that goes the one other friend that Celie finally managed to make.

Celie eventually finds another ray of hope in the form of Shug Avery, a popular singer whose music he has been a lifelong fan of. Shug was from the same place as Celie, and she had become very popular owing to her talent. She was also Mister’s former girlfriend, and he still pined over her. When Shug came to town, she stayed at Celie’s house and got along well with her. It is interesting that Celie never felt jealous of Shug or territorial toward Mister but saw her relationship with him as an escape for herself. She did not care about that as much as she did about being friends with Shug. After Sofia left Harpo, he turned their house into a juke house and started a relationship with another woman named Mary Agnes, whom he called Squeak. On the opening night of the Juke House, Shug was supposed to sing, and it was a success, except that Sofia and Mary Agnes got into a fight, and the whole party was ruined. Shug and Celie also spend that night together, and the next day, since Mister is not in the house, Shug finds Nettie’s letters from the mailman, and they find the rest of them hidden away. Celie is finally able to write back to her sister, though it would be a long time before they reunited.

Does Celie Reunite With Nettie?

Shug Avery’s presence was a brief respite but not a solution to how difficult the women’s lives were, who had racism to deal with on top of the crippling patriarchy. When Sofia refused to work for the mayor’s wife, she landed in jail because she hit back at the mayor, who hit her first. Sofia was in jail for six years, and that truly broke her pride and her spirit. When she got out, she was a shell of her previous self.

By this time, Mister had come to know about Nettie’s correspondence with Celie, and he understood that his wife had read the letters. This led to some physical abuse, and it had gotten to the point where Celie decided that she had enough. That day, when Shug Avery came for dinner and suggested that Celie leave with her, the latter agreed. Mister did not expect this defiance from his wife, but she was at a point where she simply did not care. He threatened her with every tool in his arsenal, which was trying to tell her that she was ‘no good’ and that he wouldn’t give her money. But Celie never needed any of those things, and she left, saying that if he did not do his part in making things right, everything he was proud of would be lost.

Once Celie got away from the house, she was a much happier woman. When her father passed away, she came to know that the house and land she had grown up on belonged to her mother and had been left to her. Alfonso had never been her birth father. He had just taken advantage of the situation to exert his cruelty on the children. Celie opened a dress shop with a lot of success, and finally, she was in a good place in her life.

Meanwhile, Mister suffered huge losses on his farm, and he remembered Celie’s words about his life being destroyed. That is when he decided to right the wrongs he had done. Nettie’s letters were still coming to his house, and Mister came to know that she needed someone to prove their citizenship and bring them back to the country. Mister sold a part of his land to cover those expenses and put things in place. Later, he brought some ugly pants from Celie to help her business and suggested that they may get back together, but she told him that they could only be friends.

During The Color Purple‘s ending, Celie sings about how she has learned to love herself after all her struggles, and when the family and friends are sitting for food, Nettie and Celie’s estranged children join them. This was Mister’s surprise and the first and only good thing he has done in the film. While Celie is happy to be reunited with her loved ones, so are the rest of the women who have earned the independence and love they are currently surrounded by. Even Shug Avery is forgiven by her father. As for Mister, his actions do not make up for the years of abuse he inflicted on Celie, but maybe she will find it in her heart to not wish him ill since he has done something right after all.

Final Thoughts

The Color Purple is an experience. It takes watching it to understand why it is so special and so well done. It is the first film of the year that we would call a compulsory watch.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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