Celie is a poor and uneducated black girl. Only 14-years old, Celie has had to endure much more than most adults have to endure in a lifetime. She writes letters to God, explaining her predicament, seeking answers. And also because she has no one else to discuss the problems with.
In the first few letters, she tells God that her father, Alphonso, has raped her and impregnated her for the second time. But she never actually gets to keep the children. Her mother is ill and dies cursing her. Celie takes it upon herself to protect her sister Nettie from their father’s sexual advances. Celie’s father soon marries her off to Mr. _ following which, Nettie runs away.
Mr._ physically and verbally abuses Celie. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she is forced to look after his children, who leave no chance to abuse her verbally and physically either. Nettie arrives at Celie’s house where Mr._ makes advances on her, and Celie advises her to seek out the well-dressed black woman she saw some days back. What Celie does not know is that the woman has adopted both her children. Nettie leaves and promises to write to her, but Celie never receives any letters and assumes she died.
Sometime later, Harpo, Mr._’s son falls in love and marries Sofia. Sofia is assertive and sure of herself, making Celie jealous. Sofia is pregnant with Harpo’s child, and shortly after marriage, they have five more children. Harpo asks Celie for advice on how to control his wife, but she advises him to be gentle with her. He follows her advice for a while but falls back under the sway of his father. At this point, he is advised by Celie to beat her, which angers Sofia. Celie apologizes and confesses she was jealous and confides in her about Mr._’s abuse. Sofia tells her to fight back.
A little while later, Shug Avery, Mr._’s long-time mistress falls ill and he takes her in. A jazz singer, she is looked down upon by Mr._’s father. Celie however has been fascinated by Shug ever since she saw her pictures and is happy to nurse her. Although initially rude, Shug becomes softer towards Celie, and eventually, they become friends. Celie becomes infatuated with Shug.
Harpo’s domineering behaviour frustrates Sofia enough to make her move out of their home. A short while after she leaves, Harpo meets and starts to date Squeak. Harpo transforms their home to a juke joint, where a fully recovered Shug performs. She decides to stay back for Celie upon learning about Mr. _ abusing her, bringing them closer. Returning for a visit, Sofia gets in a fight with Squeak. Soon after, Shug leaves for Memphis.
When in town with her new boyfriend, Sofia slaps the mayor’s wife when she asks her to become her maid. This lands her in prison. The police arrive and Sofia is sentenced to 12 years in prison. Squeak takes care of Sofia’s children, forging a friendship between the two women. Upon her release, she is forced to work for the mayor’s wife.
Shug returns soon, although married, she initiates a sexual relationship with Celie. She asks her about Nettie one night and the two women realize that Mr._ had been intercepting her letters. She opens all the letters and Shug helps her read them. Through the letters, Celie comes to know through the letters that Nettie had befriended a missionary couple- Corrine and Samuel, who have two children- Adam and Olivia. Nettie suspected the children to be Celie’s. The couple invited her to come with them to Africa for their missionary expedition, to help the Olinka tribe there.
Corrine later starts suspecting that Samuel fathered the children with Nettie, and tries to dissociate her from the family. It is revealed through the letters that by this time, Nettie had started to become disillusioned with her missionary work. Nettie asks Samuel to reveal the truth about the children, which Samuel does.
Samuel’s explanation fills Nettie in on the missing pieces of their life. She realizes that Alphonso was not their real father, and exploited their mother’s mental collapse for monetary gain. Their actual father was lynched by white men for his success. Samuel’s explanation confirms Nettie’s suspicions about their children being Celie’s and she thus confesses to Corrine and Samuel her relation with the children. Although refusing to believe it, Corrine finally does when reminded of her earlier encounter with Celie and dies in peace. Celie visits Alphonso to confirm Samuel’s words and is angered when he does agree to it. She begins to lose her faith in God, which is when Shug advises her to stop thinking of God as a man, but think of nature as God.
Celie soon decides to leave Mr._, having endured enough of his abuse. She puts a curse on him before leaving with Shug and Squeak for Tennessee. Alphonso dies and Celie inherits the land, where she opens her shop. Shug falls in love with another man and leaves for a while. Although crushed, Celie waits for her return and establishes herself as a seamstress. Meanwhile, Mr._ has changed dramatically owing to her curse, and she begins to call him by his first name, Albert.
Soon, Nettie and Samuel marry and return to America with the children. But before their return, Adam, Celie’s son runs off to marry Tashi, an Olinka girl who has undergone the facial scarring and female circumcision rituals. In solidarity with her, he also undergoes the face scarring ritual. With their return, Celie and Nettie are finally reunited. Shug returns as well and the two women introduce their families to each other.
The story is a celebration of female friendships and what women can do for each other with a little bit of support.
Adapted from the novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
Story adaptation by Mansidak Kaur.