Adam is Celie’s son who was adopted by the missionary Reverend Samuel and his wife, Corrine. When the Reverend and his family return to America, Celie is reunited with her grown son.
Albert is the widower with four children who buys Celie from her stepfather. Albert treats Celie with cruelty, using her to satisfy his sexual needs and to take care of his children. He really loves Shug Avery, who later comes to live with Albert and Celie when she is sick. Celie appreciates Shug’s presence in the house, because Albert treats her better when Shug is around. Albert later in life softens and Celie takes him in as a helper in her business.
C Albert’s father
Albert’s father comes to visit when he hears that Albert has taken Shug Avery into his house. He says many nasty things about Shug and expresses his disapproval of what his son is doing. Albert asks him to leave.
Celie’s stepfather. When Celie’s mother is sick and dying, he rapes Celie and continues to do so long enough for Celie to have two children, whom he sells to a local missionary and his wife. He doesn’t tell Celie what has happened to the children, and initially Celie thinks he killed them. Celie later learns that he is not her real father. Her real father was lynched years before by a white mob. Alphonso tells Celie not to tell anyone but God about what he has done to her. He warns her that if she tells, it will kill her mother.
E Shug Avery
Shug, a blues singer, is the woman that Albert loves. She is a sophisticated and liberated woman. After she comes to stay with Albert and Celie, who care for her while she is sick, she and Celie develop a deep relationship. Shug helps Celie gain self-esteem and teaches her to speak up for herself. She finds the letters from Nettie to Celie that Albert has for years kept hidden away from Celie. Shug also helps Celie get started in her business by encouraging her to sew. Later in the story, Shug returns again to Celie and Albert’s home, but this time with a husband. Along with Sofia and Nettie, Shug is a role model who helps Celie change her life.
F Addie Beasley
Nettie and Celie’s teacher, who recognizes the girls’ intense desire to learn. Their stepfather, Alphonso, is contemptuous of her when she tells him that his daughters are smart.
Carrie is a sister of Albert’s who comes to visit. She tells Celie that Celie is a much better housekeeper than Albert’s first wife.
Celie is the heroine of the novel. Most of the letters that comprise the book are letters Celie writes to God or, after learning that her sister Nettie is in Africa, to Nettie. Celie does not know about Nettie’s attempts to communicate with her until Shug finds the letters from Nettie that Albert has hidden. Through the character of Celie, the author is able to present her message of sexual liberation and self-determination for women. Through Celie’s voice, which speaks in black folk English, life in the world of a poor, black, rural sharecropper family unfolds. In the beginning of the story, Celie is a young girl who has been raped by her stepfather, who later sells her to Albert, her husband. Both men treat Celie cruelly and without any regard for her needs or feelings. Celie is forbearing and a hard worker, for which every one praises her. When Albert’s mistress, Shug comes to live with them, Celie becomes liberated from her oppression because of Shug’s intervention on her behalf, and because she learns to stand up for herself with Shug’s encouragement.
Corrine is the Reverend Samuel’s wife. Corrine and Samuel are missionaries who adopt Celie’s children. Nettie becomes their helper, and the missionaries leave for Africa with Nettie and the children. When Corrine dies in Africa, Nettie marries Samuel. She and Samuel, along with their adopted children, Adam and Olivia, return to America when war breaks out in Africa. Adam’s African wife Tashi also comes to America with them.
Shug Avery’s husband, whom she brings to meet Celie and Albert later in the story after some absence from Celie and Albert’s home. Shug and Grady return in a sporty car.
Albert’s son. Harpo marries Sofia and they have five children. In his relationship with Sofia, Harpo tries to live up to his father’s role as the domineering male. Because Sofia is a strong-willed young lady, she becomes disgusted with the way Harpo treats her and leaves him for a time. When she returns with a boyfriend, Harpo is jealous. Eventually, they get back together, but their relationship changes. Harpo accepts her strong character and stops trying to dominate her.
L Warden Tom Hodges
The officer in charge of the prison where Sofia is sent after she insults the mayor’s wife. When his niece, Squeak, comes to see him in an effort to get Sofia released from prison, Hodges rapes her. Walker uses this scene to illustrate the mentality of racism in the South during the period of the novel. Hodges is the brother of Squeak’s white father. Because his niece is black on her mother’s side, Hodges has no qualms about sexually assaulting her.
One of Albert’s sisters. On one of her visits she tells Albert to buy Celie some clothes.
Celie’s mother, who is sickly and dies in the early part of the story. When she refuses to have sex with her husband, Albert, he rapes Celie.
The mayor of the town with whom Sofia has a run-in. Sofia is jailed for insulting the mayor and his wife.
The mayor’s wife, with whom Sofia has a run-in. Sofia insults Millie and is arrested. After serving her sentence, Sofia is freed only to become the live-in caretaker of Millie’s children.
Celie’s younger sister. Nettie is saved from a fate like Celie’s because she has been taken in by the Reverend Samuel and his wife Corrine. When they leave for Africa on missionary work, Nettie goes with them. Nettie’s letters to Celie are written in standard English to reflect the fact that she received a better education than Celie. In her letters to Celie, Nettie tells her a great deal about Africa, which comes to represent the larger world as well as African-American ethnic identity in the novel. When the Reverend’s wife dies, Nettie marries him. She continues to raise his adopted children, who happen to be Celie’s by her stepfather. Nettie returns to America and reunites Celie with her children.
Sofia’s sister. Odessa takes care of Sofia’s children when Sofia is sent to jail.
Celie’s daughter by her stepfather. Olivia was adopted by the Reverend Samuel and his wife Corrine, along with her brother Adam, who was also one of Celie’s children. Olivia returns to America with the Reverend, Nettie, Adam, and his wife, Tashi, and is reunited with Celie, her birth mother.
When Sofia returns home after leaving Harpo for a substantial absence, she brings a prizefighter with her. He is her boyfriend, and Sofia uses him to make Harpo jealous.
U Reverend Samuel
The missionary who adopts Celie’s children from Albert. Celie does not know they have been adopted. She thinks Albert killed them. The Reverend, his wife, and Nettie, who has been taken in by them, leave with the children for Africa to do some missionary work there. After the Reverend loses his wife, he marries Nettie.
One of the three major female characters in the story who have a positive influence on Celie. Celie sees how Sofia stands up for herself to Harpo and to the white community as well. When Sofia becomes disgusted with Harpo’s behavior toward her, she leaves him for awhile. When she returns, she taunts him with her new boyfriend, a prizefighter. Eventually, Sofia and Harpo reunite in a different relationship. When she is insulted by the mayor’s wife, she talks back and causes a scene, for which she is arrested and thrown in jail.
Squeak becomes Harpo’s girlfriend after Sofia leaves him. When Sofia returns she is quite nasty to her, but she also helps Sofia out when she is jailed for standing up for herself from being insulted by whites. When Squeak intercedes for her with her white uncle, Warden Tom Hodges, she is raped by him.
The musician who performs at the jukejoint Harpo has built.
Adam’s African wife, who comes to America with him and the rest of the missionary family when they Africa to escape hostilities there.
Albert’s brother, who comes to visit Shug while she is sick at Albert’s house. He brings some chocolate, and they socialize while Celie teaches Shug to quilt.