The Color Purple, Alice Walker's third novel, brought worldwide fame to its author and won both the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. The novel's major theme is womanhood: how black women interact with -- and are abused by -- men and how they relate to each other. Its secondary themes include self-discovery and growth. The story is told in the form of letters exchanged between two sisters, Celie and Nettie, and in letters Celie addresses to God. Celie is a victim of incest, having been repeatedly raped by her father and threatened by him not to tell anyone. As a result of these rapes, she bears two children, who are taken from her. She is also stuck in an unhappy marriage to a man whom she detests so much that she won't speak his name. Celie writes about these incidents in her letters to God.
Celie's life continues unchanged until her husband's former lover, a blues singer named Shug Avery, shows up. Shug's sense of independence inspires Celie; they become friends and, for a time, lovers. Shug discovers a series of letters addressed to Celie from Nettie that had been intercepted by Celie's husband and convinces him to stop abusing Celie. She also encourages Celie to choose an occupation for herself so that she feels less dependent on her husband. Celie establishes her own business, designing and making pants for men and women. Nettie, who has been working as a missionary in Africa with her husband Samuel, reveals in her letters that Celie's abuser was not her biological father and that Celie's children are with her in Africa. At the novel's end, Nettie returns home and the two sisters are reunited.