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Publishing history

The Color Purple was published in America in 1982 and in Britain by the Women’s Press, London, in 1983. A new preface was added in 1992 to mark the tenth anniversary of the novel’s publication. These synopses and the detailed commentaries are based on the text of the British edition.

The letters between Celie and her sister Nettie are not numbered in any edition of the novel, so for individual study purposes it is useful for students to number the letters in the text. Letters that are quoted within letters should not be numbered. Each letter in the novel begins on a fresh page.

A chronology of The Color Purple

The dates of the following are inevitably approximate:

Year Event Celie's age
1904 Celie begins first letter 14
1905 Bears 1st child (Olivia) 15
1906 Mama's death 16
1908? Bears 2nd child 18?
1910 Celie marries Albert (Mr_) 20
1911 Celie sees her daughter Olivia (now six years old) 21
1912 Nettie runs away 22
1913-14 Nettie goes to Africa with Samuel and Corrine 23-24
1917 Harpo and Sofia marry 27
1921 Shug comes to stay with Albert and Celie 31
1922/3 Sofia leaves Harpo 32/3
1924 Sofia in jail 34
1927 Sofia becomes housemaid in Mayor's household 37
1934 Shug now married to Grady. Visits for Christmas. 44
1935 Nettie's first letter given to Celie 45
1936 Sofia released from prison. Corrine dies. Nettie marries Samuel 46
1941 Sisters reunited. All relationships resolved 51

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