Minor characters

Celie's Mother is never named and suffers a mental collapse after her husband (Celie and Nettie’s natural father) is lynched by a mob of white business people, then mutilated, and burned. She then marries the man Celie knows as ‘Fonso’ or ‘Pa’ and bears him a number of children. Her repeated pregnancies make her seriously ill and she dies when Celie is pregnant with her second child.

May Ellen is a young teenager who becomes Fonso’s second wife shortly after Celie’s mother dies. (Letter 4) She, too, has a number of children by Fonso but leaves him eventually and goes back with the children to her parents’ house. Fonso tells Celie later in the narrative that she left because she became ‘too old’ for him (Letter 69).

Daisy is the woman Fonso marries after May Ellen leaves him. She is fifteen and her parents work on Fonso’s land. Fonso describes himself as Daisy’s ‘people’, implying that he is both her father and her husband. Daisy seems to be completely devoted to Fonso, which revolts both Shug and Celie when they visit him (Letter 69).

Miss Addie Beasley is Nettie’s and Celie's teacher. She tries to persuade Fonso to let Celie stay on at school, but he refuses because he believes Celie is too ‘dumb’ to be educated. Fonso’s opinion of Miss Beasley is scathing and he states that no man is interested in a woman who ‘runs off at the mouth’. The only thing intelligent women are good for, in his opinion, is teaching in school (Letter 8). However, the fact that Miss Beasley instils in both girls the significance of education means that they are able to widen their horizons beyond the confines of what men proscribe.

Kate and Carrie are Albert’s sisters, who come to inspect Celie after she is married to their brother (Letter 12). They criticise his first wife, Annie Julia, for not being a good housewife, but praise Celie for her housekeeping skills and the way in which she looks after the children. Kate persuades Albert to buy Celie a new dress and urges Celie to stand up for herself. She tries to make Harpo fetch water but is ordered out of the house by Albert when Harpo complains to his father that he shouldn’t be doing women’s work.

Annie Julia was Albert's wife and the mother of Harpo and several more of his children. She was murdered by her boyfriend who shot her in the stomach on the way home from church. Harpo held her in his arms while she died (Letter 17). Both Harpo and his siblings suffer from nightmares as a result.

By the end of the narrative, the reader feels great sympathy for Annie Julia who was Celie’s predecessor as an unwanted and abused wife, particularly as Albert and Shug both regret the meanness with which they treated her.

Bub is another of Albert's sons, who takes to drink and is in and out of jail frequently as he grows up. Albert’s daughters are not mentioned by name but are described as having their eyes on the road, implying that they are quite restless and possibly rebellious.

Albert's Daddy is never named except by his relationship to his son. He disapproves of Shug Avery and her family and believes that she is a bad influence on Albert. He seems to believe that his own status as a landowner makes him better than other people and that Albert’s relationship with Shug brings his own family into disrepute. Celie detests him because he criticises Shug and spits in his water glass. She decides that if he visits again she will add some of Shug’s urine to his next drink (Letter 27).

Tobias is Albert's brother who is fat and described as a ‘yellow bear’. Like many other men, Tobias is fascinated by Shug and comes to visit her while she is staying with Albert and Celie. He brings a tiny box of chocolates as a gift for Shug and patronises Celie who is sewing a quilt, comparing her with his own wife, Margaret, who can’t sew at all.

Shug Avery’s smile for Tobias is like a ‘razor’ and her treatment of him is suitably dismissive. Celie comments on his obsession with money and social position, but reveals that both Albert’s father and Tobias are quite poor because most of their land has been sold off. The fields that belong to Albert, Harpo and Celie make more money (Letter 27).

Odessa is one of Sofia's five sisters, all of whom are big and strong, Walker describing them as Amazons. Like Sofia, Odessa is strong-willed and loyal to her family. She is married to Jack but they have no children of their own, so she and her husband provide a home for Sofia and her children when Sofia decides to leave Harpo (Letter 30). Together with Shug and Mary Agnes, Odessa helps to secure Sofia’s release from prison and she and Jack bring up Sofia’s children while Sofia serves out her sentence. Odessa and her sisters also defy convention by acting as pallbearers at their mother’s funeral (Letter 78) where Harpo finally realises the sisters are to be admired.

More on Amazons: In Ancient Greek mythology, the Amazons were a tribe of female warriors whose Greek name can be translated as ‘without a breast’. According to legend, Amazon women cut off their right breasts so they could shoot better with a bow and arrow. There is ample evidence that a tribe of female warriors did exist in Asia Minor and they may well have been Scythian warriors from Iran (Persia) who were skilled horse riders.

Jack is Odessa's husband and runs a small farm. He is drafted into the army and later in the novel he donates a pair of serviceable army trousers to Celie to convert into work trousers. He is one of the less objectionable men in the novel and is portrayed as strong and loyal to his wife and her extended family. He is the only male character that Celie honours with a specially made pair of her ‘Folkspants’.

Swain is Harpo's musician friend. He helps Harpo to build the juke joint after Sofia leaves him and provides accompaniment to Shug on guitar (which is called a ‘box’) when she appears there to sing.

Henry (Buster) Broadnax is the man Sofia dates after she leaves Harpo. He is quite prosperous, owns a car and treats Sofia as an equal. Buster is present when Sofia attacks the Mayor and takes part in the family conference to get Sofia out of prison, where his solution is to blow up the prison. He is also probably the father of Sofia’s youngest daughter, Henrietta, although that is never explicitly stated.

Bubber Hodges is the white prison warden. Squeak is one of three illegitimate children born to Bubber’s brother, Jimmy Hodges, and therefore Bubber’s niece. Rejecting this association, Bubber Hodges rapes her, seeing it simply as ‘a little fornication’ – a racist attitude associated with the white patriarchy

Suzie Q (Jolentha) is the daughter of Mary Agnes and Harpo who is looked after by Sofia when her mother pursues her singing career.

Henrietta is Sofia's youngest child, probably fathered by Henry Broadnax. She is consistently described as mean, ‘trouble’ or stormy, yet secures the particular affection of Albert and also Harpo, who accepts her as his own when he and Sofia are reunited. Her moodiness may be linked to the serious blood disease she suffers (probably sickle cell anaemia, although it is not named). The illness is alleviated by eating large quantities of yams, which Henrietta hates and Eleanor Jane and Albert both cook dishes for her that she can eat.

Jerene and Darlene are unmarried twins who come to work for Celie, sewing garments that Celie designs for Folkspants Unlimited. Walker uses Darlene to try and impose the social aspiration of an ‘educated’ register on Celie - Standard American English instead of African-American English (Letter 77) – since black people who use ‘country’ language are considered to be uneducated. Just as the Olinka ultimately reject values imposed on them in favour of their own identity, so Celie considers, then rejects changing how she expresses herself.

Doris Baines (‘Jared Hunt’) is an elderly white missionary, originally held up as an example to Nettie and Samuel, who is very different when they meet her on their trip to England. Far from being an example of dedicated faith, she has pursued her own desires, ignored the spiritual needs of those she meets but helped them materially. Rejecting social convention, she is happy to be accompanied by her black ‘grandchild,’ Harold.

Stanley Earl is Eleanor Jane's husband, who soon neglects her in order to run his father’s cotton gin. On a visit to Sofia’s house, (Letter 87) he tells her that he would like to fight overseas but has to stay at home to provide cloth for army uniforms. As a younger generation white, he is over-eager to show that he is tolerant of black people without realising that he is patronising and not sincere.

James and Cora Mae are Shug’s son and daughter-in-law. James lives with Cora Mae in Tucson, Arizona and is the only one of Shug’s children who agrees to have contact with his mother (Letter 87). Echoing the situation of Samuel and Corinne in Africa, James is a teacher who works with Native Americans on a reservation. The Indians call him a ‘black white man’, which upsets him, but they do not care because everyone who is not the same as they are is unimportant to them.

James and his wife have two children called Davis and Cantrell. It is James who tells Shug that her mother and father have been dead for ten years and she decides to put flowers on their graves when she returns home.

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