Celie, a fourteen year old black girl, lives with her dying mother and abusive father in the South. Her father rapes her, impregnating her twice, and then rids himself of the children after birth. She learns to obey men to the letter, to grow used to beatings, and has dropped out of school in order to do housework. However, her "cleverer" and "prettier" sister, Nettie, is allowed to continue her studies, and is lusted after by a Mr. Johnson, who is known to have a dark past with a woman named Shug Avery. However, Nettie declines the mans advances, and the father offers Celie instead. Nettie and Celie are separated for years, each making their own discoveries about love, god and bigotry.