Letters 52–60: Summary and Analysis
Adam: Celie’s lost son, now the adopted son of Samuel and Corrine
Celie reads Nettie’s adventures since leaving the farm of Mr.____. The next letters are read from Nettie’s point of view.
Nettie writes that as she left the farm, she was followed by Mr.____, who wanted to take advantage of her. Nettie manages to hurt Mr.____ just enough to escape. She finds her way to the home of the Reverend Mr.____, and is surprised to see a little girl with eyes just like her sister’s open the door.
She is taken in by the reverend and his wife, Samuel and Corrine, and takes care of the children, Adam and Olivia. She finds happiness and friends within the family, but can’t help but worry about Celie, who “laid [herself] down for me.” Samuel and Corrine are missionaries who are preparing for work in Africa. Nettie becomes concerned when she doesn’t get a response and understands that Mr.____ is keeping these letters from Celie. Nettie doesn’t know what to do, since the family will leave for Africa soon and she will have to find a new job somewhere in town.
Later, Nettie writes with the news that she is going to Africa with Samuel and Corrine. One missionary canceled at the last minute because she suddenly was married, and Nettie was allowed to take the woman’s place. As she prepares to leave, she goes into town for some things and meets Sofia, who is tending to the mayor’s wife. Not knowing the history behind her, she writes to Celie that Sofia looked like “…the very last person in the world you’d expect to see waiting on anybody, and in particular not on anybody that looked like the mayor’s wife.”
She describes her trip to Africa by way of New York in vivid detail, everything surprising and delighting her. She reminds Celie that their ancestors were born in Africa, and that “millions and millions of Africans were captured and sold into slavery—you and me, Celie!” When she first sees the African coast, however, her soul vibrates “like a large bell.” She wonders if she will ever be able to tell all to Celie.
Celie reads these letters in shock, unable to fight the urge to kill Mr.____ for what he has done. Shug pleads with her to keep her sanity because Nettie will return one day, and “she [would] be pissed if you change on her while she on her way home.” Furthermore, if Celie kills Mr.____, then Shug will lose her. She doesn’t want what happened with Sofia to happen with her. Celie asks Shug if she can sleep with her instead of Mr.____ while she is here, and Shug readily agrees.
This section begins with a change of narration. A first-person narrative is still used, but it is from the perspective of another character. The impact of the text is different because Nettie is a more active participant in events than Celie. This can be seen in the only event shared by the two women, the contact that they both have with Sofia. Celie, earlier, could not offer any direct assistance in helping Sofia from jail. Nettie, however, talks to Sofia upon sight, and cannot believe that a woman like that could be in such a situation. The biggest difference between Nettie and Celie is that Nettie is active in dealing with her problems, while Celie has been mostly passive. This introduction of Nettie as a narrator is foreshadowing, or a clue that the text will now have a much more active voice.
The images of God and the church, which we have seen in symbols, are embodied in the characters of Corrine and Samuel. Earlier in the novel, the reader connected their possession of Olivia and Adam with the idea that they were protected, in a sense, by God. Now that Nettie is within their...
(The entire section is 989 words.)