Letters 70–73: Summary and Analysis
Nettie tells Samuel and Corrine that she is the aunt of Adam and Olivia, and her sister, Celie, is their mother. Corrine, however, doesn’t believe her. Nettie tries to make Corrine remember her meeting with Celie in the dry goods store years ago, but Corrine doesn’t remember. When Nettie shows her a quilt made from the cloth that Corrine had bought so long ago in order to make Olivia a dress, Corrine starts to cry. She had blocked Celie out of her memory because she looked so much like Olivia that Corrine was afraid that Celie would want her daughter back. Samuel, Corrine, and Nettie hold each other until Corrine drifts off to sleep. Later, she murmurs to Samuel, “I believe,” and dies.
Corrine is buried in the Olinka way, and everyone suffers from her loss. Samuel, especially, seems “like someone lost.” Nettie takes this moment of loss to lament for Celie and pray that she eventually meets with her sister. Samuel asks Nettie to describe Celie, and Nettie is so anxious to tell someone about her sister that her words “pour out like water.” Samuel regrets that he did not interfere in Celie’s marriage with Mr.____.
Celie, meanwhile, addresses her new letter to Nettie, not God. She pretends not to know God, which shocks and offends Shug. Celie is surprised to hear that Shug believes in God, considering the life she has led. Shug, however, tells Celie that God is inside you, and not in the church. Shug does not believe in Christianity; to her, God is in everything and the true way to love and worship God is to appreciate what God has made. Celie tries hard to “chase that old white man,” the stereotypical image of God, out of her mind. She tries to accept the belief that “God is everything” and to learn to love God in a spiritual manner. However, she finds this “hard work”; she has thought that God was a white man her entire life. Now that she wants to forget this man, “he don’t want to budge.”
In the previous section, Corrine and Celie both suffered crises that affected their entire lives. Now, they both begin a long healing process. Celie and Corrine must learn to live their lives despite the crises and to trust others again. Fortunately, even though they have lost their faith, they have not lost the people who love and support them. Walker uses this section not only to present the conflicts of two women who have crises of faith, but to introduce into the novel concepts of faith and religion removed from standard Christianity. Walker had discarded Christianity long before she wrote her first novel, and the ideas introduced in this section parallel her own beliefs, which are based upon nature and African folklore.
Corrine doesn’t believe anything anymore, even though Nettie has let her see her stomach to prove she wasn’t pregnant. It is easier for Corrine to believe that it is possible to “rub out” stretch marks. Nettie is able to jog Corrine’s memory by using the quilt, which Walker uses as a symbol of protection in this novel. By bringing Corrine the quilt and showing her the fabric, Corrine is able to remember Celie. Symbolically, Nettie “laid the quilt across the bed,” covering Corrine, and in effect, giving her the support she needs. Corrine is fully healed when she holds on to Samuel and Nettie, fixing the circle that had been broken. Having done this, Corrine can die in peace.
Celie’s blasphemy is not so easy to fix, since it has been brought about by years of unanswered prayer. The reader is surprised to find out that Shug becomes a symbol of spirituality, since her behavior has never been stereotypically holy. Her reasoning, however, does explain why Celie’s prayers have gone unanswered, and why the church has been the scene of some horrible acts committed against women.
Shug has been a sensual person, and her talk of “devil’s music” implied that she was immoral, but that was only because the churchgoers equated sex with immorality. Shug has never felt this...
(The entire section is 1,302 words.)