Letters 80–81: Summary and Analysis
Doris Baines: an old missionary from England
Harold: a small African child, and the adopted grandson of Doris Baines
Althea: Samuel’s aunt, a missionary
Theodosia: Corrine’s aunt, a missionary and friend to Althea
Edward DuBoyce: a young Harvard scholar
Nettie begins her letter by announcing that she and Samuel were married the previous fall. They were married in England, where they tried to get some help for the Olinkas. The entire village was displaced in order to build new headquarters for the rubber plantation. All of the huts are destroyed and the villagers must live in a gigantic shelter, covered in tin, which had to be paid for by the villagers themselves. Samuel and Nettie feel powerless to stop this and decide that they must go to England in order to receive some justice.
On their way to England, they meet Doris Baines, a wealthy former missionary who writes novels and travels with a small African child she has adopted as a grandson.
Having been born wealthy, Doris is dreadfully bored and decides to become a missionary in order to live in an isolated environment. She was sent to Africa. Using the family fortune, she builds up an entire town by herself. The chief of the tribe is so grateful that he sends her a couple of women as wives, since he doesn’t believe that she is a woman. Doris educates the girls and gives them to a couple of local men. She now enjoys being the “grandmama” of their children.
Once the group arrives in England, the Missionary Society is more interested in finding out why Nettie didn’t leave as soon as Corrine died, so that “appearances” could be kept up and the natives wouldn’t get the wrong idea. The problems of the Olinka are not even discussed, and Samuel and Nettie leave disgusted. Samuel feels that there is nothing left to do except encourage the Olinka tribe to join the mbeles, the renegades who live in the forest, apart from the white men.
While Nettie and Samuel spend time together in England, Samuel tells Nettie about how he had met Corrine. Samuel’s aunt and Corrine’s aunt were good friends, and they would bombard Samuel and Corrine with incessant stories of their adventures. The young lovers take these stories from their aunts with good humor. One night, Corrine’s aunt begins an often-heard tale of how she received an award from King Leopold of Belgium, when a young scholar interrupts her with tales of King Leopold’s cruelty. Samuel now understands Theodosia’s feelings, because he too feels unappreciated for all the effort that he put in trying to improve the Olinka village. Nettie tries to comfort Samuel, and in doing so, the comfort turns to passion for one another.
Once they announce to the children their plans to marry, Samuel and Nettie tell Adam and Olivia about their real mother. Adam is disturbed to hear that Celie is an abused wife, but Samuel promises that they will return to America soon and find her. After they are married, however, Olivia tells Nettie about something else which is bothering Adam. He is in love with Tashi, and concerned for her because she is about to have her face scarred, which is part of a coming-of-age ritual. What is worse, however, is that Tashi will undergo female circumcision, which is also part of the initiation ceremony.
When they return to the Olinka village, Adam and Olivia search for Tashi but cannot find her. She is missing for two days, but then returns to the village in pain from the scars around her face. Adam turns his back on Tashi after seeing the scars, and wishes to return to America. Nettie is hopeful that Adam will forgive Tashi. She has to work harder than ever in order to keep the village alive, but she is happier because she now has “a loving soul to share [her life] with.”
Nettie and Samuel try to hinder the force of progress from destroying the Olinka village, but all hope seems to be vanishing. The loss of roof-leaf, the symbol of protection by God, to man-made tin embodies the...
(The entire section is 1,342 words.)