Letter 2

Synopsis of Letter 2

Celie’s second letter to God is written over a year later, when she is pregnant with her second child. She describes her first baby’s birth which came as a complete surprise to her. When her mother asked who was responsible for the pregnancy Celie told her that it was God. The new-born baby girl (Olivia) has been taken away by Alphonso and Celie fears that he has killed (standard version of the dialect ‘kilt’) the child in the woods. Celie’s mother later dies in agony, cursing Celie, who is afraid that Alphonso will kill her next baby too. In spite of her condition and her complete lack of household skills, Celie is forced to keep house and look after her younger brothers and sisters after her mother’s death.

Commentary on Letter 2

Two important themes are introduced in this letter, both of which are explored and developed throughout the narrative:

  • Black women are exploited as household drudges and expected to care for large numbers of children in very primitive conditions
  • Black men believe that they have the right to dominate and control all aspects of family life.

Celie’s relationship with her mother is fractured because of Alphonso’s sexual abuse of Celie. The callous removal of his stepdaughter’s child shows a level of brutality on the part of Alphonso that is difficult for a contemporary reader to comprehend.

The reader is obliged to interpret the narrator’s anxious, urgent messages to God, whom Celie assumes will understand everything that has happened and somehow intervene to remedy her situation.

Investigating Letter 2

  • Why does Celie’s mother curse her?
  • What do Celie’s requests to God tell us about
    • Her emotional maturity?
    • Her beliefs?
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