Letter 5

Synopsis of Letter 5

Alphonso beats Celie because she has winked at a boy in church, which she refutes, since she only looks at women, who do not constitute a threat to her.

Celie confesses to God that rather than hate the mother who cursed her, she feels sorry for her, for believing in Alphonso’s lies, whose behaviour probably killed her.

Alphonso is still eyeing up Nettie but Celie tries to safeguard her and advises Nettie to agree to the marriage with Mr_ in order to get away from Alphonso and have one good year before becoming a mother.

We discover Celie’s monthly periods have ceased.

Commentary on Letter 5

Walker illustrates the brutality of the male characters in the novel when Alphonso beats Celie because he thinks she is being flirtatious in church. Even though he no longer wishes to sleep with Celie, he reacts aggressively when he thinks she is attracted to a younger man. This is not only unjust, but illustrates Alphonso’s complete disregard for Celie’s dignity, as well as his arrogant assumption that he has the right to control every aspect of her behaviour.

The incident gives an important insight into Celie’s character and her attitude to men, when she tells God that she is only comfortable looking at women because they do not make her afraid. Her experiences at the hands of lustful and violent men from an early age inevitably affect the way she feels about males in general.

Investigating Letter 5

  • On a blank piece of A4 start a spidergram about the character of Celie, making deductions about her character, with evidence to support each one. (Keep this for future notes.)
  • Celie’s advice to Nettie that she should marry Mr_ seems to be contradictory, given the previous remarks to her sister about using education as a way of avoiding the match. Why do you think she says this?
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