Letter 7

Synopsis of Letter 7

Alphonso’s new wife becomes sick during her first pregnancy and Celie diverts Alphonso’s sexual advances to Nettie by offering herself to him instead. Trying to make herself attractive, she is beaten for dressing like a tramp, but then used for sex, leaving her distressed.

Mr_ (Albert) visits to persuade Pa to agree to Mr_ ’s marriage to Nettie. Alphonso refuses but offers Celie instead, listing her perceived defects and advantages. He also offers to donate a cow to Mr_ , as part of the bargain.

Celie overhears this unflattering account of herself, but finds some consolation in looking at the photograph of Shug Avery, whose sad eyes seem to give Celie an assurance that Shug understands the way the world is for women at times.

Commentary on Letter 7

For the first time in this letter the reader finds out Celie’s first name and that she is twenty years old. Her attempts to make herself sexually attractive to Alphonso are pitiful in the extreme. The fact that she is beaten before she is abused emphasises the brutality with which women are treated by dominant, aggressive men in the novel.

The exchange between Alphonso and Albert about Celie’s qualities as a prospective wife make it clear that she is regarded as a piece of property – particularly chilling is the idea that a new husband can do anything he wants to her without consequence.

Alphonso is contemptuous of women in general and speaks of his young wife in an equally disparaging way. His refusal to give Nettie in marriage to Mr_ is not because he admires or respects her, but because he wants to use her for sex while his young wife is pregnant.

The double standards and hypocrisy on the part of the dominant males are sharply contrasted with female submission and lack of worth and status.

Investigating Letter 7

  • What does the fact that Celie has avoided revealing her name until this point in the narrative suggest about her self-esteem?
  • Celie uses only pronouns and titles for Alphonso and Albert but frequently names Nettie and Shug. What does this tell us about her?
  • What are the connotations of the word ‘spoiled’ and what does that tell us about the way in which Celie is perceived?
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