Letter 10

Synopsis of Letter 10

In town one day, while waiting for Mr_, Celie sees a little girl aged about six who bears a strong resemblance to Celie and Alphonso. Convinced that this is the daughter who was taken from her six years earlier and whom she named Olivia, Celie follows the girl and the woman with her into a store.

Olivia’s new mother is buying cloth to make clothes for the child. Celie strikes up a conversation with the woman and finds out that her husband is a clergyman. After brusque service from the shopkeeper, Celie invites the woman and child to wait in Mr_’s wagon.

The woman admires the appearance of Mr _, which Celie hadn’t registered. She discloses that she privately calls her daughter Olivia (as Celie had), although the girl’s adoptive name is Pauline. She jokes and, before being collected by her clergyman husband, makes Celie laugh, much to the suspicion of Mr_.

Commentary on Letter 10

At this point in the narrative Celie is twenty or twenty-one years old and her letters begin to get longer and to show a greater depth of understanding about her surroundings. There is also more detail about the incidents and the characters with whom she comes into contact, although it still left to the reader to interpret and react to what is set down.

Celie gives a good deal of attention to her meeting with the adoptive mother of her daughter (later identified as Corrine). Celie’s extreme joy at this meeting emphasises the importance of her attachment to her children, particularly after having believed them dead or lost to her. Walker continues to develop this throughout the narrative.

The fact that the girl is still called by the name Celie had given her is stretching credibility to an extent (Olivia was embroidered on her nappies (‘diapers’ in standard American English and ‘daidies’ in southern American dialect). Walker also has to stress the strong physical resemblance between the child, Celie and Alphonso as evidence to support Celie’s instincts.

Social hierarchy

As two black women together, Corinne implies that she is Celie’s social superior when she emphasises her husband’s title. Inside the store, however, both women are made aware of their low social status by the storekeeper’s attitude to them.

Investigating Letter 10

  • Celie has previously focused on Shug’s eyes. What does she notice about the little girl’s eyes and what does the girl’s adoptive mother notice about them?
    • What do you think Walker is conveying through this detail?
    • On a fresh sheet of paper, make a table where you can note references to eyes and seeing throughout the novel
  • List the evidence which suggests to the reader that the storekeeper is white rather than African-American.
    • What do Corrine and Celie’s responses convey?
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