Letter 11

Synopsis of Letter 11

Nettie runs away from Fonso and comes to stay with Celie and Mr_. Nettie’s presence is a comfort to her sister and she tries to pass on to Celie what she has learned in school. Nettie also urges Celie to try to control Mr_’s children more firmly, telling Celie to fight, but Celie says she only knows how to stay alive.

It quickly becomes apparent that Mr_ is still attracted to Nettie and hopes to seduce her while she is in his house. He pesters Nettie, complimenting her on her appearance, but Nettie does not respond and eventually Mr_ tells Celie that Nettie must leave. Both sisters are sad at the thought of parting from one another, but Celie is comforted by the fact that she will never be alone as long as she has God in her life.

Celie’s parting gift to Nettie is the name of the Minister who is married to Corinne, the foster mother of Celie’s children. Before Nettie leaves Celie asks her to keep in touch by letter and Nettie promises that nothing but death will prevent her from staying in touch with her sister.

Commentary on Letter 11

Nettie correctly identifies that the cause of Celie’s problem with Mr_ and his children is because Celie does not stand up for herself. It is obvious that Nettie is more resilient than her sister, being able to reject Mr_’s advances, even though the end result is that she is thrown out of Mr_’s house.

The love and loyalty between the sisters is foregrounded through Nettie’s promise to her sister that nothing but death can keep Nettie from writing to Celie while they are apart. 

Although it is many years before Nettie’s letters reach her sister, the promise is kept and the introduction of the correspondence lays the foundation for all the descriptions of Africa that Walker introduces later in the novel.

Walker also establishes a link between Celie and her lost children by having Celie advise Nettie to seek help from the Reverend (Solomon)’s wife, Corinne.

Investigating Letter 11

  • On a blank piece of paper, start a spidergram about the character of Nettie, making deductions about her character, with evidence to support each one. (Keep this for future notes.)
  • What is the significance of Celie’s mention of Corinne as the only woman she has seen with money?


Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.