Letter 16

Synopsis of Letter 16

Mr_ is still in an abnormal emotional state of mind, sitting around all day, looking at nothing. Harpo, who is afraid of his father, is told to do all the ploughing on the farm. Celie works alongside him and the pair work as hard as former slaves, while Mr_ does nothing at all.

Commentary on Letter 16

At this point in the novel, Walker begins to develop the character of Harpo, who now begins to emerge as a more sympathetic figure. A parallel is drawn between the characters of Celie and Harpo, who are both strong physically but weak_willed. Celie thinks that Harpo’s weakness, and his distress at the way he is treated by his father, makes him seem feminine. She comments on his sad eyes and how they make his face look thoughtful, like a woman’s, because he is in love.

The love affair of Harpo and Sofia is developed from letter 16 to letter 21, deferring the appearance of Shug Avery (which occurs in Letter 22) and thereby creating a heightened level of suspense for the reader.

Investigating Letter 16

  • Add some information to Harpo’s character sheet.
  • Why do you think Celie describes Harpo as womanly?
    • Do you agree with her assessment?
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