Letter 23

Synopsis of Letter 23

Celie reports that Shug is sicker than Celie’s mother was just before she died; however she does not die and Celie puts this down to the fact that Shug is evil. By this, Celie probably means that Shug has a strong character and is determined not to give in to her sickness.

Mr _ sits by Shug’s bedside constantly, despite Shug’s rejection of his help. She calls him Albert to Celie’s astonishment, as it’s a name that Celie has never used. Celie notes how easily Albert can be subdued and that he has a weak chin.

Commentary on Letter 23

Although Celie continues to use the title of Mr_ until almost the end of the novel, the reader is likely from this point to think of him as Albert. His obvious care and love for Shug alters the reader’s perception of him as an overbearing male. In fact Albert shows weakness in this situation, whereas Celie seems to gain inner strength from Shug’s presence in the house.

For the first time in the novel, Celie and her husband admit to having an interest in common and their relationship begins to change. Walker builds up the dramatic tension between letters 23 and 27, as Celie gradually becomes less afraid of Albert and more self-confident due to Shug’s presence.

Investigating Letter 23

  • What do you think Celie means by saying that Shug is too evil to die?
  • What do you think Celie means by saying that her own mother wasn’t evil enough to survive?
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