Letter 29

Synopsis of Letter 29

Harpo finally breaks down in tears and admits to Celie his fears about his marriage to Sofia. He longs for Sofia to obey him or at least to pay attention to his instructions, as he sees Celie doing with Albert. Instead, Sofia resists to the point of physical aggression if Harpo tries to beat her.

Celie urges Harpo to accept Sofia exactly as she is, since she is a good woman and mother and loves Harpo very much. Celie explains that she did not marry Albert from choice and does not love him. Furthermore, Shug Avery does not do what Albert wants and will not be bullied. However, Harpo cannot break out of the rigid belief that it is a wife's duty to obey her husband, by being beaten into submission if necessary.

Commentary on Letter 29

Alice Walker here emphasises the difference between the marriages of Sofia/Harpo and Celie/Albert, comparing and contrasting the conventional view of marriage, illustrated by Albert beating his wife when she will not obey him, with the unconventional situation between Harpo and Sofia, which is quite the reverse.

Harpo’s attempts to make himself physically stronger in the preceding letter were quite comic, but his tearful confession to Celie reveals a young man who sees himself as a pathetic failure because he cannot assert authority over his wife.

Investigating Letter 29...

  • Add some more information to your evidence list about traditional notions of masculinity and the role of the husband
  • Why is it so important to Harpo to make Sofia ‘mind’ him?
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