Letter 31

Synopsis of Letter 31

Sofia’s sisters arrive to take her and her children away from Harpo’s house. Celie decides to give Sofia the quilt that they have worked on. Although obviously upset, Harpo acts as though he does not care that his wife is leaving and tells Celie he will not try to persuade Sofia to stay. He is blunt with his children, but changes the baby’s nappy before they all leave, using the discarded one to wipe away his tears. Everyone is quiet as the wagons depart.

Commentary on Letter 31 

This letter shows Sofia’s determination to live a life of her own choosing, supported by her sisters, all of whom are big and strong and described as looking like Amazons. The pathos of Harpo’s position is made clear, although there is a comic element too, when one of the young children asks the baby a question and the baby breaks wind in reply.

The theme of female solidarity is emphasised, as well as women’s physical capability. It is Sofia and her sisters who move the furniture and belongings onto the wagons, whilst Harpo changes the baby’s nappy – another example of the novel’s motif of gender role reversal.

Investigating Letter 31

  • Why does Alice Walker describe Sofia’s sisters as ‘Amazons’?
    • Do any of the other female characters in the novel show the same characteristics?
  • Add some more information onto Harpo’s character sheet.
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