Letter 33

Synopsis of Letter 33

Harpo opens his juke-joint and initially has few customers. When Celie, Albert and Shug visit, Harpo is fascinated by Shug’s confidence and books her to perform the following week.

After leaflet advertising, the joint is packed when Shug makes her first appearance on a Saturday night. Despite Albert’s reluctance to let Celie attend an ‘unsuitable’ venue, Shug ensures Celie comes.

Celie witnesses Shug’s performance with mixed feelings, admiring Shug’s appearance compared to her own, feeling excluded by Shug and Albert’s relationship, then overwhelmed when Shug dedicates ‘Miss Celie’s song’ to her, the one that Celie helped to compose while she was combing Shug’s hair.

Commentary on Letter 33

This episode marks an important stage in the developing relationship between Shug and Celie. By addressing her love song to ‘Miss’ Celie, Shug demonstrates respect as well as affection, symbolising the bond that is beginning to unite Shug and Celie.

The Bessie Smith song quoted was released in 1927, fixing the timespan of the novel and reminding readers of its cultural background.

Investigating Letter 33

  • Add to your character notes on Celie and Shug.
    • How does their relationship develop in this section of the novel?
  • Why does Albert not want Celie to visit the juke-joint?
    • What does this tell you about him?
    • Add your comments to your character notes on Albert.
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