Letter 35

Synopsis of Letter 35

Prior to leaving, Shug begins to sleep with Albert regularly, appreciating his sexuality and sense of humour. However, she rejected the idea of marrying Albert as he is weak and indecisive. Celie feels jealous, as she would like to sleep with Shug herself.

Enjoying heterosexual passion, Shug is surprised that Celie finds it repulsive and assumes she is a ‘virgin’ regarding sexual fulfilment. She encourages Celie to explore her clitoris and breasts and explains the causes and sensations of erotic pleasure.

Commentary on Letter 35

Celie’s jealousy about Shug sleeping with Albert is an indication of the intensity of her love for the singer rather than because she cares who Albert sleeps with.

Shug’s guarding of Celie as she examines herself is quite an erotic episode, almost as though the two women, as Celie comments, are doing something ‘wrong’. Yet as the novel progresses, Walker makes it clear that sex is something to be celebrated and enjoyed because it is a natural human instinct.

Shug wants Celie to enjoy the sexual pleasure (perhaps when she next sleeps with Albert) that other women have experienced. Her comment about her contraceptive ‘sponge’ alerts Celie to the danger of unwanted pregnancy.

At this stage of the novel, Shug’s own sexual preference appears to be heterosexual and it is not clear whether or not she is sexually attracted to Celie. However, Celie is clearly not only sexually attracted to Shug, but also able to partly satisfy herself when she hears her husband and Shug making love in the next room.

Investigating Letter 35

  • Begin a fresh comparison list on A4 paper. Divide the paper into two columns – one marked ‘Celie’ the other ‘Shug’
    • Compare and contrast Shug’s attitude to sex with Celie’s
    • Do you think Shug feels the same way about Celie as Celie does about Shug at this point in the story?
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