Letter 36

Synopsis of Letter 36

Sofia reappears, arriving at the juke-joint with her new partner Henry Broadnax, who looks like a prize-fighter (boxer) and is nicknamed ‘Buster’. Sofia is in high spirits and does not seem to mind that her former home is now a night club. She greets Celie and Albert and even dances with Harpo.

Harpo now has a new girlfriend called Mary Agnes, nicknamed ‘Squeak’ (presumably the person who convinced him that he is business-like and cute). Although the relationship between Harpo and Sofia seems cordial when they dance together, Mary Agnes takes exception and tells Sofia to leave Harpo alone. The situation quickly spirals out of control when Squeak calls Sofia a bitch and slaps her across the head. Sofia retaliates with a punch that knocks out two of Squeak’s teeth and then leaves with Buster.

Commentary on Letter 36 

When Sofia arrives at the juke-joint, she is not concerned by what has happened to her home and is perfectly prepared not only to have some fun, but also to dance with her former husband. Celie is surprised that Shug’s greeting to Sofia (that she ‘looks like a good time’) is the kind of thing a man would say to a woman.

Sofia is not cowed when Albert tries to shame her by asking where her children are, instead retaliating by asking Albert the whereabouts of his own children (presumably the three children he fathered with Shug who now live with their grandparents).

The fight between Squeak and Sofia has a comic side obviously because the women are physically very different, but it also serves to remind us of Sofia’s temper (which is what will get her into trouble with the mayor and his wife in the next episode).

Investigating Letter 36

  • On a new sheet of A4 paper, begin a character study of Mary Agnes/Squeak
  • Add some more information to your character sheet on Sofia
    • What is significant about the relationship between Sofia and Harpo at this point in the novel?
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