Letter 42

Synopsis of Letter 42

Six months after her rape, Mary Agnes becomes a singer. Different in style to Shug, she becomes a popular performer in Harpo’s juke joint, composing her own songs. Although still annoyed because Sofia knocked her teeth out, Mary Agnes is looking after Sofia and Harpo’s children as best she can, because she is aware of Sofia’s suffering. Sofia’s sisters also help with bringing up the children and can control them better than Mary Agnes.

Commentary on Letter 42

Once again we see the strength of mutual support among the women in the face of family difficulties. Unlike Harpo, who only talks about his anger but does not act on it, the women act practically, making sure that Sofia’s children are cared for.

When Mary Agnes begins to compose her own blues songs they are reflective, questioning in particular the double standards that black people have concerning skin colour.

Investigating Letter 42

  • Look at the lyrics of Mary Agnes’ song They call me yellow and explain why she thinks ‘yellow’ is a less acceptable name than ‘black’.
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