Letter 47

Synopsis of Letter 47

One night, Albert and Grady go out in the car together and Shug shares a bed with Celie for warmth. The women talk about lovemaking and Celie tells Shug in graphic detail how she was raped by Fonso when she was fourteen. Believing that no one has ever loved her, she begins to cry until Shug kisses her and tells her that she loves her and the two women make love to one another. 

Commentary on Letter 47

There is pathos as we identify with Celie’s sense of rejection and isolation (not knowing that Nettie still loves her). Celie has never experienced sexual pleasure through lovemaking and it is with Shug that this happens for the first time. Shug seems to be taken by surprise when she kisses Celie, which suggests that this may also be a new experience for Shug.

Earlier in the narrative, Celie stated that she was afraid of men and preferred to look at women, because women were kind to her. At this point in the novel, Celie’s sexual identity becomes that of a woman who loves a woman, but it may be useful to consider that a person’s sexuality is not necessarily about loving one gender or the other, but about loving an individual person. In Celie’s case, she loves Shug, but that does not mean that the relationship is exclusively lesbian, as Shug is perfectly capable of enjoying sexual intimacy with men.

Investigating Letter 47

  • In this episode, how do the protagonists cross traditional gender boundaries?
  • Make a list of Shug’s masculine and feminine qualities.
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