Letter 49

Synopsis of Letter 49

At last Celie receives a letter from her sister Nettie, now aware that Albert hides letters that arrive at the house with foreign stamps on them.

The content of Nettie’s letter, which is quoted in full, shows that Nettie also suspects Albert’s interception. Nettie has been writing a letter at Christmas and Easter for years hoping they might get to her sister. Celie discovers her son and her daughter Olivia are alive and well and that Nettie herself is coming home with them hopefully in one year’s time.

Shug wants to know every detail about Nettie, since she is the only person that Celie has ever loved apart from Shug herself.

Commentary on Letter 49

The whole emphasis of the novel now shifts with the introduction of letters from Nettie. Shug’s retrieval of the letters which have been hidden by Albert is a powerful gesture of her love for Celie. It is Shug who connects Albert’s mysterious behaviour at the mailbox with the circumstances of Nettie’s disappearance and her failure to send any news to her sister.

From this point in the narrative, groups of Nettie’s letters alternate with those written by Celie, some still addressed to God but others addressed to Nettie by name. The narrative point of view shifts depending upon the writer of the letter and the African part of the story from this point is narrated in contrast to the events that take place in America.

Investigating Letter 49

  • Begin a new sheet of A4 headed ‘Letters from Nettie’ and add a short synopsis of the content of each one as it appears
  • What do you notice about the style of Nettie’s prose in comparison with Celie’s?
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