Letter 50

Synopsis of Letter 50

In order to retrieve Nettie’s letter to Celie, Shug flirts with Albert, upsetting her husband and friend who don’t understand her motives. Eventually Shug passes Celie a letter taken from Albert’s pocket and tells her that they will retrieve all the other letters from Nettie that he’s hidden. Initially disbelieving, Celie starts to feel murderous towards Albert, Shug stopping her just in time from cutting his throat. Celie’s outrage is covered up as illness by Shug, who puts her to bed and stays with her throughout the night.

As a distraction, Shug tells Celie about her early life with strict church-going parents and a mother who did not love her. She explains her attraction to Albert, who wasn’t allowed to marry her, and her expulsion for bearing three children by him.

Albert’s marriage to Annie Julia was arranged by his own father, but Shug retaliated by continuing her affair with Albert after he was married. She now regrets that this caused Annie Julia undeserved pain. Shug also confesses that her initial unpleasantness to Celie was because Albert had married her rather than choosing Shug.

Commentary on Letter 50

The discovery of Albert’s deceit results in a major character change for Celie. Until this point she has been long-suffering, but her outrage is so great that she quite seriously wants to commit murder. The shock of the discovery makes her unwell and it’s only Shug’s intervention and care that prevents Celie’s complete breakdown.

Shug’s early history provides reasons why sex and her affair with Albert was so important to her, as consolation for her mother’s lack of affection. Albert’s inability to stand up to his parents demonstrates the weakness of his character.

The negative aspects of Shug Avery’s stubborn determination are outlined, overriding Albert’s marriage and parental responsibilities.

Shug emphasises how different Albert now seems, compared to when they first met. This is important, because Albert has to appear credible to the reader both as the object of Shug’s love and as Celie’s brutal husband. The apparent contradiction is, to an extent, resolved by Shug stressing the significance of their early physical relationship, aware now of how much Albert has changed for the worse.

Celie remains mute and unresponsive to Shug’s confession about her past life, apparently uninterested in what Shug tells her.

Investigating Letter 50

  • This letter tells the reader a great deal about Shug Avery’s previous life experience. Add more notes to your Shug Avery character sheet
  • Is Shug right to describe Albert as ‘weak’?
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.