Letter 52

Synopsis of Letter 52

This is the first of Nettie’s letters from years ago, while Nettie was staying with the clergyman (Samuel) and his wife (Corinne) who adopted Celie’s thriving child, Olivia.

Nettie urges Celie to leave Albert, relating how he followed her when she left the farm; how he tried to rape her and how she managed to fight him off. In retaliation, Albert threatened that neither sister would ever hear from the other again. At the Rev Mr_’s house, Nettie has encountered a little girl who looks exactly like Celie. The reader knows that this must be her child, Olivia.

Commentary on Letter 52

This and the next seven letters in the series are all from Nettie. The oldest dates back almost thirty years before bringing us up-to-date with her story.

Celie does not record the dates that she finds on Nettie’s letters. Some of them indicate the passing of years since the previous one was written and others do not. Thus the passage of time is often vague and historical events are mostly referred to indirectly as background comments. Judging by these events, the narrative seems to run from the early years of the twentieth century up to the 1940s.

As the correspondence develops, Nettie’s written style becomes very different to that of Celie. Over time Nettie begins to write in longer, more complex, sentences and her lexis becomes more sophisticated. Even from the start, Nettie’s letters are more fluently expressed than those of her sister. The reader knows that Nettie was regarded as the cleverer of the two sisters, who remained in education longer and encouraged Celie to try and achieve a better level of education.

Investigating Letter 52

  • What light does this letter throw on the recent revelations about Albert?
    • How is Walker shaping our perceptions of him?
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