Letter 53

Synopsis of Letter 53

The woman whom Celie had previously met outside the store in town is called Corrine and her husband is called Samuel. Nettie describes the pair as ‘sanctified religious’, members of a black Pentecostal church whose members are devoted to prayer and good works. Samuel preaches in the church and the couple spend a good deal of time on church business.

Nettie discloses that the little girl’s name is Olivia and that the couple also have a little boy called Adam. Although Nettie is glad to have found a safe haven with Corrine and Samuel, she misses Celie and longs to have news of her sister.

Commentary on Letter 53 

Chronologically this letter follows from the last and is written by Nettie a few weeks later.

We do not learn that the little boy, Adam, is also Celie’s child until letter 55 and the significance of his name in the biblical context does not become apparent until later in the narrative, when in letter 87 Celie tells Albert that Africans believe that long before the biblical figure of Adam, the first man created was black.

These short letters from Nettie to Celie sketch in the background of Nettie’s whereabouts. By placing Nettie with a black preacher and his wife, with whom she will later go on a missionary journey to Africa, Walker can explore and reflect the very different world of tribal Africans compared to that of African-Americans. The experience will also introduce Nettie to the idea that God can be found in nature, a belief that is mirrored by Celie’s own experience of God as the narrative develops.

Investigating Letter 53

  • ‘I think about the time you laid yourself down for me.’ To what is Nettie referring?
    • This is an echo of John 15:12-13 and John 10:11. What does this allusion add to the power of what Nettie is saying?
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