Letter 59

Synopsis of Letter 59

The narrative now shifts back to Celie writing to God and continues for the next two letters. Celie is so angry that Albert withheld Nettie’s letters that she wants to kill him. Shug persuades her not to do so, because one day Nettie will return and would not wish to find her sister a convicted murderer. She also jokes that if Celie kills Albert, Shug will only have Grady to sleep with. Seeing an opportunity to have Shug to herself, Celie persuades her to convince Albert to let the two women sleep together for the rest of Shug’s visit.

Commentary on Letter 59

Celie finally manages to assert a claim on Shug that is stronger than Albert’s or Grady’s by persuading Shug to share her bed. Despite Shug’s attempt to raise Celie’s spirits by joking about Grady and Albert, Celie remains in a state of deep depression as a result of her discovery about Albert’s treachery, unable to feel anything but numbness.

There is a jokey irony that it is the ‘immoral’ Shug who reminds Celie to follow the example of Jesus. Shug refers to the sixth of the Ten Commandments - not to kill - (see Exodus 20:13) which she believes must have been especially significant to Jesus since he knew he would be killed by those he was dealing with. Celie would be familiar with Christ’s teaching that his followers should love their enemies rather than seek to do them harm (see Matthew 5:44). However, Celie doesn’t think she can live up to that standard.

Investigating Letter 59

  • In what ways does this letter illustrate the deepening ties between Shug and Celie?


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