Letter 62

Synopsis of Letter 62

Although busy, Nettie carries on writing to the sister she keeps thinking of. There have been difficulties settling in and coming to terms with the cultural differences between the Olinka villagers and the missionaries. Because the Olinka do not believe that girls should be educated, Olivia is the only girl at the school and she notices a parallel between the way women are regarded as inferior, just as blacks are in America

Olivia has made friends with a village girl called Tashi and Nettie hopes both girls will have different lives when they grow up compared to traditional Olinka women. The children call Nettie ‘Mama’, arousing Corrine’s jealousy.

Nettie’s hut reflects her love of the tribal cloth patterns, mats and furnishings, which make European religious pictures seem out of place. However, Corrine and Samuel still have religious pictures and holy items in their hut.

Commentary on Letter 62 

Some time has passed since Nettie’s previous letter. Walker uses these accounts to highlight and value some aspects of African culture and also to draw attention to the injustice of the way in which the African way of life is destroyed by colonial interference.

The position of the Olinka women highlights a key feminist theme in the novel. Their relatively low status in the village and lack of education due to their perceived inferiority reflects the attitude of white people to African-Americans. Tashi feels threatened by jokes that she will become another wife for the chief, echoing the lack of choice Celie had in being expected to be sexually available to Fonso and his domestic servant whilst still a child. Nettie reassures her that she has choices.

However, although Nettie has reservations about some of the Olinka’s attitudes, she is still fascinated by their culture in general. The decoration of her hut reflects her assimilation in a way that Samuel and Corrinne’s hut does not. Her letters are written in the style of a travel journal using an enthusiastic tone.

Corrine’s growing jealousy of Nettie means she attempts to distance her, which causes tension. This new storyline is developed as the narrative progresses, heightening the potential for suspense and conflict.

Investigating Letter 62

  • Begin a new comparison sheet headed Education and literacy
    • Compare and contrast the way that girls and women are educated
  • in Africa
  • in America
    • Comment on how men resent and fear education for women in both countries
  • Add to the notes on Nettie’s views about traditional Christian belief which you began for Letter 61.
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