Letter 65

Synopsis of Letter 65

One year later, the Olinka village is very different. The road carried on through and beyond the village, flattening most of it, including the school and the church. The surrounding forest is being destroyed on the orders of a British company which now owns the land and is creating rubber tree plantations.

Although the Olinka chief appealed to the governor, the result was only an increase in taxes and rent which the villagers must now pay to the government. Meanwhile the Olinka people, having rebuilt their church and school and most of their homes, are waiting to see what happens next.

Olivia and Tashi are now accepted by the boys in school and more girls have also begun to attend, encouraged by their mothers. Nettie’s work has increased as Corrine has fallen ill with African fever.

Commentary on Letter 65

The tone of this letter is in sharp contrast to Letter 64. The real destructive power of colonial expansion is made apparent. The development of the road and forest does not signify progress for the African people, but rather the exploitation of African land for the benefit of foreign commercial businesses. Note the implication that the African government officials seem to be indifferent to the situation of their people, which suggests a level of corruption and collusion between African officials and colonial business interests.

There is a strong sense of outrage at the way in which the Olinka’s way of life has been damaged, but the villagers find that they are powerless to change the outcome and ironically find that they no longer own the land on which they have lived for generations, instead having to pay rent for their houses and taxes for their water supply.

Investigating Letter 65

  • How would you describe Nettie’s attitude about the conflict between traditional Olinka culture and colonial expansion?
  • Why do you think Alice Walker examines the issue of colonialism in the novel?
    • Does it have any bearing on the situation in the American South?
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