Letter 67

Synopsis of Letter 67

Nettie reveals that Samuel also believed that the children were Nettie’s, which was why he took her into the family home and later invited her to accompany Corrine and himself to Africa.

Samuel knew Alphonso (Fonso, or ‘Pa’) when younger. He tells Nettie that she and Celie are not Fonso’s children, but the children of a successful black store owner, murdered by white merchants jealous of his success. At the time of the murder, the man’s wife had a two year old daughter (Celie) and was pregnant with her second child (Nettie). The shock of her husband’s death affected the woman mentally and she and her children became isolated and neglected.

Shortly afterwards, the woman married another man (Fonso) and bore several more children to him, becoming weaker and more mentally disturbed until she died. The last two children he believes were a baby girl and a baby boy, called Olivia and Adam. Fonso asked Samuel to take care of the two infants, who saw this as an answer to prayer since he and Corrine were childless. When Nettie appeared at Samuel’s house, he mistakenly thought she was the birth mother of his adopted children, so he took her in, without explaining to Corrine.

Nettie does not tell Samuel the truth at this point in the narrative but can tell Celie that Fonso is not their natural father and therefore Olivia and Adam are not the result of an incestuous relationship.

Commentary on Letter 67

The revelation that Nettie and Celie are the daughters of a prosperous black businessman, lynched by white rivals impacts in various ways. Positively, it removes both Nettie’s and Celie’s anxieties about an incestuous relationship with the man known as ‘Pa’. Negatively, the story of their birth father’s violent death is shocking and makes an important contribution to the theme of injustice regarding race relationships in the American South at the time.

The realisation that ‘Pa’ is not the sisters’ biological father marks a significant shift in the narrative. Until this point, the novel has displayed recurring cycles of violence or bad behaviour within families. Nettie’s discovery that she and Celie are the children of loving, successful parents provides both sisters with the opportunity to try to build a different future.

The relationship between Nettie and Samuel begins to develop from this point in the narrative as Walker reveals a new side to Samuel’s character. His decision to adopt ‘Nettie’s’ children and to take her to Africa so as not to separate her from them reveals his compassion and generosity.

Investigating Letter 67

  • What does this letter reveal about the different views about marriage and parenthood of
    • Samuel?
    • Fonso (Pa)?
  • Add your responses to your character notes on each man
  • What does the revelation about Nettie and Celie’s father’s death tell you about race relations in the American South at this time?
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