Letter 69

Synopsis of Letter 69

Celie and Shug decide to pay a visit to Alphonso (Pa) whom Celie has only seen once since she was married off. They are struck by the natural beauty and evident prosperity of Celie’s old home. Fonso then arrives back from church, accompanied by a young woman called Daisy, who is his new fifteen year old wife.

Fonso boasts about his business success and tells Shug and Celie that he now employs a white man to run the store that formerly belonged to Celie’s father and has taken advantage of the white people in the town in order to become a successful businessman. He seems unrepentant about keeping the true story of Celie’s parents secret, claiming it was too sad a story to tell small children.

Celie asks him to tell her where her mother and father are buried, but Fonso tells her that neither have a headstone. When Shug and Celie visit the graveyard they cannot find the graves of Celie’s parents and Shug decides that since neither woman has a conventional family, she and Celie in future must be family to one another.

Commentary on Letter 69

This is the first of the letters addressed to Nettie rather than to God, representing an important development in Celie’s character. Even though she still has difficulties in her life, the fact that she and Shug have become such close companions gives Celie the courage to go back to her childhood home and face the man who damaged her so much as a child. The letter’s extensive imagery of flowers and spring is also symbolic of rebirth and hope.

Fonso is now married to his third wife, who is fifteen years old; so young that Celie feels nauseated when she sees them together. Note how conceited Fonso is when he tells Shug and Celie how he has managed to continue to run Celie’s father’s business and make it a success. The corrupt methods that he uses, with well-placed bribes and payoffs to his white competitors, confirm him as an unscrupulous and corrupt character. His obvious obsession for very young women (Celie’s step-mother May Ellen got too old for him) makes it easy to understand Celie’s horror of men in general.

It is significant that a loyal woman supports Celie through this encounter. When Celie and Shug fail to find the graves of Celie’s parents, it is Shug who reassures Celie that they are now one another’s family.

Investigating Letter 69

  • Make notes on the imagery used in this letter that denotes the idea of new beginnings
    • Look at the characters’ names as well as the descriptions of the environment.
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