Letter 71

Synopsis of Letter 71 

In order to help Corrine remember meeting Celie, Nettie finds the quilt in Corrine’s luggage which included the material Corrine bought on the day she first met Celie in town. On seeing it, Corrine finally remembers the incident, recalling that Celie bore a strong resemblance to the child Olivia, whom she and Samuel had taken into their home and adopted.

Corrine confesses that her chief memory of the day was the humiliation and anger she felt at the way in which the white storekeeper treated her. After acknowledging her own selfish behaviour, Corrine falls asleep. In the middle of the night, as Nettie and Samuel sit by her bed, Corrine wakes, tells Nettie and Samuel that she believes Nettie has told the truth about her relationship to Olivia and Adam, then dies quietly.

Commentary on Letter 71 

Corrine’s deathbed reconciliation with Nettie is a convenient device used by Walker to remove Corrine from the story so that Nettie can marry Samuel later in the narrative. Victorian fiction often employed this convention, as does contemporary literature. 

Throughout the narrative, quilt-making has been used to symbolise female collaboration and the idea of sisterhood. The tradition was well established in West Africa and transported slaves continued the craft in the New World. The creation of a quilt earlier in the narrative unites Sofia and Celie (Letter 28) and here the shared memory of Corrine's quilt helps Nettie and Corrine to become reconciled before the latter’s death.

Investigating Letter 71

  • Re-read Letter 10 (Celie’s meeting with Corinne in the store.)
    • Why do you think Corinne lies about her reason for calling the baby Olivia?
  • Finish your notes on Corinne’s character. How far does the reader sympathise with her at this point?
    • Does this change in Letter 72?
  • What does this letter show us about Nettie’s character? Add to your notes on her.
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