Letter 75

Synopsis of Letter 75

On the journey to Memphis, Grady is overly attentive to Squeak. Albert reacts badly when Celie leaves him, insulting her, assuring her she’ll need to come home and comparing her unfavourably to Shug. He denies Celie’s accusation that he’d concealed Nettie’s letters, prompting her to curse him. She feels as if her words are coming to her from nature itself, through the trees.

When Albert attempts to attack Celie, Shug intervenes and tells him to stop. Celie experiences a supernatural moment as her mouth feels full of dirt through which she curses him for the final time. Acknowledging that she is everything he has accused her of, Celie asserts her existence, to which Shug says ‘Amen’.

Commentary on Letter 75

During their dramatic parting, Albert’s words to Celie harshly demean his wife, accusing her of things which are not even plausible (such as the fact that she has never cleaned the house properly). Walker employs effective sentence rhythms in Albert’s denunciation of his wife, with heavy stresses on the words that he uses. Yet his weighty utterances are undercut when Walker rounds off the exchange with a single sentence from Celie, an assertion that despite everything that has happened to her, she is still ‘here’. Some scholars and critics suggest that Walker wishes the reader to see Albert as a symbol of all men, African-American, American, black or white, who share a belief that women are inferior.

It is a measure of how much Celie has developed in self-confidence that she does not submit to Albert’s abuse, but turns on him and curses him. Despite her degradation at Albert’s hands, Celie has not only survived but has found the strength to confront her abuser. This is the turning point in her relations with her husband, as Celie asserts her independence and her determination to begin a new life on her own terms.

The voice that speaks ‘through’ Celie suggests that she seems to be possessed, perhaps by the spirit of her ancestors. Walker also links this incident to Shug’s image of God within nature, as the voice that Celie uses seems to come to her through the trees.

From letter 73 onwards, Celie ends her letters to Nettie either with her name or with the word ‘Amen’, the traditional close to a Christian prayer with the meaning ‘so be it’. At the end of this letter it is Shug who closes the narrative with the word amen, repeated three times. Three is a significant number in the Christian religion and it is possible that Walker intends this threefold repetition to be a sacred affirmation of Celie’s newfound independence.

Investigating Letter 75

  • Why do you think Walker introduces a spiritual emphasis here as Celie speaks?
    • Do you think it enhances or detracts from what she says?
  • How are the reader’s perceptions of Albert shaped in this section?
    • What does the presence of Shug add?
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