Letter 79

Synopsis of Letter 79

After the funeral Albert joins the rest of the family party at Harpo’s house. Harpo and Sofia tell Celie that Albert is a changed man, which Celie struggles to accept, although his conversation with her is gentle. He tells her that Henrietta, Sofia and Harpo’s youngest child, is suffering from a blood disease which may take her life.

Sofia later tells Celie that Albert deteriorated after Celie and Shug left until rescued by Harpo, whose tenderness reignited Sofia’s feelings for her ex-husband. Albert’s health particularly improved once Harpo persuaded him to send the rest of Nettie’s letters to Celie.

Commentary on Letter 79

Albert’s psychological and physical breakdown when he lost his wife and his lover is possibly also an outcome of Celie’s curse on him (Letter 75). There is a considerable body of Walker’s writing that suggests her belief in spiritual forces that lie outside conventional understanding. Whether real or imagined, Celie’s curse is an effective dramatic device which also allows Walker to foreground Harpo’s tender ‘feminine’ care of his father and neatly paves the way for Harpo and Sofia’s reconciliation. Harpo’s actions illustrate a man in a caring role, unusual for the males of the novel thus far.

Investigating Letter 79

  • How credible do you find the change in Albert’s personality?
    • What do you think is the most significant reason for the cause of his breakdown?
  • Add to your character notes on Harpo, Albert and Celie.
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