Letter 82

Synopsis of Letter 82

A letter from Celie to Nettie recounts that ‘Pa’ (Fonso) has died and she has been informed by his young wife Daisy, that Fonso’s house and land, as well as the dry goods store which he ran, did not belong to him, but passed from Celie and Nettie’s birth father, via their mother, to them.

At first Celie wants nothing to do with the inheritance, but Shug persuades her to think again and the women go to look at the property. They find Fonso’s tombstone, which declares him to have been a friend to those who were poor and helpless. Daisy has been financially provided for, although she is not pleased that the bulk of the property has not been left to her. She shows Shug and Celie round the large, newly built house, from which Daisy has removed the furniture, then gives them the keys.

Shug and Celie use incense to chase out all the evil spirits from the attic down through every room in the house. Celie expresses excitement that she and Nettie have a house big enough for everyone to live in once Nettie comes home.

Commentary on Letter 82

Celie’s fortunes continue to improve with the news of her inheritance. Alphonso’s physical abuse of the sisters is revealed to extend to depriving them of property and assets which could have made a profound difference to their lives. There is heavy irony that his tomb depicts him as a morally upstanding father and as charitable to the vulnerable, when Celie’s experiences are living testimony of the reverse. Shug provides the necessary balance with her dry observation that pinpoints how death has defeated any power Fonso has had.

When the women perform the ritual cleansing of the house to rid it of any lingering evil from Alphonso’s habitation, it is unclear as to whether or not they truly believe in exorcism, but the act does symbolise a way of clearing away the past so that the property can once more revert to its rightful family. Shug also reasserts that God is concerned with Celie’s life. 

Celie has already known her true family history but only now does she come into her birth-right. The fact that she does this with Shug confirms Shug both as lover, sister and family member. Once again, Walker reminds the reader of the importance of the solidarity of females and the strength of family ties.

Investigating Letter 82

  • How has the male-female power balance shifted by this point in the narrative?
  • Do you feel it is appropriate to call Alphonso a villain? Justify your response
  • Add more to your character notes on Shug, Celie and Fonso.
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