Summary and Analysis Letter 11


Nettie's running away from home to Mr. ________'s house reunites the sisters and helps bond them even more firmly together with sustaining love. Nettie is able to help her overworked sister with the household chores and, more important, with her schooling. Nettie deeply wants to teach, and Celie is deeply appreciative of Nettie's patience and belief in her: "No matter what happen, Nettie steady try to teach me what go on in the world." At the same time, however, the constant labor of being a mother to Mr.______'s four children (and not three as he said earlier) has taken a bite out of Celie's will. Most days, she tells God, she's too tired even to think.

In keeping with the basic selflessness in their relationship, the sisters continue to worry about each other's welfare. Nettie regrets having to leave Celie, saying that it's like seeing her buried. Even Nettie's idealism is tested severely in this scene. Celie, however, draws on her faith to provide her daily resurrection. She states firmly that as long as she can "spell G-o-d I got somebody along." The verb "spell" in this sentence is a clue to us that Celie will continue to write her letters to God and not decide to "think them" in a different kind of narrative form. Accordingly, she begins the following letter, Letter 12, not with her customary Dear God, but with G-o-d spelled out.

Nettie, then, is largely responsible for Celie's being able to write these letters to God. Learning is synonymous with strength to Nettie, and she continually urges Celie to learn to be strong, to fight — and not to succumb to the "taken-for-granted" burdens of the black woman's role. Nettie promises to write, but Celie ends this letter by saying that Nettie never wrote.

This matter will be addressed in Letter 49. Celie is not aware of the irony in this final, short sentence. Celie won't read any of the letters that Nettie wrote to her for a very long time, but when she does, they will structure the second half of this novel.