Summary and Analysis Letter 4


Here, we discover that God has seemingly fulfilled Celie's hopes. Celie tells him that her father has married a woman about sixteen years old who comes from a neighboring town. They have sex frequently, and Celie's new stepmother has taken over the responsibility for all of Fonso's children. We can conclude from this statement that, at last, Nettie is safe from Fonso's brutal sexuality.

But Nettie, who is about fifteen, while not being victimized by her father, is being courted by an older widower, a man with three children. Moreover, Celie says that the man resembles Fonso, and she tells God that his first wife was murdered on her way home from church — "kilt by her boyfriend." Again, we unexpectedly encounter extraordinary violence. Yet Celie seems to accept this violence as a natural, ever-present, if unpleasant, part of life. We read these short letters almost in disbelief because of the matter-of-fact way that Celie describes what is jarringly tragic — to us.

Of course, Celie doesn't encourage the relationship between Nettie and the widower; she urges Nettie to use her energies on studying. She doesn't want Nettie to end up dead like their mother, from too much hard work and too many pregnancies.

The bond between Celie and Nettie is a bond of unusually deep love. Yet, except for the love that Celie and Nettie share, and the love that God offers to the women here, there is a painful lack of love; in its place, there is a sense of paralyzed doom in this household. The fates of the new stepmother, Nettie, and Celie all seem inescapable. They all have to toil endlessly, and their only relief lies in going to church and believing in an afterlife, and therefore, the key sentence in this particular letter is "All needing something."

In an extension of its literal meaning, we realize that all three of the women, and all of the other children as well, need. They need material things. But especially the women need more than material things. They need respect and understanding and love. There are no black men to give these women the respect and the understanding and, most of all, the love that they need. Only God offers them love, and in Celie and Nettie's case, they offer love to one another.

Finally, note that Celie deliberately chooses not to tell God the name of her new stepmother, nor does she tell him the name of Nettie's suitor. This namelessness is indicative of the universality of these people, as well as a lack of any real, personal, mature identity. Celie doubtlessly knows what her new stepmother and Nettie's suitor represent: pain and suffering in their own lives, as well as pain and suffering in the lives they interact with.