Summary and Analysis
In this letter, we realize that Celie may be unschooled, but she has a deep intuitive sense; we will see evidence of this throughout the book. For example, Celie isn't convinced that Fonso's objections to Nettie's marrying Mr. ________ have anything to do with the truth of the matter. Celie's intuitive bent zeroes in on the name of Shug Avery when Fonso mentions Shug as a possible reason why he won't let Nettie marry Mr. ________.
Thus, we are introduced to one of the major characters in the novel — perhaps the one person who will emerge as the greatest influence on Celie's learning to love herself — and other people. Shug Avery is
Mr. _________'s mistress. That's all we know at present, and even that fact is only hinted at. But note that although the "introduction" of this character is just suggested for the present, Walker is creating dramatic tension and suspense even before a photograph of Shug is shown to Celie.
In a way, Shug's being introduced later by a photograph is proof that she belongs to an "outside world." Celie's world contains no beauty, and Celie is immediately conscious of the fact that Shug is "the most beautiful woman I ever saw." She even says that Shug is prettier than "my mama." Celie's comparison of Shug to her mother is no accident. This comparison is Walker's way of foreshadowing; she is suggesting that Shug may soon become a mother figure and a role model, as well as a source of love — to replace, and finally even to surpass, Celie's love for her mother.
In her previous letter to God, Celie said, "I look at women" (and not at men). Here, her close scrutiny and admiration of Shug are clear evidence of the truth of Celie's statement. Because there is a beautiful woman named Shug Avery, Celie no longer feels that she and her world are just plain and simple. She can now dream of something rich and beautiful. Dreams of Shug Avery will provide beauty in Celie's life. Shug will represent fanciness in style, freedom in spirit, and many extraordinary fantasies in Celie's dreary, painful life.