Summary and Analysis Letter 87


Celie has finally matured sufficiently to separate her miserable existence and her rich inner world into two separate spheres: the physical world and the emotional world. Celie's body may be aging and going through menopause, but her feelings, in contrast, are ever spring-like: "My heart [is] young and fresh; it feel like it blooming blood." Remember that Celie did not understand menstruation in Letter 8, but she clearly understands the process of menopause here. Another example of Celie's emotional growth can be measured by her dismissal of the news of Nettie's alleged death in Letter 85: "And I don't believe you dead. How can you be dead if I still feel you?"

In addition, Celie no longer hates Albert. In Letter 74, she called him a "lowdown dog," denounced him, and decided to leave with Shug. Now, however, both Albert and Celie have been replaced in Shug's life by youthful Germaine. "Here us is, I thought, two old fools left over from love." They are in an unplanned union. The husband had a mistress who stole his wife from him, and now that mistress has left both of them for a younger man. Albert partially understands Celie's feelings of rejection, and she, in turn, acknowledges his misery. "I don't hate him for two reasons. One, he love Shug. And two, Shug use to love him." Shug is the magical ingredient that makes the difference for Celie.

Sofia, meanwhile, has learned to compromise. She tells Eleanor Jane that it's "too late to cry." Instead, she says, "All us can do is laugh." Celie's words are much like Sofia's words. Sofia feels helpless, but she can still laugh — despite everything. Celie, likewise, has accepted her position socially and emotionally. She is an aging black woman and says, "I try to teach my heart not to want nothing it can't have."

This letter is one of the longest and most complex letters in the novel. Not only is there the well-developed contrast between the physical and the emotional worlds of the characters, but there is also a letter within a letter, and note that Shug's letter to Celie is not unlike one of Nettie's letters to Celie. Shug's son James faces many of the same problems on the Indian reservation that Samuel and Nettie faced among the Olinka. He is an outsider who is oppressed by the ruling power structure.

Shug is now a grandmother, although her parents have reared her three children. Celie doesn't mind; she loves Shug even if Shug isn't young anymore. She loves Shug best, she admits, because of "what she [Shug] has been through." We, in turn, love Celie because she has survived what she has been through; Celie is a survivor, and no one in the novel has undergone more injustice and unhappiness than Celie.

Even Albert is able to honestly acknowledge the reason why he beat Celie; as we have noted before, he beat her because she was not Shug — a wholly irrational excuse. Albert also admits that he loved Shug because of her independence; for that reason, he also admits that he never understood the relationship between Shug and Celie. With this in mind, recall Letter 64. There, Nettie told Celie how the many wives of an Olinka man became friends, and she explained how those friendships excluded the husband. Interestingly, neither the Olinka husbands nor Albert is able to understand the special bonds between women, especially between women who share the same man.