Summary and Analysis Letters 89-90


Each of the last twenty letters of this novel has contained reversals. Shug has run off with Germaine. Celie and Albert have been reunited. Harpo now does all the housework, and Sofia works outside the home. In this letter, yet another reversal takes place, a sociological reversal. Eleanor Jane, a white woman and the daughter of the mayor, works for Sofia ("Whoever heard of a white woman working for niggers?"). In Letter 37, remember, Sofia was imprisoned for not wanting to be a maid to a white woman. Now, one of the children who Sofia helped rear is helping to look after Henrietta and do cooking. Sofia too has become less bold and brassy; she has changed. Once, Sofia had a "the-hell-with-heaven" attitude; now, after having been through "hell," in and out of prison, and having been beaten like a dog, she can believe in a better life. "Everybody learn something in life," she admits.

Albert's transformation also becomes complete. Not only does he become "one of the women" by sewing with Celie, but he is now able to express his feelings honestly and without meanness. "The more I wonder, the more I love," he tells Celie.

Albert and Celie have places reserved for Shug not only in their hearts, but in their homes. Shug is family to Celie and Albert, and likewise Shug "adopts" people; after Shug has affairs and has ended them, her ex-lovers become "family" to her. Shug and Germaine try to investigate the alleged death of Nettie, and later, Shug sends Germaine to attend Wilberforce University, a small, predominantly black school in Wilberforce, Ohio, because she "can't let all that talent go to waste." Shug has no lover or husband now, but she has friends who are family to her.

Finally, in Letter 90, two sisters who were not allowed to grow up together are reunited, and for the rest of their lives, they will live together, and they will die together. There is nothing in this final letter that suggests that Celie is only imagining their reunion. Therefore, the report of Nettie's death in Letter 85 was wrong.

Recall that in Letter 87, Celie said, "My heart must be young and fresh . . . it feel like it blooming blood." This same feeling is infused in her words here: "But I don't think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this the youngest us ever felt."

Celie's love for Nettie provides her with an inexhaustible source of youth. When she and Nettie embrace, Nettie never asks Celie why she did not write. Celie doesn't tell Nettie about Albert's interception of her letters, and Nettie doesn't ask Celie if she learned "to fight." There is no need to. Their letters and feelings, along with their prayers, have already provided this information. All they have to do now is introduce their "peoples" to each other.