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1) What do you learn about Celie’s attitudes to life in these letters? 2) Write about Walker’s method of telling the story in letter 90. 3) Some readers see the ending of the novel as a triumph of the human spirit. Some see it as sickly and sentimental. What do you think about the novel’s ending? 1) By letters 89 and 90 Celie’s attitudes to life have changed considerably from the early letters of the novel. Celie’s attitude is extremely positive and she appears to have triumphed over her oppression, through her human spirit, attitude to life and bonds of sisterhood. This is shown in letter 89 by the way her and Shug respond to each other:
” She look at me funny for a minute, I look at her. Then us laugh.” This shows her sense of contentment and an almost carefree and happy attitude towards life. Laughter being a symbol of healing and regeneration suggests that despite Celie’s horrendous past experiences her psyche has been healed and she is content in her life. In letter 89 Alice Walker portrays Celie with an air of confidence and defiance, Celie is finally prepared to not be passive in her response to discrimination and oppression she is prepared to question authority. Walker shows Celie to be proud of Sofia’s authority over a white man: “she scare that white man. Anybody else colored he try to call ’em auntie or something. First time he try that with Sofia she ast him which colored man his mama sister marry.”
There is a lot of symbolism used in letter 89 which imply aspects of Celie’s attitudes to life. She shows her room to Shug: “Well here it is, I say, standing in the door. Everything in my room purple and red cept the floor,” The colours purple and red symbolise bruises on a beaten woman’s skin and in painting her room these colours her attitudes towards life are revealed, it suggests that Celie accepts her past life of abuse. However purple also symbolises beauty, royalty, it is a color Celie associates with vivacious women such as Shug and a color she feels was put on earth by God. By surrounding herself with purple it represents Celie’s new found confident attitude to life and contentment that her future life will be beautiful.
Letter 90 shows Celie’s changed attitudes to spirituality within her life, opening the letter “Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees…Dear everything. Dear God” Celie’s changing outlook upon religion with the rejection of a patriarchal God and new belief that God is within everything, as well as the return of both Shug in letter 89 and Celie’s family in letter 90 has led to Celie’s sense of calm and inner peace, which is portrayed within these letters. This is expressed in her final sentences: “But I don’t think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this is the youngest us ever felt.”
These final sentences also depict Celie’s final self-acceptance and philosophical reflection upon her life. It concludes her journey to freedom from oppression, which the book has charted. 2) Just as Celie’s attitudes to life have changed, by letter 90 there is a noticeable change in Celie’s language style, she has a more sophisticated lexis and syntax which contrasts significantly to her early letters to God. Whereas Walker’s use of language for Celie’s character in the early letters expresses her lack of education, Walker’s change in Celie’s language shows Celie’s “life education”. It depicts the change from Celie being a naive “innocent narrator” to a confident woman, educated through life and others such as Nettie. The change in Celie’s vocabulary and grammatical style suggests she has learnt from Nettie’s carefully composed letters.
However, letter 90 also shows how Walker does not abandon Celie’s mimetic style and her use of the colloquial black American dialect: “This Shug and Albert, I say. Everybody say pleased to Meetcha” Celie continues to include phonetical spellings such as “Meetcha” and to use the present tense for past events such as “I say” instead of I said. Both of these are features of the dialect of the Deep South and show that Walker has continued to express aspects of black American cultural identity through Celie’s language throughout the novel. Often throughout history the voices of this community have not been heard and in her method of telling the story Walker allows them to have a voice through Celie’s vernacular.