Celie writes to Nettie, saying that she has received a note from the Department of Defense that Nettie's ship, from England to Africa, was sunk by a German mine. But Celie refuses to believe this, and tells Nettie, in the letter, that she knows Nettie is still alive.
An indicator of the fact that time in the novel is disjointed. Celie reads Nettie's letters, all taken from Mr. ____'s trunk, as though they are happening in real time, but in fact this "news" (proved false) might have been true, since Celie has not received a letter from Nettie after the last letter placed in the trunk, and the news from the Defense Department comes after this last letter. The note serves to introduce a tension into the novel that perhaps Celie and Nettie will not be reunited, and also indicates Celie's belief that her family connection to Nettie allows her to know whether Nettie has or has not died.