The Color Purple

The Color Purple

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The Color Purple Letter 86 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Nettie writes to Celie, saying that Tashi and her mother have gone into the woods to live with the mbeles, or Africans who refuse to bow down to English authority in Africa. The other villagers, who remained, have begun dying because they no longer have the ability to grow yams, which help treat the chronic blood disease from which Henrietta also suffers, in America.
It is not clear whether the mbeles want to drive the English out of Africa completely, or if they simply want to reassert their ancestral rights to hunt on, farm on, and live on the land they love—the land their ancestors have hunted on and farmed on for generations. It is clear that those Africans who have not taken action are being wiped out by white men who barely even seem to recognize that they are doing it.
Themes
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Nettie and Samuel worry what is to become of the Olinkans, but they try to find God everywhere—in nature, in the trees, as a way of coping with the horrors they see all around them. Nettie wonders how the Africans would take the news that, in America, black people are treated harshly and discriminated against in all walks of life. She also comments on the continued indifference with which the Olinkans view her and Samuel—they are, to the villagers, perpetual outsiders.
Nettie unknowingly mirrors the religious conversion Celie has had in the United States, with Shug's help. Nettie, despite originally wanting to go to Africa to "Christianize" the Olinka, finds that she can only find solace in a more inclusive God, who is everywhere and open to all. Nettie had hoped that Africa would be a place that would open its arms to her, but finds she felt as excluded there (by blacks) as she does in the United States (by whites).
Themes
God and Spirituality Theme Icon
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon
Nettie ends the letter by saying that Adam has also disappeared, and she and Samuel believe he has gone into the jungle to find Tashi, among the mbeles.
Adam, who does not have a large role in the novel, is willing to go to great lengths to be with the woman he loves—which is a notable trait among the men in the novel.
Themes
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Violence and Suffering Theme Icon
Self-Discovery Theme Icon