Study Guide

The Color Purple Letter Sixty-One

By Alice Walker

Letter Sixty-One

  • Celie gets excited knowing that Nettie is alive. She still hopes to run away with her sister and her two children.
  • Celie feels shame when she thinks of her children. She worries that they might not be smart as a result of incest.
  • Nettie’s next letter:
  • When they arrive at their destination, an African named Joseph greets them in pidgin English and helps them put their cargo on dugout canoes to go ashore.
  • Nettie marvels over the African’s teeth, which are apparently strong and very white.
  • Joseph hires men to lead Nettie and the Reverend’s family to Olinka. It’s a four-day march through the jungle.
  • She described the Olinka village. The villagers love meat, especially barbecue.
  • Nettie says the villagers are astounded to have black missionaries.
  • In the village, the people want to know if the children, Olivia and Adam, belong to Corrine or Nettie. They say the children look like Nettie.
  • The villagers give them a meal, which they eat with their fingers.
  • During the whole welcome session, Joseph translates. He tells Nettie and the Reverend’s family that the people believe that they have always lived in this exact spot, growing cassava, groundnuts, yam, cotton, and millet.
  • The villagers tell about a chief they once had who wanted everyone to produce surplus for trading with the white men.
  • The bad chief bought up most of the village land and was very greedy.
  • Then a storm came and destroyed the village roofs, all made of roofleaf. Because the chief was so greedy and made everyone plant so many crops, there was no more roofleaf growing, so the buildings couldn’t be repaired.
  • The villagers suffered against the weather for months and months. Eventually, they found some more roofleaf, but it took five years for the plants to be plentiful again.
  • Now the villagers celebrate and worship the roofleaf.
  • Nettie says that roofleaf may not be Jesus Christ, but something that provides shelter is, in its own way, God.