Dear English 606,

Where do I start with this Post?  There is so much that I want to focus on concerning the letters between “Celie, Nettie, God and Everyone”.  I’ll do my best to stick to a few points and avoid rambling and digressing…or I will at least try my best.  Focusing on the lack of dates and times within these letters, the point in the “novel” when Celie finds the letters from Nettie, who has possession over letters, (i.e. author, reader, etc…) and I will attempt to come to a conclusion about the identity of these two sisters throughout the text.  Before I get to that, I am wondering what to make of Alice Walker’s own note at the end of the novel:

“I thank everybody in this book for coming.–A.W., author and medium”(289)

While reading this novel, and collection of Celie’s letters, I was not thinking of Walker.  However, I’m not sure if this note is intended for the reader in relation to the letters that Walker technically wrote?  My question is how does the novel change when this note is read from Walker herself?  We are to read these letters as Celie’s whether she has written them or found/received them from Nettie; however, at the conclusion of the novel Walker calls attention to herself as the “true” author but also the medium, indicating she is a kind of tool for the expression of the thoughts of Celie and Nettie along with their identites.  I’m not sure if this note is important or if Walker intended it to be an actual part of the book, or as an aside but either way, she labels herself author and medium which could be read as her self-identification in general, meaning in her life, or, as the author and medium of these specific letter, which is it?  Or, is she the medium between Celie and the reader? I’m not sure there needs to be an answer to this question but I couldn’t help but bring it up in relation to our recent discussions of authenticity concerning the epistolary form.

Now, onto the other points I will attempt to address…

While reading these letters, I couldn’t help but notice that there were not dates on any letter.  There is no indication as to a specific day or how much time has passed between each letter.  The only clue to the reader of time in these letters is the reference of days past, holidays, or seemingly social activism taking place within areas such as Harlem.  As readers, we are given clues to the time period as we know Celie is “…fourteen years old” (1) at the start of her letters and her age is referenced, among other “characters’ ” throughout.  We are also told of the time period when the relationship between African-American’s and white people is addressed, (i.e. when Sofia can’t sit in the front seat with the Mayor’s wife), and the type of work being done such as working in the “fields” and Harpo creating this kind of “speak easy”.  The time period is also made clear through the language used in relation to gender throughout.  However, regardless of the many references we get to the time period, or how much time has passed in between each letter, there are no dates.  I’m not sure what to make of this or if it matters?  In other words, how does the lack of dates influence or contribute to the reading of these letters?  Furthermore, I am wondering why Celie refers to certain people by name and while we know her “husband’s” name is Albert, she writes Mr. ______?  Why is this?  I’m still trying to sort this out….

Another critical moment in this collection is when Celie finds out that Mr. _______/Albert was hiding her letters from Nettie.  I was wondering how Celie was presenting these?  She, (or Walker), writes, “Next one, fat, dated two months later, say,”(130), (also, what is the date?)  Is she copying these letters from Nettie into a kind of diary?  These are letters but they are also a kind of diary to God, so I am wondering if the two epistolary forms are even different?  Furthermore, are they still all part of a collection even when she switches from writing to God in a diary to actually writing to Nettie?  Does she send these letters to Nettie?  All of this is unclear but I also think it contributes to the authenticity of these letters.  What I mean by this is that when reading these letters, they seemed authentic to Celie; she is writing these letters as a kind of confessional to search for her own identity within the world of abuse that she endures.  It seemed as if I was truly reading a collection of letter from this individual, Celie, and have been given this kind of privilege into the most sacred moments of her life even if they were so horrific.  The difference in laguage between Celie and Nettie is so clear which may also influence my assertion that these letters seem to truly be Celie speaking/writing.  As readers, we also see Celie’s tone and language change as she grows more confident with herself and her surroundings.  I’m not sure if it is the content being described/the life Celie had, or the language being used, but these letters did not seem as if they were written by someone else.  In other words, it is as if Celie truly exists which I don’t think is necessarily true of all epistolary texts, real or created by an author.

Also, one interesting moment that made me think of sender and receiver of letters was when Nettie writes, “I tore [the letters] into little pieces and dropped them into the water.  Albert is not going to let you have my letters and so what use is there in writing them”.  She then states, “But now I feel different” (130).  I know we have discussed this before, but this makes me question does it really matter if the letter reaches its intended recipant?

Okay, I think I am digressing a bit here and I still have yet to get to everything I wanted to talk about and I’m not even sure if I have made coherent observations!  I hope to respond more after reading your posts!

Best,

Penelope

 

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The Delayed Telegram

“(Sent to Carfax, Sussex, as no county given; delivered late by twenty-two hours)” (130)

Can you believe that if this telegram had gotten to Dr. Seward in time he might have been able to save Lucy?

I found this event completely interesting for two reasons.

First, it speaks of the new technologies of the time so predominant in Dracula. As an epistolary novel Dracula is not only a compilation of journals and letters but it also includes telegrams and recordings from a phonograph transcribed by Mina on her typewriter. Not only this, of course, but blood transfusions? All of these amazing inventions are just such an important part of this narrative. I mean think for example of Lucy’s response in August 30th (101) to Mina’s letter sent August 24th from Buda-Pesth (98). I mean when I send letters to Mexico City via regular mail they take two weeks to get there!

Anyway! What also captured my attention was how the materiality of these documents has a lot to do with the narrative itself. Something that I found very fascinating was that, compared to other texts like Ovid’s Heroides or the Letters of Abelard and Heloise, in Dracula we don’t just get letters telling a story (like Frankenstein too!) but the letters and other important documents are actually part of and participants, as in the case of the telegraph, of the events of the novel.

It is all thanks to Mina who typewrites everything and in “manifold” therefore making “three copies of the diary, just as [she] had done with all the rest” (198). Moreover, she organizes the documents chronologically so that, seven years after the events related in the documents, John can look back and remember. As he does so he reflects that “there is hardly one authentic document; nothing but a mass of type-writing, except the later notebooks of Mina and Seward and myself, and Van Helsing’s memorandum” (326). If we visualize what John is holding in his hand (the typewritten stuff) it doesn’t look so different from the book we are holding today, it doesn’t have character, like handwriting, marks from being folded by the sender, and fancy seals broken by the receiver. And then, what is an “authentic document” (326)?

I strongly believe this text is concerned with the importance of keeping records. And not just because something fascinating like having a close encounter with a vampire might happen to you, but for the art of remembering, and having others remember you. Jonathan said goodbye to Mina in his journals while in Castel Dracula and there’s an idea there (at least in his mind and probably Stoker’s) that your writings will remain with you after death until found by someone or sent to your significant other; someone will always find them.

But then, there are documents that weren’t delivered like the note left by Van Helsing to Seward (181), and letters to Lucy that she didn’t open (140 & 143). I wonder what Derrida would make of that…

Thanks for reading the ramblings of your humble blogger,

Andie