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Nettie has been in Africa for five years, becoming part of the fabric of the Olinkan society. This letter gives an update of the activities of herself and the children. Adam and Olivia have grown; both of them are almost as tall as Nettie. Adam has done well in his studies, learning everything the local school can teach him; he now needs to go somewhere else for his education. Corrine continues to be suspicious of Nettie and has requested that she never be alone in the hut with Samuel. Nettie misses his company and their discussions. She continues to feel isolated from the villagers, who do not acknowledge her as an entity since she is an unmarried female. Nettie writes that she always looks forward to visits from Olivia and Adam, who eagerly tell her stories.
Nettie also gives information about the village. The big news is that a road is encroaching upon them. It will bring changes to the people from the outside world; unfortunately, the villagers do not want to learn new things or change. They refuse to listen to Nettie's explanations about American slavery and the Africans' role in it. Tashi, however, is now allowed more freedom. Her father did not survive the rainy season, which is ironic since he predicted the missionaries would not survive. After his funeral, Tashi's mother insisted that Tashi continue her education.
Nettie describes how an Olinkan man may have many wives, with life and death power over them all; "if he accuses one of his wives of witchcraft or infidelity, she can be killed." Amazingly, the wives of a common husband do not seem to be jealous of each other; instead they work together and become good friends. They also indulge the husband, treating him like an overgrown child. Samuel is very distressed by the practice of polygamy in the village since it is his job to teach the Christian ethic of monogamy.
Celie's letter indicates that there are signs of future change in the air for the Olinkan village. Since a road is being built close by, the villagers will soon receive many outside influences. Even though they resist change, it will surely come. The change has already started with Tashi, who has no desire to be a traditional Olinkan woman, subjugated to the patriarchal family system. When her father dies, Tashi is encouraged by her mother to continue her education, in direct conflict to Olinkan belief. As for Celie's children, they have done well and grown tall. Adams has learned everything the village school can teach him and need to go elsewhere for his education.
Some things in the village do not change. Polygamy is still practiced, and Nettie is still ignored because she is an unmarried female. Corrine still continues to be suspicious of her and has asked that she never be alone with Samuel. In Olinkan society, men are never friends with women, who are still relegated to doing all the labor. Even though they do not do the work, the men wield all the power, including the right to have a wife put to death; as a result, husbands are indulged by their many wives and never reach an adult level of maturity.
Nettie's letter explains how the Olinkas threw a huge feast when the road finally arrives at their village. They naively think that the road has been built exclusively for them and will not go out of the village. They raise an uproar when they discover that the road will continue past them. The chief of the Olinkan tribe even goes to the city to seek reparations and explanations. He finds out that a rubber company in England really owns their land, and if they want to stay in the village, they will have to pay rent. When the chief returns to the village, he finds the Olinkas assisting the road builders in planting rubber trees.
Nettie explains that the boys in the school are beginning to accept Olivia and Tashi's presence amongst them. Mothers, other than Tashi's, are also thinking of sending their daughters to school. The men still oppose female education and ask, "Who wants a wife who knows everything her husband knows?" Nettie also tells Celie that Corrine is very sick with African fever.
With imperialism comes the destruction of the tribe's traditional ways of life and ability for self-determination. After the road is first complete, the Olinka people celebrate and welcome the road builders, providing them with food and drink. It is obvious that they do not understand anything about imperialistic ways. The villagers soon learn, however, that they no longer own their land, but must pay rent to the rubber company who does own it. They are also expected to work for the rubber company, and will certainly be paid low wages. They suddenly feel betrayed by their own 'brothers,' recalling how previous Africans must have felt when they were sold into slavery.
Now that their way of life is changing in the village, the power structure also begins to shift. Although the influence of the West brings environmental destruction and destroys the village's structure, it also brings hope for women. Olinkan men no longer maintain omnipotent control; as a result, the women begin to assert their ideas, even letting their daughters be educated for the first time.