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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
Since Corrine is very sick, she must allow Nettie to care for her, but she is still full of distrust. One day she calls Nettie over and asks her to swear on a Bible that she did not know Samuel before she showed up at their house. She also asks Samuel to swear the same thing on the Bible. Samuel is embarrassed by his wife's insinuations and apologizes to Nettie. Later, Corrine tells Nettie to lift her dress so that she might examine Nettie's stomach for signs of childbirth; not surprisingly, Nettie is totally humiliated. Nettie also feels terrible for Olivia and Adam, for Corrine now ignores them, and they have no idea that she is their adoptive mother, rather than their birth mother.
The suspicions that have been knawing at Corrine for years now surface while she is sick and dying. She recognizes the similar features between her adopted children and Nettie and becomes convinced that Nettie is the birthmother and Samuel is the father of Olivia and Adam. She makes both Nettie and Samuel swear on the Bible that they had not known one another prior to Nettie's arrival at their home. Still not convinced, she makes Nettie show her stomach so that Corrine can check it for signs of childbirth. The tension between Corrine and Nettie is in sharp contrast to the Olinka wives who share a husband; unlike Corrine, they are not suspicious, jealous, or possessive.
Samuel has also believed that Nettie is the birthmother of Olivia and Adam. He thought she had followed her children to his home, which is why he took pity on her and hired her. He also asked her to come along to Africa because he could not bear to take her children from her. Samuel finally asks Nettie who the birthmother is; she responds by asking where he got the children.
The minister tells his story, which is a mixture of the truth and of lies told by Fonso. According to Samuel, there was a woman with two children whose husband died at the hands of white townspeople. Though she was mentally unstable, she later met a man (Fonso) who took care of her and the children. They had more children; then two years before the woman died, she had two last children, Olivia and Adam. The husband felt he was unable to care for the little ones and brought them to Samuel, who took both the young girl and boy into his home. He felt that the two children were an answer to his prayers, for he and his wife had never had children of their own.
Nettie could not tell Samuel the truth about the children belonging to her sister Celie; but she can tell Celie the truth about Fonso. She writes that "Pa is not our Pa." Samuel's story has clearly indicated that Fonso was the stepfather of Celie and Nettie, not the birthfather. Although the news does not take away the shame of Fonso raping Celie, it does, at least, mean that Fonso is not really both the father and the grandfather of Olivia and Adam; they are not the products of true incest, a fact that must be a relief to Celie.
A new side of Samuel is seen in this letter. For years, he has believed that Nettie is the mother of Olivia and Adam, for he sees how much they look like her. He is certain that Nettie has come to his house looking for work in order to be near her children. Samuel pities her plight and takes her in to help raise the children. He also takes Nettie to Africa, for he cannot bear the thought of separating her from Olivia and Adam. He is obviously a deeply kind and generous man.
From Samuel's story about Fonso and the children, Nettie deduces what is fact and what is fiction. Obviously, it is a lie that Olivia and Adam are children of his first wife. It does seem factual, however, that Fonso is really a stepfather to her and Celie; knowing it will be a relief to her sister, Nettie writes Celie this letter. Now Celie no longer has to live with the horror that her children were offspring of her own father. Also, knowing that Fonso, who has abused and denigrated women his whole life, is not directly related to either of them frees both sisters from at least the biological tyranny of patriarchy. The demise of their real father, however, is another indication of how the white power structure destroys Blacks through racism.