The Color Purple

Unknown

The main theme this essay will be focusing on is the distinction between the "real" outcome of economic achievement as described in The Color Purple by the lynching of Celie's father, and its "alternative" economic view presented at the end of the novel depicting Celie's happiness and entrepreneurial success. We will attempt the task at hand by relating the novel to two Models (Historical and Empirical Data, Manners and Customs) of representation in the "real" and "alternative" worlds of The Color Purple.

By focusing on the letters describing the lynching of Celie's father, and the letter describing Celie's economic stability and happiness (found in last letter), we will have established a clear distinction between the real and alternative worlds in relation to the economic situations presented throughout the novel.

Manners and customs in the "real" generally work to maintain order, decorum, and stability. Within the novel the reality was that blacks had to work for whites on whatever terms were available. When using manners and customs to depict the real world of the novel, it is evident we are examining an external world based in a society where the white oppressor governs the oppressed black populace. The economic realities of white land ownership, near-monopoly of technical and business skills and control of financial institutions was in fact the accepted norm (Sowell 48).

When presenting the term fact - we must account for the introduction of a second model, "historical and empirical data" in representing the real world of The Color Purple.

As illustrated in the pages of American history books, it is evident that American Negro slavery had a peculiar combination of features. The key features of American slavery were that it followed racial or color lines and that it was slavery in a democratic country (Sowell 4). The fact that it existed in a democratic country meant that it required some extraordinary rationale to reconcile it with the prevailing values of the nation. Racism was an obvious response, whose effects were still felt more than a century after its abolition (Sowell 3).

The Models (Manners and Customs, Historical and Empirical Data) of representation in the real world of The Color Purple was made clear when we discover that Celie's biological father was lynched for being a prosperous storekeeper.

"And as he (the father) did so well farming and everything he turned his hand to prospered, he decided to open a store, and try his luck selling dry goods as well. Well, his store did so well that he talked his two brothers into helping him run it. . . . Then the white merchants began to get together and complain that his store was taking all the black business away from them. . . . This would not do"(Walker 180).

The store the black men owned took the business away from the white men, who then interfered with the free market (really the white market) by lynching their black competitors. Class relations, in this instance, are shown to motivate lynching. Lynching was the act of violence white men performed to invoke the context of black inferiority and sub-humanity to the victim, exposing the reality of the economic bases of racial oppression (Berlant 217). The black individual served as a figure of racial "justice" for whites; the black individual was an economic appendage reduced to the embodiment of his or her alienation (Berlant 224). "Color" in the southern U.S. during the early 1900s was synonymous with inferiority.

When discussing the economic alternative world illustrated in The Color Purple Celie situates herself firmly in the family's entrepreneurial tradition; she runs her business successfully. Where her father and uncles were lynched for presuming the rights of full American citizens, Celie is ironically rewarded for following in her family's entrepreneurial interests. Celie's shift from underclass victim to capitalist entrepreneur has only positive signification. Her progression from exploited black woman, as woman, as sexual victim, is aided by her entrance into the economy as property owner, manager of a small business, storekeeper - in short capitalist entrepreneur.

The Models (Manners and Customs, Historical and Empirical Data) of representation in the alternative world presented at the end of the novel, leave us with the notion of a happy ending for our heroine Celie. Here Historical and Empirical Data has completely been suspended or erased form existence. There is no reminiscing on evidence of any social mistreatment