The Color Purple

The Color Purple

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


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


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 or racial abuse. Also the Manners and Customs
have been reversed, emphasizing that it is completely natural/normal for
a black woman to be running a successful business in the deep American

South (which in the real is unheard of, dictated by an extremely racist
and sexist society).