The Color Purple: Real Outcome of Economic Achievement and


Alternative Economic View


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 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