The Purple Flower

by Marita Bonner

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1031

Beginning As the play opens, the White Devils live on the hill, atop of which grows the purple Flower-of-Life-at-Its-Fullest. The Us's have worked to build all of the roads and houses on the hill but are forced to live in the valley, where they "spend their time trying to devise means of getting up the hill " Meanwhile, the White Devils "try every trick, known and unknown," to prevent the Us's from reaching the hill.

The action begins in the evening, as the Us's rest beside a brook, "with their backs toward Nowhere and their faces toward Somewhere.'' The White Devils can be heard singing from the hillside, "You stay where you are! / We don't want you up here!" The Us's discuss their prospects of ever reaching the hill to see the purple flower. Another Us claims that he is not concerned with the White Devils and that he will go up the hill when he is ready to; then he falls asleep. An Old Lady despairs that she will never get to the hill to see the flower, even though she has worked hard all her life to "get Somewhere" by washing clothes for the White Devils. A Young Us comments that all she's gotten for her labors is "a slap in the face." The Old Lady responds that the "Leader" told them that they could succeed by showing the White Devils that they know how to work hard, but, she comments, if two hundred years of the hard work of slavery haven't shown them, nothing will. Another Young Us says that working for the White Devils gets the Us's nowhere. The Old Lady retorts that "something's got to be done though!"

Middle A family of four Us's—An Old Man (also called Average), An Old Woman, A Young Us (also called Finest Blood), and the Young Girl (also called Sweet)—walk up and join the group. The Old Lady turns to the Older Man saying that the Us's are never going to make it up the hilt. Average responds that they will as soon as they get "the right leaders." The Middle-Aged Woman responds that the problem is not getting the right leaders but that infighting among the Us's prevents the leaders from accomplishing anything. The Old Lady mentions that the Us's are going to have a meeting to discuss what to do to make it up the hill. Average complains that talking accomplishes nothing, but his daughter and son. Sweet and Finest Blood, volunteer to talk at the meeting.

An Old Us approaches the group, beating on a drum. The other Us's. roused by the sound of the drumming, stand up; some of them begin to dance. By this time it is night, but the purple flower can still be seen at the top of the hill. An Old Man with a long beard stands up and urges the others to work hard to reach the hill. Several Young Us's retort that they have been told all their lives to work hard, but that has gotten them Nowhere. A Young Man, carrying a bundle of books, comes forward and tosses his books to the ground, saying that the books are no good, that they don't say anything about how Black Us can overcome the White Devils, because the books are all written by White Devils. Yet Another Old Man calls out to God to "tell us how to get Somewhere!" A Young Man and A Young Us argue that calling to God does not do any good.

Suddenly, Sweet comes running out of the bushes and tells the...

(This entire section contains 1031 words.)

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others that a White Devil was hiding there and pinched her when she walked by. Finest Blood, her brother, immediately picks up a rock with the intention of going after the White Devil, but Cornerstone, his mother, warns that the White Devils will kill him if he does so. Average, his father, adds that he is better off staying where he is, because he at least has food and shelter. A Newcomer approaches, carrying two heavy bags of gold, which he drops to the ground. He explains that all of his money does him no good because the White Devils will not allow him to buy anything or to get Somewhere with it.

End An Old Lady tells the others that she had a dream of a White Devil cut into six pieces. An Old Man, hearing this, responds, "Thank God! It's time then!" The Old Man asks for an old iron pot. He then begins conjuring, first by calling upon all of the Old Us's and the ancestors of the Us's. The voices of ten million Us's can be heard, singing. "Yes-— Lord!—We hear you!" The Old Man asks for a handful of dust, which An Old Woman throws into the pot. The Old Man then asks for books. The Young Man who threw them down puts the books into the pot. The Old Man asks for gold, which The Man of the Gold Bags puts into the pot. Finally, the Old Man asks for blood, "Blood from the eyes, the ears, the whole body!"

At this, the other Us's remain silent. Suddenly, Finest Blood steps forward to offer his blood. Cornerstone protests, offering her own instead, but the Old Man tells her that she is needed by the other Us's. The Old Man explains that he is doing what God has told him to do, that he is God's Servant. He says that if he does as he is told, mixing the dust, books, gold, and blood, "God will shape a new man." Finest Blood again offers his own blood, because "the New Man must be born." The Old Man explains to Finest Blood how to approach the White Devils and talk to them, to tell them that blood has been taken and blood must be given. Finest Blood goes off into the night to carry out his task of righting the White Devils, while the other Us's and the White Devils listen. The final stage directions read: "Lei the curtain close leaving all the Us's, the White Devils, Nowhere, Somewhere, listening, listening. Is it time?''