The Purple Flower

by Marita Bonner

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Another Us Another Us, later indicated as Young Man and The Grass Chewer, lies on his back chewing a piece of grass. He tells the others that he is not concerned with the White Devils, stating that "when I get ready to go up that hill—I'm going!" But he promptly rolls over and goes to sleep, indicating his apathetic attitude toward the idea of putting any effort into fighting for racial equality.

Another Young Us Like the first Young Us, Another Young Us argues with the Old Lady that working hard does not accomplish anything in terms of improving the socioeconomic status of the Us's.

Average Average argues that what's needed to improve the status of the Us's is "the right leaders." He is critical of the idea of holding a meeting to talk about what can be done, asserting that talking gets them nowhere. Average also expresses hopelessness about the Us's ever making it up the hill. Average represents an average attitude of complacency about the status of the Us's. He tells the other Us's that they "better stay safe and sound" where they are, because at least they have food and shelter. The average person, this character indicates, would rather accept what he has than take the risk of fighting for greater equality.

Cornerstone Cornerstone argues that the problem is not a lack of good leaders to stove for greater equality but the lack of unity among Us's, which makes the leaders' work ineffective. She points out that holding a meeting is important because talking is better than not talking. When her son Finest Blood volunteers to sacrifice his blood to the conjurer, Cornerstone volunteers to sacrifice her own blood instead but is persuaded not to. The Old Man eventually convinces her that it is important for Finest Blood to confront the White Devils. Cornerstone represents the cornerstone of her community, supporting others in their efforts to work toward equality for the Us's and yet remaining protective of her son and daughter.

First Young Us Young Us, later referred to as First Young Us, argues with the Old Lady that there's no point in working hard all one's life if it "doesn't get you anywhere.'' He compares a life of labor to "boring around in the same hole like a worm,'' which only results in "making the hole bigger to stay in." A Young Us represents the viewpoint that simply laboring away at the type of menial job available to the African Americans will not accomplish anything in terms of improving the socioeconomic status of the race. The Young Us later argues with the Old Us that he should not spend so much time talking to God to ask for His help but should give God a chance to talk to him. The Young Us is later full of skepticism when the Old Man tries conjuring to help the Us's.

The Grass ChewerSee Another Us

The Man of the Gold BagsSee The Newcomer

The Middle-Aged WomanSee Cornerstone

The Newcomer The Newcomer, described as "a square-set middle-aged Us," walks up to the group of Us's carrying a heavy bag of gold, which he drops to the ground. He explains that, even though he has money, it doesn't get him anywhere, because the White Devils refuse to sell him any land or property on the hill. His character represents the effects of racial prejudice that prevents even financially successful African Americans from buying homes or other property in desirable locations.

An Old Lady The Old Lady laments that she will never live to see the purple flower....

(This entire section contains 1409 words.)

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She insists that"something's got to be done" about the White Devils, but she is convinced that "we ain't never going to make that hill'' The Old Lady represents an attitude of defeatism, because she has spent her whole life working like a slave for white people and has lost hope of ever attaining racial equality.

An Old Man The Old Man arrives beating a drum, which gets the attention of all of the Us's. After an Old Woman states that she has had a dream of a White Devil chopped in pieces, he says that "it's tune " The Old Man asks for an iron pot, which he uses for conjuring. First he calls upon all of the Old Us's and all of the ancestors of the Us's. Then he asks for a handful of dust to put in the pot. He then adds the bundle of books and the bag of gold. Finally the Old Man requests red blood for his mixture. He explains to the others that he is doing what God has told him to do for God to "shape a new man.'' The Old Man advises Finest Blood on the best way to confront the White Devils.

Sundry White Devils The Sundry White Devils occupy the lower level of the stage, which is divided from the upper level by a thin board. They have no dialogue but silently mimic the main action, which takes place on the upper level. They are described as "artful little things with soft wide eyes such as you would expect to find in an angel " They have "soft hair that flops around then- horns" and "their horns glow red all the time—now with blood—now with eternal fire-now with deceit—now with unholy desire." They "have bones tied carefully across their tails to make them seem less like tails and more like mere decorations." The White Devils are "artful little things full of artful movements and artful tricks." They dance about,"sometimes as if they were men'' and "sometimes as if they were snakes." The White Devils live on the hill and "try every trick, known or unknown, to keep the Us's from getting to the hill." The White Devils represent, at an allegorical level, white people who oppress others. That they live on the hill represents their socioeconomic privilege over African Americans, a privilege that they "try every trick" to keep for themselves. They are described as "artful" to imply that racism is imposed upon people of color through various forms of trickery and deceit. The White Devils sometimes behave like men"with dignity'' and sometimes like snakes, indicating that white people sometimes behave humanely toward African Americans but at other times behave evilly, indicated by their association with snakes, a traditional symbol of evil.

Young Girl—Sweet Young Girl—Sweet is described as "a medium light brown girl, beautiful as a browned peach '' Sweet is sexually harassed by a White Devil, who hides in the bushes and pinches her when she wanes by. This incident is an allegorical reference to the history of rape and sexual abuse of African-American women, particularly in slavery, by white men such as slave masters.

Young Man Young Man makes his way to the center of the crowd of Us's and throws down a bundle of books he has been carrying, claiming that they are "no good'" He explains that "there isn't anything in one of these books that tells Black Us how to get around White Devils," because, he explains, the White Devils wrote the books. This Young Man represents the efforts of African Americans to improve their socioeconomic status through education. The implication here is that education is ineffective because the educational system is dominated by white people and simply reinforces white dominance over African Americans.

The Young Man—Finest Blood The Young Man—Finest Blood is described as "a slender, tall, bronzy brown youth who walks with his head high.'' As he walks, "he touches the ground with his feet as if it were a velvet rug and not sunbaked, jagged rocks." After his sister, Sweet, reports that she has been pinched by a White Devil hiding in the bushes, Finest Blood immediately picks up a rock and starts after the White Devil, but the others discourage him from exacting a violent revenge. Later, when the Old Man says that he needs "red blood" for his conjuring potion, Finest Blood immediately volunteers his own blood As the play ends, Finest Blood goes off to confront the White Devils according to the Old Man's advice. The closing lines of the play are those of Finest Blood, heard from offstage, "his voice lifted, young, sweet, brave and strong." Finest Blood represents the "New Man" who possesses all of the finest qualities needed to effectively fight for racial equality.




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