Colors in Poetry: I'm Your Portrait, Father: A Poem
The Importance of Colors in Literature
Without question, poets and other writers may call upon various colors to help emphasize different points in their work. This tradition goes back to the founding of many religions and beyond, including cultural and societal perspectives. For example, in the Book of Genesis in the Bible, God makes a promise to Noah with a beautiful rainbow. In addition, in Hinduism, orange is a sacred color, representing part of the classification of mankind. Even “light workers” of today use colors to help people with their auras, assisting individuals with recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of energies related to these colors.
There are positive and negative characteristics associated with each color which authors may wish to convey. Below I've provided you with two such examples from brilliant authors, but meanings of an individual color can change somewhat depending on the desired intent of the text. For this reason, understanding some aspects of what different colors symbolize in literature can be helpful with reading a variety of novels and poetry. My poem is an offering to God for being the Author of my Life, allowing me to be a participant in His beautiful Painting of many Shades and Textures. If you enjoy this poem, please, feel free to comment. Thanks for reading: I'm Your Portrait, Father.
Two Examples of Writers effectively Using Colors in a Story
- The Masque of the Red Death – In this short story by Edgar Allan Poe, the progression of life is symbolized in seven colored rooms. A black and red room symbolizes death, green represents adolescence, and birth is portrayed as a blue room. The characters go through the rooms, leading to a chilling conclusion as only Poe could give his readers. Published in 1842, this is a brilliant example of how an author uses color to help tell a story.
- The Scarlet Letter - The first edition of this classic novel appeared in 1850 from the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The plot centers around the main character having to wear a red letter A. The red letter symbolizes sin and adultery,. But the main character in the novel, Hester Prynne, eventually stops accepting the Puritan perspectives as time passes. The color of the letter begin to mean something different over the course of the novel.
Are you able to determine when an author is making a point with the use of colors in his/her text?
I'm Your Portrait, Father
Father, how did you know?
Worked for fishing firm,
Cobalt dimes last year.
Father, how did you know?
Poured violet sweat from pores,
To hide dried up tears.
Father, when did you know?
Cyan indentured term,
My crime was my fears.
Father, I’m glad you showed,
The heart with brushed stroke,
Soul canvas now cleared.
Darkness breeds sadness,
Brewed from our own madness,
Grilled black with illness,
A tart bitter gladness.
Light is savory,
Flavoring pink dishes,
I am one man He fishes.
Father, where will I go?
Orange rays cleansed my germs,
I can see now and hear.
Father, how will I know?
Lead me my faith white burns,
Lit with happy cheer.
Father, you I follow,
I know your hold is firm,
Stilling my concerns.
Father, the less traveled road,
Place in Glory I’ll earn,
I’ll paint golden my peers.
Darkness flees brightness,
Healed with wellness,
A surrender sweet discernment.
A taste like sugar,
Brown table to dine,
Rainbows my dessert.
What is your favorite color?
Some Symbolic Meanings of Colors in Poetry and Novels
Below I’ve provided some basic information about what different colors may signify in literary works. This list is not complete because there are many shades of every color, and authors may be inventive in their selection and application of tones. After spending time with spiritual texts and conducting research over the years, these have been reoccurring themes I have found about the use of colors. The name of the color along with brief descriptions of their meaning in literary works is provided.
Different Colors and their Meanings in Writing
- Black – Black is most often associated with death or disease in literature. Black is the color of mourning, too. In more modern times, we find black to be the color worn by various heroes as well.
- Blue – Blue usually is used to show tranquility or peace. The color is most frequently related to male traits in literature. However, blue can signal a gradual transition to sadness, such as related to the music style of the “blues.” In Christianity, blue is frequently associated with the Virgin Mary.
- Brown – This color in literature is related to being humble. It also suggests seasonal changes in characters or events, such as the “winter of someone’s life.” Brown symbolizes home, foundational perspectives, and a low status.
- Gold and Silver – The color gold can be used to demonstrate wealth or greed in a novel. Gold and silver together can symbolize power and influence. Silver may be used to show fortune, but it is also an indication of something ancient.
- Green – This color can symbolize healing. It may also represent birth or indicates there is hope coming for the character. Because the color is versatile in literature, green can be used to show jealousy within a character or a venomous situation.
- Purple – Purple is synonymous with royalty. Purple may be used to show agony going on for a character as well. Used in its lighter shade, violet, this color tends to indicate “clear-mindedness” in literature.
- Orange – This color in literature is associated with spiritual powers or vitality. Orange may also indicate some seductive ability of a character, place, or event. The color orange is also used to show an awakening.
- Red – Red most often represents a need for a rest or stopping of an action, emotion, or thought going on within the literary work. The color also represents passion, danger, or anger. Red can be used to show sacrifice in literature, too.
- White and pink –White usually indicates purity or innocence. In some works, white is associated with holiness or enlightenment. Similarly, pink may indicate innocence, but it is also associated with feminine traits and/or friendship in literature.
- Yellow – This color may be a signal that caution is a good course of action for the character in a novel or poem. Yellow can also symbolize old age or decay. This color can represent a potential for fire in literature.
The Masque of the Red Death – Wikipedia. Retrieved October 30, 2018, From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Masque_of_the_Red_Death
The Scarlet Letter – Wikipedia. Retrieved October 28, 2018, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scarlet_Letter