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This choreopoem, twenty separate poems set to music, is one of my favorites. Six of the seven women represent colors of the rainbow, and the seventh symbolizes the black woman. The rainbow is a symbol of the different life experiences and identities of black women. Enotes provides a quote from Shange, the poet and dramatist, from an interview she gave:
The rainbow is a fabulous symbol for me. If you see only one color, it's not beautiful. If you see them all, it is. A colored girl, by ray definition, is a girl of many colors. But she can only see her overall beauty if she can see all the colors of herself. To do that, she has to look deep inside her. And when she looks inside herself, she will find... love and beauty.
The "lady in brown", the only woman who is not a color of the rainbow, begins and ends the play. Each of the other women represents a color of the rainbow and an experience and identity that is different. For example, the "lady in blue" is a racially mixed black woman in Harlem who suffers the pain of an abortion and lives in fear of being raped. The "lady in red" watches in horror as her boyfriend dangles her two children out of a window until she agrees to marry him. She tells him she will, and he drops the children anyway. The other women, different colors of the rainbow, tell their stories as well. Together, they are a combination of the totality of the black woman. In the "Themes" section of the Study Guide, Enotes best expresses each role:
Facets of the black woman from gender- and socially-oppressed victim to triumphant spell-weaver and self-actualized person combine to portray a rainbow of possible selves that celebrate the black female identity.
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