for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf

by Ntozake Shange

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Characters Discussed

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Lady in Red

Lady in Red, the dominant character in this work (she has the largest number of lines). She recites the most violent and emotionally moving poems in the drama, including those that demonstrate the brutality and anguish endured and experienced by African American women. Like all the other characters in the drama, she has a feminist point of view. She recites poems titled “no assistance,” “latent rapists,” “one,” and “a nite with beau willie brown.” In “no assistance,” she berates a lover who has failed to assist her in developing and maintaining a relationship; in “latent rapists,” she points out that rapists often are known to their victims; in “one,” she portrays the image of a glittering seductress who cries herself to sleep after her romantic activities; and in “a nite with beau willie brown,” she tells the story of a crazed Vietnam veteran who throws his children out the window. Her pieces address the major themes of the drama.

Lady in Orange

Lady in Orange, a poet and a dancer. With a feminist outlook, she expresses a love of the arts of poetry, song, and dance in the poems “i’m a poet who” and “no more love poems #1.” The first poem declares that she is a poet who wants to write, sing, and dance but who cannot communicate with people anymore. In the second poem, she declares that she needs love even though the world considers her to be evil and a nag, thereby expounding on a primary theme in the drama, the misunderstanding of women and failures of communication between men and women.

Lady in Yellow

Lady in Yellow, who represents youth and liveliness. She recites “graduation night,” a selection about a fun night of dancing, parties, and lost virginity, and “no more love poems #3,” about the unfortunate dependence of women on sources outside themselves for love. The author uses this poem to affirm the drama’s assertion that strength must be found inside oneself and in the friendship and support of other women.

Lady in Green

Lady in Green, called Sechita, a dancer in a poem that is strong with images of Egyptian royalty and mixed with references to New Orleans “conjurin.” Sechita has performed in many places and has taken her mystical and magical aura along with her sometimes tattered appearance. She recites the lively and amusing poem “somebody almost walked off with alla my stuff,” which affirms the need to find strength within oneself.

Lady in Purple

Lady in Purple, who expresses the need for mutual support and understanding among women in the poem “pyramid.” In “no more love poems #2,” she begs her lover to allow her to love him, furthering the theme of unrequited love found throughout the drama.

Lady in Blue

Lady in Blue, who is given somber pieces, as symbolized by the color she wears. The poem “i used to live in the world” portrays an isolated character trapped by a six-block section of Harlem, her universe, thus demonstrating the tragedy of a woman without supportive female companions. In “sorry,” she points out the uselessness of the word, along with all the ramifications of the word when used as an excuse after inflicting pain on someone. In “no more love poems #3,” she asserts her need for love. These poems demonstrate the tragedy that isolation and pain cause in the lives of black women.

Lady in Brown

Lady in Brown, dressed in a neutral color not of the rainbow. She introduces the choreopoem by reciting the first major poem. She deals with the earthly matters of the world...

(This entire section contains 652 words.)

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that her color denotes through her recitations of “dark phases,” a poem about the pain and misunderstanding that often accompany the youth of black women, and “toussaint,” a piece with historical, social, and cultural significance as well as one denoting the pride that comes from learning about the contributions of black people throughout history.


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lady in blue The lady in blue in "now i love somebody more than" says she is racially mixed (her daddy thought he was puerto rican), she speaks a little Spanish, and she loves to dance "mamba bomba merengue." She ran away at age sixteen to meet willie colon at a dance marathon, and when he didn't show up, she realized she loved him more than music. The lady in blue also relates the poem "abortion cycle #1" which portrays a young woman undergoing the brutality of abortion alone because "nobody knew." Her third piece, "i used to live in the world," describes the claustrophobia-inducing prison space of "six blocks'' of Harlem, where a pretty girl risks being raped. Partway through the poem the lady in blue becomes a stalking man following the lady in orange. Finally she narrates "sorry," a poem that expresses feeling fed up with men's meaningless apologies.

lady in brown The performers in for colored girls.., are not unique characters but take on various black female identities in the separate poems. However, the lady in brown begins and ends the play, and, being clothed in the one color not present in a rainbow, she stands out among the others. The lady in brown participates in a few of the poems and relates the poem "toussaint." Because she is dressed in brown, she may represent the black female "everywoman."

lady in green The lady in green dances the poem "sechita'' while the lady in purple narrates it. Sechita psychologically turns the tables on her situation and rises above the dirty carnival of Natchez, Mississippi, by making her face "immobile,''"like neferetiti'' and becoming an Egyptian goddess "conjurin the spirit'' of the men who throw coins between her legs instead of allowing herself to be possessed by them. She also relates the angry poem "somebody almost walked off wid alia my stuff,'' in which a woman realizes that by fastening her attention on a man, she allowed herself to be left "danglin on a string of personal carelessness" and she wants back her "calloused feet & quik language" and her "whimsical kiss"; her "stuff."

lady in orange The lady in orange plays the stalked woman in "i used to live in the world." In another poem she defines herself as someone other than a "colored girl an evil woman a bitch a nag'' only to discover that doing so leaves her no identity at all. She laments over "bein sorry & colored at the same time/it's so redundant in the modern world."

lady in purple The lady in purple begins as one of the anonymous group of women, then steps forward to tell the story of Sechita (danced by the lady in green) and later tells of a trio of friends courted by one man in "pyramid." In "no more love poems #2" she says "lemme love you just like i am/a colored girl/i'm finally bein' real/no longer symmetrical and impervious to pain," marking a move toward acceptance of black female identity as it is and not as an unachievable ideal.

lady in red The lady in red narrates the poem "one'' about "the passion flower of southwest los angeles," a "hot'' woman, "a deliberate coquette'' who allows men to love and bed her, then evicts them before dawn, writes about the adventure in her diary, and cries herself to sleep. She also narrates the painful story of Crystal in "a nite with beau willie brown,'' whose two children Willie drops out of a fifth-floor window when she whispers too quietly that she will, after all, marry him.

lady in yellow The lady in yellow relates the poem "graduation nite" and in another poem says "bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical; dilemma/ i havent conquered yet,'' a statement that sums up the central problem of the choreopoem. Like the other performers, lady in yellow is not a fully developed character but one voice of many in the collective experience of black women portrayed by Shange.




Critical Essays