for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf Masterpieces of Women's Literature for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf Analysis - Essay

Ntozake Shange

Masterpieces of Women's Literature for colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf Analysis

The most consistent criticism leveled at Shange’s play has come from those who have accused her of portraying black men in a very negative light. Her critics argue that in her attempt to articulate a feminist viewpoint, she attacks the black male as being void of anything positive to contribute to the life of the black woman. Such criticism is misdirected. Shange’s play succeeds because of its relentlessly honest look at the pain of being a black woman in white society. Rather than creating a discourse that posits white oppression as the core reason for black suffering, Shange instead focuses on the black experience and tries to allow black women to talk about their most intimate secrets. Most of the women in the play share a view that positive male-female relationships are a desirable dream. (Shange’s later lesbian politics do not emerge in this work, as she posits heterosexuality as a norm.) Also, Shange grants the black male a certain dignity in her narrative about the Haitian leader Toussaint L’Overture, who becomes actualized in the young boy Toussaint Jones. This incarnation has deep symbolic importance, because it suggests that the black woman can find a heroic figure even within her limited existence in working-class America.

There is little question, however, that Shange seeks to challenge the patriarchal worldview that has prevented the black woman from having her own stories told in American literature. The play evolved out of a need to join the growing voices of Third World women who sought, in the early 1970’s, to express the visions and aspirations of women of color. It also attempted to present a distinctively black interpretation of the “white feminist movement” in a manner that demonstrated that the women’s movement was not necessarily articulating the needs and expectations of black women. Shange’s care for detail in her depiction of the black working-class experience points to this fact explicitly. Her characters are not middle-class, privileged women seeking to gain an upper hand in the patriarchal world order, but working women who have discovered a need...

(The entire section is 860 words.)