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

Ntozake Shange

Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Although the play delineates the brutal treatment accorded to black women by black men, it also addresses the universal battery of women by men that women experience worldwide. The story of Beau Willie Brown, a crazed Vietnam War veteran who brutalizes his girlfriend with knives and beatings, embodies the violence and the physical abuse that African American women suffer at the hands of black men. The contributing factors to Beau’s cruelty—his maladjustment as a Vietnam War veteran, his victimization by racism in school, his frequent harassment by police officers, and his job as a gypsy cabdriver—must be mentioned in order to resist viewing him as the instrument through which Shange castigates all black men. Rather than depicting Beau and his ethnic counterparts as stereotypical brutes, the playwright seemingly suggests that violent black men like Beau are the products of racial and economic oppression. Frustration, rather than will, prompts these offenders to vent their anxieties upon women. Therefore, to an extent, society is responsible for the violence that African American men and all other victimized men commit against women. From this perspective, this play can be seen as addressing the abuse that all women have experienced at the hands of thwarted and embittered males.

Shange’s play underscores women’s need to rise above this bondage of maltreatment. It is an exhortation for bruised women to fight back after they have been injured and to construct an improved life-style. The characters’ response to the Beau Willie Brown tragedy reflects their internalization of this lesson. The ladies, after hearing about the abuse of a woman and the murder of her children, discover that the black woman must learn to trust herself and to believe in her own elemental value despite all the cruelties that are waged against her.

Dramatist and scholar Elizabeth...

(The entire section is 773 words.)

Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Drama)

For colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf is a feminist drama that expresses the psychological, emotional, and physical pain of Afro-American women who have been hurt by insensitive black men and an often-hostile environment. Yet the play asserts the ability of these women to survive hostility, pain, and violence through mutual understanding and support, praising their ability to develop self-esteen in spite of abortion, rape, rejection, emotional assault, and repeated humiliating love affairs. The choreopoem, therefore, depicts the black woman’s emotions from youth to maturity and ends with an assertion of selfhood. The point of view and characters are entirely feministic: There is no attempt to look at situations from a male point of view, nor is there evident much empathy for problems that a black male may encounter.

The colors of the various characters’ dresses represent the colors of the rainbow, with the lady wearing the most vibrant color, red, reciting the most forceful and memorable pieces. The other colors represent various degrees of emotions, with the brighter colors representing life and youth and the cooler colors sadness and despair. The character who wears brown, the color that is not a part of the rainbow, is associated with serious matters such as birth and history.

Several poems that demonstrate the brutality and anguish endured by women are spoken by the lady in red. She presents...

(The entire section is 516 words.)