For Colored Girls Who Are No Longer Symmetrical With Pain

When I first saw the cover for for colored girls, I noticed some initial things.  First of all, the fact that the face of a “colored” woman is taking up a predominant amount of space on the cover even when compared to the text is something that jumps out at the audience.  This goes to truly show what this book is about.  Yet it does it in a peculiar manner.  As some of my classmates have already said, Ntozake Shange may believe that words can be overused and played out, in terms of how a true meaning of a word can be lost if it is said over and over and over again.  So she uses imagery to try and help get her message across.

To analyze the cover even deeper one has only to look at the text and the background upon which the text is placed.  The text is of rainbow coloring and is placed upon white tiles.  Well rainbow coloring goes to speak for the rainbow which Shange is referring to in the title, yet white tiles is seemingly interesting.  In my own interpretation, I believe the tiles show the norm that is our society.  The white male norm.  The rainbow on top of that goes to show just how significant a place women of color have in that norm.

I feel it is important that I address the style with which Shange decided to write the play.  Thanks to Meiling and Illeana I can see that i overlooked one major aspect in my original post which i actually addressed in some of my comments.  The fact is the words which she used, the way she decided to write the words in her play was monumental because it was a new way of expressing the ideals which she could have just done the same old way.  Instead using these words made it more interesting to look at and analyze.  This is because these words which are not grammatically correct show a new way of expressing words yet have the same meaning.

Looking at the rape, the abuse, the cheating, the loss of children that all of these women go through in collective stories is interchangeable because once again we must remember these women are identified through color.  By identifying these women by color, like I stated earlier, it makes it even more personal because then those shoes can be filled in by anyone who feels they can personally relate.

The poetry weaved into this play, in my opinion, was wonderful.  It was a set amount of poems with major concepts of the pain and the agony that women of color go through divided into seven different characters.  Yet at the end of the pain, and the agony just like at the end of a rainbow, there is a pot of gold.  These women of color stand up for themselves and finally find their voice.  They find their voice like the author Ntozake Shange did.  They find their voices through poetry and dancing and singing.  Yet the point is they find the voice which brings them to the real truth.  The truth that they don’t have to live oppressed.  They do not have to live with all of this pain and agony, such as when the lady in purple says:

“i am really colored & really sad sometimes & you hurt me more than i ever danced outta/ into oblivion isnt far enuf to get outta this/ i am ready to die like a lily in the desert/ & i cdnt let you in on it cuz i didnt know/ here is what i have/ poems/ big thighs/ lil tits/ & so much love/ will you take it from me this one time/ please this is for you/ arsenio’s tres cleared the way & makes me pure again/ please please/ this is for you i want you to love me/ let me love you/ i dont wanna dance wit ghosts/ snuggle lovers i made up in my drunkenness/ lemme love you just like i am/ a colored girl/ i’m finally bein real/ no longer symmetrical & impervious to pain.”

It is the truth that expression in art can take you away from the bondage that you have been captive in.  It is true that expression can lead those who are in the dark to the light.  It is true that for those who let themselves find their voice that the chains which held them down will break loose.  The point is for colored girls, at least in Shange’s point of view the idea to loosen their chains was to find their power, their way of fighting everything that was going on around them in a society where they are not on top and they are almost set up to fail in a society where their voices are not heard.  In that sense, the real chains on these women of color are the chains of silence.  The silence that is forced upon them day in and day out and the silence which they are given because they are not on top in society.

Here are some interesting links:

The first is a kind of biography on Ntozake Shange:

The Second is a review from 1995 on for colored girls, the play:

The last is a a second review on the play from the 90’s:

4 thoughts on “For Colored Girls Who Are No Longer Symmetrical With Pain

  1. In response to your analysis of Ntozake Shange’s writing style of the choreopoem, I disagree that she chose to write the text as if she were illiterate. When first reading the choreopoem, I too thought that she purposefully wrote in that style so as to portray an illiterate woman. However, through our class discussion and reading reviews of the book, I believe Shange’s choice in writing the text in that style was more of a choice in breaking free from the traditional writing style and social norms. In a way she is claiming her own writing and using her freedom as a writer to develop her own artistic style of writing.

  2. That is good insight, I did not even notice these minute things on the cover. It is interesting that a picture of a woman of color covers most of the cover. It almost feels like a selfless act. It’s interesting that that is how Shange chose to address these group of women. It almost pushes the stereotype that all women of color with struggles are illiterate. I also noticed the same thing about the hollow cast of a woman she has. Tyler Perry tries to get more background to the women by giving them socioeconomic classes, different situations, etc. I feel Shange’s piece is more ‘connectable’ than Tyler Perry’s piece, which was too specific. The chains of these women are silence, they each realize something different about themselves when they broke the silence.

  3. I disagree with some of what you’re saying. You stated that the women being represented by colors makes their stories more personal to readers “because then those shoes can be filled in by anyone who feels they can personally relate.” However, you also say that she chose to write as if she were illiterate because these stories are not “supposed to fit every women of color’s story but instead only a few.” I feel that her stories can be read through the lens of race, the lens of struggle and suffering, and several others because although the choreopoem is ‘For Colored Girls…’, it can be read, as the woman and brown says, “to know her/ to know yourself.”

  4. I found your post interesting though, just like Meiling, I disagree with what you wrote about Ntozake Shange’s style of writing. What I found interesting in your post was when you talked about how it is more personal for the ladies to each be different colors. I agree with this, and found it much easier to put myself into the character’s perspective. The color given to the woman makes it easier to also solely concentrate on the story instead of physical characteristics of the woman. It was eye opening reading the play and not being able to put a real face to a story.

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