Style and Theme in "For colored girls who have considered suicide? When the Rainbow is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange

Essay by Lorin HobartCollege, UndergraduateA+, November 1996

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Style and Theme in For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf

For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow

is Enuf is a piece of work written by Ntozake Shange. It is written in an

unusual style that is called a choreopoem. This style is very effective when

done by a skilled poet such as Shange. She uses a combination of rhyming

lyrics and a play like format to captivate the reader. The subject matter of her

work is very powerful as well. The entire collection revolves around how

black women are oppressed and their courage throughout many trials. Using

the combination of a unique style and riveting content Ntozake Shange sends

a message of hope and pride to her fellow black women in her work For

Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf.

First of all, Shange writes in the form a choreopoem. A choreopoem is

a piece of work that is written as a poem but is intended to be acted out on

stage sort of like an opera. It is constructed in such a way that it flows just as

well on paper as it does on stage. She either writes in all capital letters or all

lower case letters and never mixes them. This creates a style that she is

personally known for. It sets her apart from other writers and makes her work

original. None of the characters have names or any type of identity except for

the color of their clothes. When the piece is done on stage the characters are

never introduced they are just eventually recognized by the color of their

dresses. This makes it a little difficult to follow for the reader or spectator at

first but after the work is under way each individual may find they relate to a

certain color and begin to follow the specific character wearing that certain

color. This is another literary tactic that Shange uses to separate herself from

other writers. Shange writes much of her work from personal experience

which makes her writing twice as interesting and powerful. She writes several

different poems and has them all flow together as one, incredible piece of

work. Shange epitomizes the choreopoem style of writing.

The theme of Colored Girls is mainly Shange's view of other women of

her own race. She writes of dreams that all black women had during her time.

Dreams of love and of the good life were the only things that kept many

women going according to Shange. Despite all of the dreams and the steps

that black women took to reach them they always seemed to be shattered by

some heartless lover or destroyed at the hand of the white folk.

Shange writes with such passion that anyone no matter what their background

can receive the message in her writing and benefit from it.

'i cant now

i cant be nice to nobody

nice is such a rip-off'

This exert from the book shows Shange's view of life and social issues after

she moved to Harlem. She has obviously lost all confidence and respect for

everyone around her. Throughout the book Shange continually bashes men

and the way they treated women in Harlem. She talks about the oppression

that women had to endure when they gave everything that they were to a man

and then that man took it all away without a second thought. Obviously there

is a lot of unhealthy feelings held by black women when they can not even

afford to be nice to anyone for fear of being hurt or even raped for no reason.

The message or theme that Shange wants everyone, not only other

black women, who reads her work to get is her description of what it means

to be a black woman in a world of harsh streets, deceitful men, and aching

loss. She wants people to know that black women do not want their pity but

their applaud for the courage that it took to live through those difficult times.

Shange felt that people should know what things were like for colored women

and that it wasn't a walk in the park to endure what they had to endure. She is

seeking respect from everyone who reads her writing. Shange accomplishes

her goal by combining her captivating style and touching content in her work

For Colored Girls who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf.