Color Symbolism in Literature: What Do Colors Mean in Literature and Poetry?

June 11, 2015 – 02:09 pm

color symbolism in literature and poetryColors have been used in stories since as early as the first story was told. Writers and poets use colors to create concrete images of their characters, scenes and events.Language itself uses a system of symbols, either verbal or written. Therefore, color symbolism in literature imparts a deeper meaning to the words which, in turn, help transform the written content into a more powerful instrument. Naturally, the reader must also have prior experience with the color in order to interpret the symbolism (that the creator has in mind) correctly. This is the main reason why poems and books mean different things to different readers. Although this is the case, writers and poets have the poetic license to use different colors in a manner that create different meanings in their work.

Let us study different colors and what they mean in different forms of literature across the world.

Color symbolism in French literature

As early as the 12th century, French writers and poets used only 7 colors to depict romance, characters and emotions. These were: White, Red, Yellow, Blue, Green Black and Brown.

Color symbolism in fairy tales

The best places in literature to study color symbolism are the Fairy tales which used colors richly: examples include: As red as blood, as white as snow, as black as the crow etc-all of which evoke emotional responses and help develop a connection to the story.

The tale of Snow White is one of the best examples that depicts color symbolism: it uses Red, White and Black dominantly where White represents Heaven, Red represents spilling of blood and an enticing-yet-poisoned apple while Black shows regeneration as well as sexual desire.

Color symbolism in Gothic literature

Gothic Literature is known for its use of Red and Black as the symbolism associated with these colors really draw the readers in to evoke an emotional response while creating an atmosphere.


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  • avatar A symbol in literature is?
    • symbol (sim-bol): a symbol is a word or object that stands for another word or object. The object or word can be seen with the eye or not visible. For example a dove stands for Peace. The dove can be seen and peace cannot. The word is from the Greek word symbolom. All language is symbolizing one thing or another. However when we read the book of Genesis it talked about a few symbols. In the story of Adam and Eve when Eve ate the apple, the apple stood for sin. Another reading Cain and Able. The two brothers stood for good and evil, humility and pride. Cain pulled Able to the fields and …