Literature Color Symbolism

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The Color of Literature
Color symbolism can be used to set the tone of a story and aspects within that story. Colors can invoke an emotional response as well as paint a picture of a character or scene within the story. In exploring the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Damrosch, Pike 1200-59) along with Christopher Columbus’ letter The Green and Beautiful Land (Columbus 1-7) there are three main colors that stand out. The first color, as shown in both titles, is green. Green plays a significant role in both tales as it is the main color of the antagonist in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the supple landscape that is described by Columbus. Green also represents negative aspects in the stories such as misfortune and lack of
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Columbus also describes the islands to have “marvelous pine groves, and extensive meadow country”(2) which again symbolizes the nature and fertility of the islands. At the end of Columbus’ letter, he tells the king and queen that he can send gum mastic, aloe wood, and rhubarb, all of which are green and represent the fertility of the new lands (5).
Columbus describes the native islanders as “wondrous[ly] timid” and delighted to receive items of little or no value from the crewmen (2). It is in this description that the reader imagines the inexperience of the islanders, a negative often associated with the color green.
The next representation of color is of gold, or yellow. Yellow represents idealism, vitality, and gold, or wealth as well as cowardice, greed, and deceit ((Rohrer; Smith). The Green Knight’s attire was adorned with color, “bright gold on silk broideries banded most richly” (1207). The saddle blanket of both the Green Knight’s horse and Sir Gawain’s horse was embellished with gold trim. These detailings of gold represent vitality and wealth. The wealth of Bertilak’s castle is also seen in the description of the lavish surroundings, from the curtains with “clear-golden hems” to the tapestries hung “on ropes with red-gold rings” (1223). The account of lavish surroundings may also give the impression of greed as well as wealth.
The color yellow symbolizes idealism and
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