The White Witch By James Weldon Johnson

Decent Essays
Brovold 1
Emily Brovold
English 11

The White *itch “And back behind those smiling lips, / And down within those laughing eyes,.../ The shadow of the panther lurks, / The spirit of the vampire lies” (25, 26, 29, 30). The supernatural poem “The White Witch” by James Weldon Johnson gives us an insight to what lay behind the curtains during the Harlem Renaissance. The poem takes a real life situation of the era, white women luring black men to their death via false blame, and portrays it as a fairy tale. Using symbolism, white women are represented by an attractive and powerful witch who takes the black men as prey to portray the message of how deceiving and evil white women were to falsely blame African American men of
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Johnson 's description of the witch 's features became the most significant facet of the story, especially the significance attaches to color symbolism: “Her lips are like carnations red, / Her face like new-born lilies fair, / Her eyes like ocean waters blue...” (13-15). J. Johnson uses the power of imagery here by depicting the evil witch as a shockingly beautiful lady. He utilizes similes to convey that she is gentle looking and captivating. With this image in mind, Johnson also makes it clear that looks can be deceiving:
“The great white witch you have not seen?
...Like nursery children you have looked
For ancient hag and snaggled tooth;
But no, not so; the witch appears
In all the glowing charms of youth.” (7, 9, 10, 11, 12) The evil force of women in this time does not appear to look like what you would assume. She is youthful, not old and snaggled toothed. Through this we can see that the theme is the portrayal of a black man that has fallen victim to the witch’s power, and is now warning his brothers and friends. White women that had power over black men, and even black women, abused their privileges and the people in the lower class were the ones affected. In analyzation, the connotation aspect of this poem is how women during this time, specifically white women, used their power over black men and their freedom. Although the texts’ literal interpretation, or denotation,
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