In her book Symbols * Images * Codes: The Secret Language of Meaning in Film, TV, Games, and Visual Media, author Pamela Jaye Smith discusses the symbolism of Color.
Humans perceive only a small portion of the light in the universe. Our visible spectrum is limited to the rainbow of colors but does not include ultraviolet, infrared, and the myriad of other wavelengths. Different wavelengths affect our brains in different ways, a fact that is no doubt the basis for the ritual and subliminal use of color by most cultures throughout time.
The day-night quality of our earthly existence may be the reason we often assign goodness (sunshine, visibility, comfort) to white and evil (darkness, secrecy, danger) to black. Vampires reverse this, and sci fi stories speculate how a two-sun system or other arrangement might affect psychology, sociology and religion.
Colors describe emotions: She’s blue, he’s green with envy, they saw red, a black mood, purple with rage.
Whether by psychological affinity or astonishingly strong coincidence, colors have taken on character…
…Yellow symbolizes sunlight, warmth, awareness, lassitude, bright intelligence and cowardice.
In media, colors can be used to signal specific moods for characters, elicit certain reactions from the audience, emphasize a shift in emotions or situations, or to show contrast between characters and/or situations. In the Sixth Sense, for example, red often meant “undead nearby, beware!”
According to Pamela Jaye Smith, we can use colors to add depth to our own writing. We can do this by including emotionally descriptive words (grim gray, bouncy yellow, monkish brown), or by linking colors with other senses (piercing yellow, screaming orange).
Factmonster.com lists down several interesting facts about the color yellow.
In Egypt and Burma, yellow signifies mourning.
In Spain, executioners once wore yellow.
In India, yellow is the symbol for a merchant or farmer.
In tenth-century France, the doors of traitors and criminals were painted yellow.
Hindus in India wear yellow to celebrate the festival of spring.
If someone is said to have a “yellow streak,” that person is considered a coward.
In Japan during the War of Dynasty in 1357, each warrior wore a yellow chrysanthemum as a pledge of courage.
A yellow ribbon is a sign of support for soldiers at the front.
Yellow is a symbol of jealousy and deceit.
In the Middle Ages, actors portraying the dead in a play wore yellow.
To holistic healers, yellow is the color of peace.
Yellow has good visibility and is often used as a color of warning. It is also a symbol for quarantine, an area marked off because of danger.
“Yellow journalism” refers to irresponsible and alarmist reporting.
What other things/themes might the color yellow symbolize? Do you see how the color yellow might be used as a symbol in your own writing?
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