For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf Themes


While there are no white characters in for colored girls..., Ntozake Shange makes it clear that race forms an important part of her characters' identities. The title of for colored girls... indicates that Shange's impetus for writing the choreopoem in the first place was to encourage women of color to embrace their identities. All of the main characters in Shange's choreopoem are women of color, and their racial identity and gender affects the perspective through which the audience experiences of all the various anecdotes. Through the ladies' stories of struggle and maturation, Shange is able to address the issue of race in America without seeming preachy.

Rites of Passage

The women in the play narrate stories that represent each stage of life and womanhood. They celebrate first love, dreams for the future, and sexual awakening (“toussaint”), the ebullience of graduating from high school and losing one’s virginity (“graduation nite”). As the choreopoem progresses, the women navigate the various ups and downs of romantic relationships, the sustenance that comes from female friendships, and the movement toward an understanding of one’s place in the world. In this way, these poems highlight certain rites of passage - both official and unofficial.

Alienation and Loneliness

The women in For Colored Girls are firmly entrenched in modern-day America. Their perspective is relatable and although they are only defined by the color of their dresses, they share deeply personal stories about marginalization and isolation. They feel lonely even when they are amongst people, describing crowded cities filled with leering men, the threat of domestic abuse, and a pervading sense of cruelty, racism, and indifference. In terms of their interior lives, many of the women are profoundly estranged from their lovers, their friends, and even themselves. Ultimately, they realize that in order to be fulfilled in love, they must accept themselves and rely on their fellow women for support.

The Desire to Be Loved

The women in for colored girls... are seeking fulfilling love. Over the course of the choreopoem, they start to learn how to articulate what they want in a man. Each one desires someone who makes her feel special and supports her. As young women, they make the mistake of compromising themselves in the pursuit of love and meet with disappointment when the men they choose (or who choose them) cannot be what they want. Their sorrows are immediately relatable to most men and women who have experienced a painful relationship. Shange captures the raw pain of unrequited love, lost love, and broken love. Finally, the ladies learn to love themselves and articulate their wants and needs.

Female Friendships

Although many of the poems in for colored girls are recited by individual women, there is a strong undercurrent of sisterhood and communality - especially since the women do not have names. The ladies often participate in weaving the stories together, sometimes contributing lines and characters. They dance and sing together, and when one woman is speaking, the others serve as chorus. In "pyramid," they deal with falling in love with the same man and emerge from heartbreak, able to retain their bond. By the end of the play, they reaffirm solidarity and join together in an exultant celebration of themselves. While the women can certainly make things difficult for other women, they also realize that there is a great deal of value and strength in female friendships.

Music and Dance

Music and dance are practically additional characters in the choreopoem. Characters often describe the importance of music and dance to self-expression. Occasionally, the stage directions call for one or more of the women to break out into chants or dances. These creative expressions are outlets for the women's emotions, hopes, and fears. Through dance and music, the women have authentic, personal, and cathartic, and even self-defining experiences. During the sections about music and dance, the women experience a release from their difficulties. By the end of the choreopoem, their dancing and singing have brought them closer to their bodies and their passions.


The women in the choreopem start out as adolescents who do not understand themselves. They struggle to accept their race, gender, and their places in the world. They make mistakes in early relationships because because they are desperate for love but behave as though they do not deserve it. However, the arc of for colored girls... moves the women from ignorance and confusion to self-awareness and self-actualization. The women learn to celebrate their physical appearance, their female friendships, their scars, their successes, and their connection to something more powerful and divine. By the end of the piece, they become fully-fledged human beings, unique and powerful, glorious even when flawed.