The Emperor Jones

The Emperor Jones Imagery

The Scarlet Throne

In the first scene, we see the palace of Emperor Jones. Central to the room is Jones' throne, which is a shade of bright scarlet. The color is striking not only because of its brilliance, but also because it recalls bloodshed and death, foreshadowing the tragic events that are about to unfold.

The Forest, initially

Eugene O'Neill fills the play with vivid descriptions within his stage directions. When Jones first approaches the forest, O'Neill describes it thus: "A somber monotone of wind lost in the leaves moans in the air. Yet this sound serves but to intensify the impression of the forest's relentless immobility, to form a background throwing into relief its brooding, implacable silence." Novelistic descriptions like these abound, but this particular description of the forest, in all its "relentless immobility," suggests a silent and completely inanimate setting.

The Forest, later

As Jones gets deeper into the forest, its character changes a great deal. Hallucinations begin to crop up, spooky tableaus that fill Jones with dread and despair. The changing emotional landscape of the forest also changes the setting itself, and the trees begin to close in on him, as if in a nightmare. After Jones shoots the vision of the Prison Guard, O'Neill writes, "Instantly the walls of the forest close in from both sides, the road and the figures of the convict gang are blotted out in an enshrouding darkness."


One of the more striking images in the play is the vision of the crocodile, conjured by the witch-doctor onto the shores of the river. O'Neill writes, "A huge head of a crocodile appears over the bank and its eyes, glittering greenly, fasten upon Jones." It is an evocative and terrifying image, the final hallucination that Jones suffers before facing his own death.