Why do we writers have such a problem with colour? Why are we so negative about it? Think how unthinkingly we use colour as a term of disparagement. Whenever a writer uses colour metaphorically it is in a disparaging way. The countryside is gorgeously green but we’re green with envy about the rural rich. The summer sky is blue but we’re in a blue mood in spite of it. The sun is yellow, as are buttercups, but we insist our enemies are yellow with cowardice. We sneer at bureaucrats for being grey. I could get red with fury about this, or black with despair. No wonder I feel blue.
Colours are beautiful; we aspire to a colourful life among colourful people. We love colour. So why don’t we use colours to describe joyous emotions? Why aren’t we pink or yellow with happiness; why isn’t love blue? We say that love’s opposite, hate, is black, but what colour is love? It can’t be black’s opposite, white, for that’s reserved for fear. What colours are used for virtues? Bravery has no colour, nor does truth, generosity or chastity (though is that still a virtue?) Perhaps we should say someone is violet with loyalty – why not? Because violet’s near neighbour, purple, is reserved for fury again. We can be red, black or purple with anger, white with rage. Crimson and scarlet ; rage again. Our anger has so many colours, although orange, perhaps, we cannot use; to me, orange is a foolish colour. I’d want to say, ‘orange with foolishness.’
It seems to me that we writers are like graphic artists deliberately limiting ourselves to a restricted palette. We use all our colours to represent unpleasant emotions. And I’m feeling browned off about it.