Thursday, September 30, 2010


Like any image that appears in Lorca's writing, the color verde is not a fixed symbol but rather a constellation of meanings, many of them anithetical, that help us to understand the complex images and ideas that are presented in his poetry and plays. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the various meanings of the color green in Lorca's writing or the only way to interpret this color symbol, but rather a way to begin thinking about the ways in which green holds symbolic, historical, psychological, archetypal and biographical significance in our play as we build a list of meanings and develop our own symbolic vocabulary.

Green as unrequited or illicit love

In his essay “The Symbolic Ambivalence of ‘Green’ in García Lorca and Dylan Thomas,” Robert G. Havard discusses Lorca's poem “Romance sonámbulo," paying particular interest to Lorca’s “verbal conflict,” in which multiple and antithetical meanings and images are contained within a single word that becomes a symbolic unit, such as green (811). Along with the more traditional associations of green with ripening, youth, fertility, and energy, consequently reminding us of age and mortality, Havard explains that in Lorca’s poem green also functions according to more traditional Spanish colloquial negative associations with the color. Havard cites Lorca's use of the term viejo verde to describe the "lascivious Pedrossa" in Lorca's play Mariana Pineda as a key example (814). Green is not simply “unripeness, immaturity and bitterness,” as it signifies when associated with fruit, but “in the context of love or sexuality…it will inevitably be negative in character, as in the cases of unrequited, perverse of illicit love” (814-815). Green is thus associated with both the “enticement and disillusionment” that occurs in the poem, and often goes hand in hand with amarga, bitterness, “which is generally presented in a negative nocturnal atmosphere” (818). Havard goes on to explain that this symbol must be understood within the context of the poem’s psychological realm that is created in part by the repetition of green rather than its immediate plot. For example, green is not only a physical attribute, but it is also representative of freedom in the poem, whether this is a physical or emotional release or freedom of expression. Havard relates these ambivalent meanings of the symbol green to the tragic plot of “Romance sonámbulo” by demonstrating how they contribute to the sense of deception, destruction and hopelessness felt by the man who satisfies his “violent and incurable passion” for the green girl who is the “impure object” of his desire (817).

Lorca, Costume for Leonarda

Along with the awareness that this essay builds of how and why Lorca uses the color green as a symbol, it also calls attention to the ways in which this symbol becomes problematic and allows us to challenge its meanings in a gender-conscious way. We might ask questions such as: why is the color green associated with women and femininity (both in Lorca's work and more broadly in our culture) and how does this create harmful images of women in accordance with traditional gender roles? How do the ambivalent meanings of the color symbol green relate to the virgin/whore dichotomy? Must green always have these negative connotations and can they ever become positive? How does green relate to the objectification of the young girl in the poem and her threatening, tragic role? Or how can the reader’s sympathy shift to align with the plight of the ‘elusive girl’ rather than the fate of man who plays her victim? By illuminating what green signifies in Lorca's poetry, this essay allows the reader to cast a critical eye on the problematic, often anti-feminist meanings of the color green and thus encourages the reader to consider how these meanings can be exposed and ultimately changed.

Green and Granada

In his essay “A Poet Crazy About Color,” Louis Parrot explores Lorca’s love of color and the way in which it was manifest in his poetry, tracing the evolution of color and its various symbols and associations throughout his work, including Gypsy Ballads, Poet in New York, and some of his later work. Parrot begins his essay by describing how Lorca was not only continuing a Spanish literary and artistic tradition that emphasized color, but also how he was interested in illustrating his poetry in sketches and paintings and came to see the two arts as inseparable, thanks in part to the influence of Dalí. Parrot asserts that Lorca’s gift was for “giving back colors their purest brilliance” so that they were “often truer than those we see,” and explains that how Lorca was continually influenced by the images and landscapes of his childhood and the “colors of the South” of Spain (58, 59). For Parrot, the symbolic significance of green has to do with Lorca's relationship to Granada, Fuente Vaqueros and the vega, the fertile plain that surrounded Lorca's village, helping him vividly evoke his homeland for the reader. For example, Parrot tells the reader that in Gypsy Ballads, the city is often painted with vermilions and “apple green” (58). He also suggests that the wind is typically “green-hued” in Lorca's poetry and that many of his landscapes are a “famous green” as well (59). Parrot even references a passage by Jean Camp about Lorca’s use of green when describing Granada, asking “is not green still today the sacred color of Islam, and did not Lorca wish by this device to underline the impact of [Islam?]” (59). Beyond nature and the landscape, Parrot sees the Moorish roots of Granada at the heart of Lorca's frequent use of green to recreate this world on the page.

The vega.

Green and Nationalism

One of the most terrifying groups organized in September of 1936 by the Civil Government in Granada after the outbreak of Civil War was the Defense Armada de Granada, known as the mangas verdes, or green sleeves because they wore green armbands. These were not trained soldiers from the local barracks but rather those men in town who had been labeled unfit for the military who were instead recruited as spies. These men not only spied on their neighbors and reported any "suspicious activity" or those who seemed potentially threatening to the new Nationalist Movement, but they were also responsible for many innocent deaths fueled by personal vendettas and desires for revenge (Gibson 71).

Works Cited

Gibson, Ian. The Death of Lorca. Chicago, IL: J. Philip O’Hara, Inc. 1973. Print.

Havard, Robert G. “The Symbolic Ambivalence of ‘Green’ in García Lorca and Dylan Thomas.” JSTOR. 1972. 6/10/2010. Web.

Parrot, Louis. “A Poet Crazy About Color.” Lorca: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Manuel Duran. NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1965. Print.

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