Role Of Colors in Of Mice And Men And The Scarlet Ibis

“The whole world, as we experience it visually, comes to us through the mystic realm of color.” These valuable words, once said by Hans Hofmann, are an excellent explanation as to why authors apply colors to their literature. The authors of the two classics, Of Mice and Men and The Scarlet Ibis, both use color to create a significant mood. In John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, a man named George carries the responsibility of taking care of Lennie, a mentally disabled man that he travels with.

Due to Lennie’s simple-mindedness, he gets himself into an irreversible situation in which George decides to kill Lennie to prevent further suffering. In James Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis, the narrator tells the story of his brother, Doodle, who was born with a physical disability. The narrator felt embarrassed with having to take responsibility for his “abnormal” brother, and the narrator ends up leaving Doodle behind to die because of the narrator’s passion and pride.

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In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses cool colors to promote a tranquil and calm mood, while Hurst uses a warm color scheme in The Scarlet Ibis to create a vivid and emotional mood. However, the color gold is used in both works of literature to promote perfection and strength.

Cool colors, specifically green, create a placid mood in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. In the beginning of the novel, Steinbeck describes the scenery of the area: “…the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green…on the valley side the water is lined with trees- willows fresh and green…” Steinbeck uses the introduction of the story to foreshadow the overall emotions of the text, which reflect the simplicity of life.

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The quote communicates a very tranquil mood, and the color green shows the natural landscape. Towards the end of the novel, Steinbeck nearly repeats the details used in the landscape described during the beginning of the story: “The deep green pool of the Salinas River was still in the late afternoon…And row on row of tiny wind waves flowed up the pool’s green surface.” In order to bring the novel full circle, Steinbeck duplicates the feel of the lush, tranquil landscape that is expressed in the beginning of the story. Overall, Of Mice and Men creates a peaceful mood by using cool colors, namely natural greens.

While Of Mice and Men creates a peaceful mood by using cool colors, The Scarlet Ibis creates a nearly opposite mood by using green’s complementary color; James Hurst applies warm colors, particularly red, to create a passionate, emotional mood. When the narrator begins to speak about his brother, Doodle’s “little mahogany coffin,” the rich red color is introduced into the story, and it begins to foreshadow the emotional, passionate climax of the story. Also, in the end of the short story, a reference of the same color is used to complete the piece. When Doodle is dying, the author describes that “he had been bleeding from the mouth, and his neck and the front of his shirt were stained a brilliant red.” Obviously, the red describes Doodle’s blood, but the color is also included to express the passion throughout the story. The use of the color creates powerful imagery and gives the story an overall emotional mood.

In Of Mice and Men, cool colors are used to represent tranquility and peace, while different tones of red are used in The Scarlet Ibis to create a sense of passion. Yet, an intermediate color is used in both stories to create a similar feeling. The color gold is used in both Of Mice and Men and The Scarlet Ibis to promote the sense of perfection and beauty. In Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, when the scenery is being introduced at the beginning of the novel, it’s described that “the water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool…the golden foothill slopes curve up…” The yellow and gold tones in the description demonstrate a beautiful and perfect mood. The color gold is also used in The Scarlet Ibis to create imagery and a strong feeling. When one of Doodle’s favorite lies states that “Peter wore a golden robe that glittered so brightly that when he walked through the sunflowers they turned away from the sun to face him.” Expressed through the color gold, this lie represents Doodle‘s wish to be physically able to do normal things. This is beautiful and perfect in his eyes because his disability prevents him from doing so.

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men promotes a tranquil mood by expressing the color green, while Hurst’s The Scarlet Ibis uses red to imply a passionate, emotional mood. However, both works of literature use the color gold to blend a sense of perfection and beauty into their moods. In all kinds of different types of art, colors are used to create a specific mood. In the words of Pablo Picasso, this is simply because “colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Role Of Colors in Of Mice And Men And The Scarlet Ibis. (2024, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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