What colour is sadness?
What colour is passion?
What colour is joy?
Patrick Ness and David Almond both use a form of graphic novel to explore the profound sadness of grief in their books A Monster Calls and The Savage. In both, the visual aspects of the narrative seems as powerful and as affecting as the words. For sometimes we do run out of words and that is where the books find their protagonists lost, lonely and angry to their core.
Colour suggests emotion as it reflects an internal and external representation of feeling.
Very often, we also mix colours up with other senses too and this intensifies our individual experience and makes it ‘feel’ uniquely our own.
Why do we talk about a ‘heavy day’ or a shiny person’ or a ‘black mood’ unless we knew these phrases helped us to communicate our experiences to others?
We need ‘bridges’ in order to reach others, especially when we are almost buried by grief.
As a small aside, today I noticed the piles of E L James’ three top ten novels ( Fifty Shades of Grey etc) in Morrisons this morning where once again, colour is being used for certain emotional effects. Sometimes they are being used ironically or subversively of course.
Is ‘grey’ the new colour of sexual daring replacing red and clearing away the dim remembrance of D H Lawarence’s game keeper hero, Mellors, who spent most of the (banned) Lady Chatterly’s Lover wearing brown corduroys.
Much is being made now of E L James’ dizzying success with her trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey– over a million on kindle and another through paperback sales.
Significantly the flawed romantic ‘hero’ is called ‘Mr Grey’ and this compliments his perfectly ‘gray’ eyes and flawless appearance as the ultimately successful ‘grey’ business man. Thus we are led to believe, sexual experimentation has its own colour and that colour is a curious ‘gray/grey’!
‘Curious- grey’ Is this an oxymoron ?!
To go back to A Monster Calls and The Savage, both texts give animation to profound feeling. Grief comes alive because of the horror of death. Fear has a shape and anger gives an energy and expression to both the ‘monster’ and the ‘savage’.
‘Conor knew exactly where he was , excatly what the world had changed into.
He was inside the nightmare.’
This is what it felt like, this is what it looked like, the edges crumbling away and Conor holding on to her hands, feeling her slip from his grasp. feeling her fall–
( A Monster Calls, p150-151)
Despair becomes like vertigo.
Definition has been crumbled, eroded.
The touch of the most loved cannot be survive the finite burden of life. Conor is out of control because his mother is dying and nothing he can believe or wish for can alter that crushing, monumental truth.
In David Almond’s The Savage, the hero Blue has an alter ego named ‘the savage’ who embodies everything Blue cannot directly express .Ironically Blue has ‘written’ this tale of The Savage, yet what he doesn’t realise until the end, is that the savage has written him also.
The savage lives under a symbolically named ‘rooined chapel‘ like the mythical folk hero the ‘green man’ and protects Blue from the bully Hopper through his physical strength and primal violence, clearing away the cruelty of bullying and liberating Blue and his family from despair.
‘The savage herd a noise outside in the chapel, and he knew that the boy Blue had come.’
Both novels involve special meetings, special encounters with the ‘other’.
These meetings allow the protagonists the chance to ‘meet’ themselves in ways that ultimately free them from the ‘mind forg’d manacles’ that threaten to engulf them as they deal with the deaths of their father( The Savage) and their mother(A Monster Calls).
The Woman in Black
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