LaGallienne invents a speaker for his satiric essay“The Boom in Yellow” to parody with mock sincerity the decadents’ interest in fashion and artifice. As “The Boom in Yellow” reaches a close, the reader discovers that there is barely an argument to dispute as the essay proves not an opinion, but a trend: “Till one comes to think of it, one hardly realises how many important and pleasant things in life are yellow.” The narrator lists and lists with little analysis, darting from one topic to another, giving the appearance of a rushed attempt to build evidence. Throughout the essay he makes classical allusions and cites poetry in the manner of a sage writer, but unlike a sage offers no wisdom or advice, simply expounds and belabors a purposeless argument. Here, he collects his final thoughts with little indication of closure.

Let us dream of this: a maid with yellow hair, clad in a yellow gown, seated in a yellow room, at the window a yellow sunset, in the grate a yellow fire, at her side a yellow lamplight, on her knee a Yellow Book. And the letters we love best to read — when we dare — are they not yellow too? No doubt some disagreeable things are reported of yellow. We have had the yellow-fever, and we have had pea-soup. The eyes of lions are said to be yellow, and the ugliest cats — the cats that infest one's garden — are always yellow. Some medicines are yellow, and no doubt there are many other yellow disagreeables; but we prefer to dwell upon the yellow blessings. I had almost forgotten that the gayest wines are yellow. Nor has religion forgotten yellow. It is to be hoped yellow will not forget religion. The sacred robe of the second greatest religion of the world is yellow, “the yellow robe” of the Buddhist friar; and when the sacred harlots of Hindustan walk in lovely procession through the streets, they too, like the friars, are clad in yellow. Amber is yellow; so is the orange; and so were stage-coaches and many dashing things of the old time; and pink is yellow by lamplight. But gold-mines, it has been proved, are not so yellow as is popularly supposed. Hymen's robe is Miltonically “saffron,” and the dearest petticoat in all literature — not forgetting the “tempestuous” garment of Herrick's Julia — was “yaller.” Yes!

Er petticoat was yaller an' 'er little cap was green,
An'er name was Supi-yaw-lat, jes' the same as Theebaw's Queen.
                                           [Rudyard Kipling's "The Road to Mandalay"]

Is it possible to say anything prettier for yellow than that?

Yes, it probably is possible, but by this point the audience is too wearied of the topic to disagree. The conclusion continues LaGallienne’s list of the “pleasant things in life are yellow,” yet is this time interspersed with some “yellow disagreeables.” The narrator offers a brief rebuttal that not everything that is yellow is pleasing, but quickly brushes aside the negatives with the introduction of another yellow pleasantry that he “had almost forgotten.” Aside from this, his final paragraph adds no new insight, draws no conclusion. Instead, it maintains the pace and structure as the previous paragraphs, what Paul Merrylees called a “near stream-of-conscious invocation of yellow” (2003). It is a collection of jumbled sentences with little connection, and it so closely resembles the list-like structure of the second paragraph that it leaves the reader confused, dangling, and convinced of the frivolity of the aesthetes.

Questions

1. Unlike that of any other satire we have read, this conclusion paragraph fails to draw a conclusion. What does he prove or mock by this lack of finality? Why does LaGallienne end with a question that could easily be answered with a yes or no?

2. “Amber is yellow; so is the orange; and so were stage-coaches and many dashing things of the old time; and pink is yellow by lamplight.” This starts off as a seemingly organized sentence that demonstrates how many colors can be perceived as yellow. Why, then, is it interrupted by a reference to “stage-coaches and many dashing things of the old time”? What is the effect of this stream-of-consciousness narration?

3. Some of the final sentences stand out due to their placement in the paragraph and lack of connection with proceeding ideas. (“I had almost forgotten that the gayest wines are yellow. Nor has religion forgotten yellow. It is to be hoped yellow will not forget religion.”) Why does LaGallienne occasionally omit transitions?


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Last modified 11 March 2011