English Essay

“Warning: Color May Fade” by Leah Henderson is about a girl named Nivia who goes to a boarding school that puts a lot of pressure on her. She is one of the only Black students in the school, and her friend Ryan and Nivia both want to win the art contest their school is running. Students are prompted to “tell their truth” in the contest. Ryan has a late-night meltdown about it. She cannot understand her problem with being insincere about her life and her problems, and she cannot make anything with any kind of truth. The next morning, the gallery is closed off in the school. Nivia vandalized an artwork by a different artist that was already displayed in the gallery. Ryan claims the vandal’s edition to the gallery as hers. It surprises everyone because they all know what kind of a person she is, and that she would never vandalize art, much less make something messy. Ryan knows she will not have any consequences because her family has donated generously and helped the school a lot, so she knows she will not be punished. Nivia watches Ryan’s fake confession firsthand. Feeling betrayed, Nivia makes a submission to the competition last-minute. She realizes she must really tell her truth to win. She does this because she wants to, and needs to be true to herself. Her piece tells her truth skillfully, and she declares it is hers.  Henderson uses literary devices like metaphors, personification, visualization and irony to prove that when one tells the truth and is true to oneself, one feels good, whereas when one lies and betrays others, it makes the betrayer feel bad.

Henderson uses visualization to help us understand how Ryan is unhappy, even when she seems to be content, she is pretending. “A second later, Ryan emerges, sandy blond hair matted, blue eyes rimmed red, blotches on her pale cheeks.” (Henderson 43) This shows how Ryan is not happy, she is pretending she is fine in school but when it really comes to it, she is not okay. This can be seen the next day when they go into school “Her perfectly arched eyebrows meet in concern. Not a blotch or dark circle in sight.” (Henderson 46) Even though she presents herself as completely put together, she has actually just been crying about her parent’s expectations in the bathroom. Ryan does not tell the truth with how she presents herself, which makes her unhappy. Nivia is like this too, although she does let the true, daring side of herself out. We find out later that she keeps a messy scrapbook, but like Ryan, presents herself as neat. The difference between the two girls is that Ryan is willing to do anything to ease the side of her that is not perfect. She even betrayed Nivia to look talented. Nivia is different. She is sincere, and tells the truth for herself, not for others, which makes her a more satisfied and happier person than Ryan.

Nivia fulfills herself and others when she speaks her truth. This can be seen when Henderson uses metaphors in these quotes to demonstrate this. “Everyone can see how the moments of my life weave together to create this determined, certain face. Mine.” (Henderson 65). Once she has realized her truth, she can feel good and fulfilled. Like she is true to herself and everyone else. Speaking her truth has brought much joy and happiness to Nivia. Her art is also impressive. “Dad turns to me and I expect to see anger, but a storm is not there. His eyes are soft.” (Henderson 65). The metaphor of a storm helps add meaning and sentence to the context. It implies that she has seen his anger before. This shows how she is fulfilling other people through her truth. She shows them they can also speak their truth. 

Others also appreciated Nivia’s work when she spoke her truth. This was emphasized by the personification of the following quote: “Dad [Nivia’s dad] leans forward, his attention caught. He straightens his already straight tie, clearing his throat, blinking as if he isn’t seeing things correctly.” (Henderson 64) When her dad sees her truth, it inspires something in him. He sees the love and sincerity that was put into it, and evidently he likes it. When her messy notebook life has for once spilled out onto the presented page, into the world, people are taken by surprise. Nivia’s art stands out because it it true. Her dad demonstrates he understands Nivia better through her art. This point is also understood with the personification found in the statement, “‘It’d be a shame if this talent remained silent. And this work couldn’t be officially considered.’”(Henderson 65). This only goes to show that “speaking your truth” is admired by many. People admire others for being true to themself, and sometimes they use people like this as role models to build themselves upon. 

“Warning: Color May Fade”, by Leah Henderson is an example of how when one is dishonest and betrays those they love, they will feel untrue to themselves and others. On the contrary, when one is true and tells the truth to others and themself, people will acknowledge them for it, and they will feel good. When I am not truly myself, I do not feel right. It does not feel right to not be oneself. When I am my authentic self, I feel good, and ideally people respect me for it. The people who do respect me for it are the people I find I want to keep in my life.   

LongBilledCurlew

MA

13 years old

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