Given the racial tensions at work in the play, the color white—describing both people and objects—is a symbol of power. The white people that Jones encounters, including both the living (Smithers) and the unreal (the auctioneer and the prison guard), have very real power in the play because of the color of their skin, while Jones is considered less powerful because he's black. In this way, Jones's decoration of the throne room in his palace is a very conscious choice. By painting the walls stark white, Jones attempts to take on some of the power that the play suggests is inherent to whiteness, and he loses his power once he vacates his palace. Unlike white people, whose power is embedded in their skin, Jones's power came from outside sources that he couldn't take with him in his flight.
The Color White Quotes in The Emperor Jones
Talk polite, white man! Talk polite, you heah me! I'm boss heah now, is you fergettin'?
No use'n you rakin' up ole times. What I was den is one thing. What I is now 's another.
For de little stealin' dey gits you in jail soon or late. For de big stealin' dey makes you Emperor and puts in de Hall o' Fame when you croaks. If dey's one thing I learns in ten years on de Pullman ca's listenin' to de white quality talk, it's dat same fact. And when I gits a chance to use it I winds up Emperor in two years.
Think dese ign'rent bush niggers dat ain't got brains enuff to know deir own names even can catch Brutus Jones? Huh, I s'pects not! Not on yo' life! Why, man, de white men went after me wid bloodhounds where I come from an' I jes' laughs at 'em. It's a shame to fool dese black trash around heah, dey're so easy.
Does you think I'd slink out de back door like a common nigger? I'se Emperor yit, ain't I? And de Emperor Jones leaves de way he comes, and dat black trash don't dare stop him—not yit, leastways.
How come all dese white stones come heah when I only remembers one? Nigger, is you crazy mad? Is you lightin' matches to show dem whar you is? Fo' Lawd's sake, use yo' haid.