Roland Barthe's Myths: Black as a Symbol of Grief

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Black as a symbol of grief.
“Myth is a type of speech chosen by history”, this definition of myth by Roland Barthes can be seen at play in most of our cultural contexts today. According to him, words cannot produce meaning on their own, we agree on their meaning hence, we can always change the meaning of words. Barthes refers to a word as a signifier, and the image produced by the word as the signified; both come together to produce a sign. These signs are then interpreted through the use of language, and these interpretations are culturally determined. In his essay “Mythologies and Myth Today“, Roland Barthes talks about myth as a “second order system of signs”, which refers to powerful cultural connotations beyond the basic meaning of things. Barthes definition of myth can be seen at work in our society today, simple symbols, texts and pictures actually have more to them that meet the eye. There is a secondary meaning to every advert, movie, political ideologies and even toys being made, and it is important that these concealed meanings be revealed and are not just considered as being natural. Black as a color, especially black dresses, which are very famous in funerals, have acquired secondary “mythic” meaning in our culture. The color black has become a symbol of sadness and death in the American culture today. The innocent color has been labeled a color of sadness and grief; wearing black to a funeral has become a way of life, a culture. People never bother to ask why this is the case, they never wonder about the history of this culture, and just like Barthes said, what is a product of history is now considered as being natural. This custom of wearing unadorned clothing for mourning is in fact not natural, it dates back at least to the Roman Empire, when the “Toga pulla” made of dark-colored wool was worn during periods of mourning. Through the middle Ages and Renaissance, distinctive mourning was worn for general as...
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