Is it customary to consider the color yellow as a symbol of forbidden passion? I first encountered this usage in Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. In that story, the young Newland Archer, in his clandestine passion for the dangerous Ellen Olenska, sends her a bouquet of yellow roses. In stark contrast to the white purity and convention of Archer’s wife May, Olenska and the yellow roses represent an intense love that must be hidden from the awfully conventional New York of the late 19th century.
Now again, in the book that never ends, I read feverishly about Mauricio Babilonia and the halo of yellow butterflies that accompany him wherever he goes. García Márquez is more explicit, and more brutal about this symbolism in his writing about the forbidden romance of Renata Remedios – from the moment she sees Mauricio and his butterflies in the movie theater, to the unfortunate day on which she waits for him in her locked room, pining away among the scorpions.