Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

Synesthesia in Autobiography of Red

Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson, is an incredibly creative and original book of poems. The combination of a modern setting with Greek myth tells a highly unique story, but Carson’s inventiveness goes beyond the general plot and even into the specific lines and words she uses to paint a picture. Throughout the novel, Carson uses color to describe at least one thing in almost every poem. Certain colors come up more than others, including gold, and, of course, red. Carson does not simply describe objects with colors, but emotions, moods, tastes, smells, and feelings. For example, in the first poem, “Justice”, Carson writes, “the intolerable red assault of grass… was pulling him towards it”. This unusual use of color can be seen throughout the book as an example of synesthesia. Synesthesia is a rare disorder in which people associate stimulation of one sense with another (for example, smelling colors). Carson’s decision to use synesthesia could be a way of implying Geryon’s inability to fit into the world in the way others do. He understands things differently, but beautifully. Geryon, a little red monster, is special and unique for many reasons, one of which being his color.  Red is an incredibly stimulating color, and even those of us without synesthesia may associate redness with a lot of different meanings including love, anger, and lust. However, most of all, red in this book is a symbol of glaring difference in a black and white world. The inventiveness of this book, including the overall plot as well as the use of synesthesia, is symbolic of Geryon’s own uniqueness and difference.


  1. westcoastbesttoast

    November 6, 2018 at 3:55 pm

    The use of color in Autobiography of Red is unique because (as previously stated) it is used to describe more than just objects. This use of using colors for emotions, moods, tastes, and smells, allow readers to observe the world through Geryon’s senses. It enables us to be in Geryon’s position of being different (being a “monster”) and seeing the world differently. Additionally, it contributes to the idea that even though the world is black and white, it is okay to have color and be different.

  2. What’s also interesting to note is that while red is associated by us with lust, anger, and love, Geryon has completely different associations for the color; blue is what he connects to those feelings. And synesthesia provides a completely alternate way of living in the world, of seeing the world – it connects pretty directly with queerness!

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