In Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson, Geryon, the main character, is a boy growing up in a world in which he does not see representations of himself in the people and spaces around him. The novel takes the reader through Geryon’s life through his perspective. When Geryon went to Buenos Aires, he met a man who was visiting for a conference. When this acquaintance was talking about his education he said, “I was looking at the sociology of ancient law codes. [Geryon responded] You are interested in justice? [and the man responded] I’m interested in how people decide what sounds like a law” (Carson 1999, 88). The word choice in this interaction is very significant. Using the words “how people decide,” brings about the idea that laws are initially decided by people. I believe that oftentimes people forget that at some point in time laws didn’t exist. This language allows the reader to take a step back and acknowledge that society has been created by people, and this can make the reader question the legitimacy of these laws when thinking about how people have different viewpoints and ideas. Additionally, by using the words “what sounds like a law,” Carson is invoking the idea that laws in themselves can be illegitimate. While society defines laws to be something in which people have to follow, the speaker questions this. Autobiography of Red is inventive because the novel slips radical and thought provoking ideas into casual conversations such as the one above. This serves great purpose for the rest of the novel because by normalizing difference and questioning societal norms, the reader is able to think about how these norms have an effect on Geryon, and is able to better identify how he questions the norms in his life within his existence and through his life experience.
Carson, Anne. 1999. Autobiography of Red. New York: Vintage Contemporaries – Random House.