“…I will never know how you see red and you will never know how I see it. But this separation of consciousness is recognized only after a failure of communication, and our first movement is to believe in an undivided being between us….” (105)
The quote above from Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red connects to the queer identity. We grow up in a world that assumes similarities until the differences are made explicit. The idea of coming out is built around heterosexuality and cisgender people who are considered “normal”. We assume that people come with default settings and it isn’t until someone tells you I’m not blank I’m actually blank instead of everyone saying I am blank. We grow up learning people are different and somehow the lessons of childhood are the ones we forget to apply. Geryon begins to grow up and notice how he is different from others. He understands the world through pictures better than words, he likes males. The quote is a reminder that there is no normal, we all see, and experience things differently.
It is made clear that red is significant to Geryon and his story. So what is red? What are we seeing differently? I think red symbolizes the parts of ourselves that we haven’t fully dealt with or embraced. The readers know red is so ingrained within Geryon but that doesn’t mean it is seen. The following quote has lead me to what I think red is “To deny the existence of red is to deny the existence of mystery. The soul which does so will one day go mad” (105). I argue the specific symbolism of red to Geryon isn’t what is important but the general idea of what red represents. Red equals the variable x because red is just a symbol for our denied self and that is different for everyone.
Besides the word “red,” I thought it was important to define the word “mystery”. A mystery is something unknown and or obscure. The readers follow Geryon from a young age growing up and when growing up people slowly uncover mysteries about the world as well as themselves. Some have argued that deep down people know who they are and what they want but they deny the existence and bury it so far down that even they can’t consciously reach the answer. Placing the idea of denying something about yourself and the second part of the quote sends a pretty clear message. To deny a part of yourself will drive anyone crazy. You are never truly yourself until you come to terms with who you are and let yourself fly.
Geryon is a red-winged monster. He knows he is different and he tries to bury and hide his differences like his wings. All Ancash wants is to see Geryon spread his wings and fly. To be free and to fully accept himself. “There is one thing I want from you. Tell me. Want to see you use those wings” (144). I believe Geryon’s wings represent the strength and power that comes from the parts he has denied. It is when he fully accepts all of himself he has strength.
Circling back around to the first quote if red is something that someone is denying and there’s strength once we embrace it then I think the message isn’t just about we assume a “normal” exists among people but also communication is what opens the avenues to acknowledging our differences once we own them. Geryon buries red and hides it away because he has been conditioned to believe that he is different and that it’s weird “[F]ailure of communication” leaves us blind. Blind to our differences and blind to potential acceptance. If people communicate with each other openly and honestly, we can have some understanding of how we see red.