Is Reality Too Loud?

In “The Autobiography of Red,” Anne Carson carefully articulates her words in order to question new perspectives on common ideas, through the main character, Geryon. More specifically, the use of single sentences at the beginning of each section encourages the reader to connect the remainder of the section to the proposed idea in the opening sentence. One sentence that particularly stands out is when Carson writes, “Reality is a sound; you have to tune in to it not just keep yelling,” (page 60). Although this sentence could be interpreted quite literally and straightforward, I think that it relays a deeper message. I think this sentence is a parallel to how Geryon feels about his reality. In particular, how he does not want to tune in to his reality.

Throughout the text, there are several instances where Geryon expresses how he feels separated from his peers. His childhood abuse, his way of describing the world around him through his photographs, his idea of himself as a red monster with wings, and his queerness all contribute to this described feeling of separation. Whenever Geryon describes his feelings of being on the outside, I kept assimilating them with the “sound” of reality. Particularly, how his reality sounded loud and overwhelming. This would explain why Geryon has avoided being in complete touch with reality and why he seems okay with being in his own world. It seems like he doesn’t want to conform to the norms that everyone around him seemed to follow. Who can blame him for not wanting to be a part of a reality that feels so excluding?

It is important to recognize how empowering Geryon’s choice is, given that not many people are able to find peace with their reality. Even though Geryon knows that he doesn’t fit into society’s expectation box, he still finds ways to make sense of the world around him. This is exactly what is empowering because it can seem impossible at times to not get sucked into the preset, unrealistic expectations for oneself, yet Geryon has found a way to avoid it. Why would anyone want to tune into an unforgiving reality?

3 thoughts on “Is Reality Too Loud?”

  1. I love this analysis – Geryon’s perception of reality, especially in his childhood, is fascinating and I really enjoy how you connect it to his ‘otherness’ or his feelings of separation. I was also interested in the way he perceives his surroundings early in the text, and I thought his ideas about the world had a synesthetic feeling to them. This passage in particular stood out to me:

    “In the seventh grade he had done a science project on this worry… Most of those he interviewed for the science project had to admit they did not hear the cries of the roses being burned alive in the noonday sun. Like horses, Geryon would say helpfully, like horses in war. No, they shook their heads.” (Carson 84)

    Synesthesia has always been interesting to me, and I think there is textual evidence to support the idea that Geryon experiences it in some way. To connect this with your arguments, it seems like Geryon’s synesthesia affects how he interprets the world around him, and because he doesn’t see his surroundings the same way his peers do, it adds another layer to his feeling separated from the rest of the world.

  2. I believe you make a great point in focusing on the fact that despite Geryon’s struggles with being accepted in society, he made sense of his own being and his surroundings. I also wish you could give more insight into how Geryon made sense of his world and what he did to preserve his peace in his own reality. I think that when he decided to go out of the country to experience a different culture where he didn’t feel as limited and venture out without fears of convictions. We can also look at reality through time as an abstract notion. Geryon says, “Time isn’t made of anything. It is an abstraction. Just a meaning that we impose upon motion.” (Carson 90) In conjunction with your response, we see Geryon reclaiming or shaping his reality through time, recognizing that it is not linear, but fluid. Could this also even be a way of viewing his own identity?

  3. I think this explanation of the quote you pulled from page 60 is also representative of the way that Herakles reacts to his world. However, where Geryon may be aware of the fact that he lives in his own world and refuses to tune into reality, Herakles just keeps yelling to drown out reality. In my blog post, I alluded to the fact that Herakles has a very bubbly and “go, go, go” personality, as evidenced by the way he moves: “The phone rang and Herakles / fell off the table and ran to answer it” (Carson 58) and the “door hit the wall as Herakles kicked it open” (Carson 60). Whereas reality is too loud for Geryon, Herakles is too loud for reality.

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