The concept of color theory can be explained as the “rules” regarding how certain colors work together and how these colors communicate with the viewer. Throughout Autobiography of Red, different colors are brought up time and time again. The idea of color that is brought up so many times is representative of what the colors themselves mean and what it means for something to be red. Geryon describes himself throughout the book as “a red-winged monster”. In painting the color red often symbolizes anger and violence and is also representative of blood. Anger and violence are present less prominent in this story than one would expect, particularly because Geryon refers to himself as the red-winged monster. The word monster conjures up an image of something large, frightening, and inhuman. For being a red-winged monster, Geryon does not ever get too aggressive or out of sorts. This is where the idea concept of the volcano comes in. The volcano in this story is active but what I see is Geryon as the active volcano. All of the “red” (anger etc.) that he keeps inside himself is comparable to lava. The volcano has the potential to explode at any minute and release all of the red inside of it. Both Geryon and the volcano have the potential to explode but neither ever truly does at any point in the story. In this story the use of color is also representative of overall control, but the control and power that Geryon actually holds over his own life. Every person gets to decide where on the canvas to put the colors and which colors to use, everyone gets to decide how their life goes. You can either let the colors paint the picture for you or you can grab the brush and paint your own life. Life is a series of different colors and mixes with limitless combinations.
In the scene of the furniture tower, Mootoo uses the tower as a metaphor to show the way that Miss Ramchadin and Tyler can act in the room, versus who they are confined to act like outside of the room. At night, the room is the only place where they can both feel the freedom to express themselves in whatever manner they please. The tower continues to get higher the more they build on it, which reflects their growing comfortability and the increase in self-expression. The tower being deconstructed is representative of them losing this sense of identity that they create at night, and the fact that they must “knock down their towers” so they can fit the mold of what they are “supposed” to be. But they have the whole night to be at the top of their towers and behind the closed door, they can build their towers as high as they want.
The tower seems like just a fun little activity, but it is so much more. Besides the fact that the reconstruction and deconstruction of the tower represent Tyler and Miss Ramchandin’s behaviors, for Miss Ramchandin it also represents an aspect of control in her life, something she has not had for a long time. Additionally, she has not had the support of someone such as Tyler in what appears to be a while. The first night of the tower, Tyler “wanted to take all the furniture in her room and help her build the biggest and tallest tower she needed.” (Mootoo 77-78) What catches my attention is the word “needed”. Building a tower out of furniture does not seem to be traditionally necessary, but Tyler sees past Miss Ramchandin’s illogicality and knows that her intentions are just to give herself a little control. Her entire life she was completely robbed of control and Tyler permitting this small act gives her a firmer grasp on a little bit of control.
The re and deconstruction of the furniture tower is representative of Tyler and Miss Ramchandin’s ability to express themselves in all physical, emotional, and mental ways.
“I felt as if I were looking in a mirror and finally seeing myself, rather than some distorted fun-house image.”(Clare 4)
At every turn, society has something shouting out some standard that we the people are supposed to meet. There’s a “should be” for pretty much everything. This is especially true with gender norms because society has enforced such rigid guidelines for so long. To step out of the box, to want to be something other than pink or blue is unfathomable to some people. For other people, being able to step out of that box is a saving grace. It allows the out-of-the-box people to belong regardless of their “shouldn’t’s”. Clare’s retelling of his experience of feeling as though he looking in a mirror and seeing himself for the first time represents a coming-of-age moment that everyone has; the moment they start to realize who they are. Whether it is a physical mirror or a mental mirror, and whether or not Clare meant for this to apply to, everyone it does. The passage keeps displaying how uncomfortable Clare feels in his skin, and how he is constantly wondering his who he is. Prior to this scene of him looking in the mirror, there is just an obvious lack of security revolving around his identity which is something experienced by all at one point or another. This lack of security comes from the standards that we are brought up with. In class we discussed the standards of what one is “supposed to be” and that statement is the problem.
Later on in the chapter Clare poses the question “How natural are the rigid , mutually exclusive definitions of male and female if they have to be defended…?”. (Clare 6) This further reinforces the whole idea of having to fit in a box, a really “rigid” box. “How natural?” not natural at all. Perhaps biologically the boxes of male and female could be more applicable but even then those labels don’t always apply. The fact that people are raised to fit into a box creates a warped sense of self. Its societal standards and reasons like this that Clare did not begin to see he was until he was older. Instead of being more sure of himself his whole life he felt confined and not fitting into the box must have been confusing.
“To return to the hole, as we all will. Six feet long, six feet deep and two wide is the standard although this can be varied on request. It’s a great leveler the hole, for no matter what fanciness goes in it, rich and poor occupy the same home at last. Air bounded by mud. Your basic Gallipoli, as they call it in the trade. A hole is hard work. I’m told this is something the public don’t appreciate. It’s an old-fashioned time consuming job and it has to be done frost or hail. Dig while the ooze soaks through your boots. Lean on the side for a breather and get wet to the bone. Very often in the nineteenth century a gravedigger would die of the damp. Digging your own grave wasn’t a figure of speech then. For the bereaved, the hole is a frightful place. A dizzy chasm of loss. This is the last time you’ll be by the side of the one you love and’ you must leave her, must leave” (Winterson 177)
The above passage from Written on the Body, not only depicts the true representation of the words it speaks, but also a deeper understanding and subtle sentences that set the tone to more morbid as Louise’s death approaches. In addition to what this passage brings to the literature I also just was very invested in these words, and I read them a few times over. The grave is representative of the eventual demise of the narrator and Lousie’s relationship. Everything that follows the first sentence about the grave itself is just a different way of telling the narrator’s downfall. I found this to be particularly interesting because the description of this scene is simply so dramatic that it makes me reevaluate the tragedy and ending that was Louise and the narrator. The quote itself is basically screaming negativity, screaming about the hole that life is and how it just gets deeper and deeper. There really is not much to understand, however it is still significant in setting the tone for the next parts of the story. It also gives the reader another look into just how dark the narrator’s mind is. There are so many parallels the narrator could have used however they chose death.
The book does not discuss death until the final pages. The rest of the book is full of life, not necessarily the positive aspects of life, but a character who is very much alive as are the people in their life. There are hardships and upsetting moments in the story but nothing as intense as death until the end of the story. It was a predictable yet mildly surprising change of tone. The quote above does a lovely job of reflecting how the narrator views things, which is usually in a negative light. Where Winterson writes about, “the last time you’ll be by the side of the one you love and’ you must leave her, must leave” was for me, honestly, the first real indication that the narrator did not have a chance of a happy ending. Yes, the entire book indicated this through displays of self-sabotage and messy relationships, but there seemed to still be potential for a turnaround.