Red Clock

What is time made of? Geryon said suddenly to the yellowbeard…

Time isn’t made of anything. It is an abstraction.

Just meaning that we

impose upon motion. But I see–he looked down at his watch–what you mean. Wouldn’t want to be late to my own lecture, would I?” (Carson, 90).

Throughout Autobiography of Red, Geryon continuously questions time, and what exactly it consists of. The yellowbeard’s answer implies that humanity has a tendency to establish a framework for existence, creating a universal list of expectations to be met during one’s life. This idea corresponds with the ideas expressed within Judith Halberstam’s In a Queer Time and Place. Halberstam argues, “queer subcultures produce alternative temporalities by allowing their participants to believe that their futures can be imagined according to the logics that lie outside of those paradigmatic markers of life experience–namely, birth, marriage, reproduction, and death,” (Halberstam, 2). These valued landmarks encourage society’s favoritism of heteronormative practices. A desire to pursue alternative ways of living is met with external disapproval due to the unspoken, imagined set of rules that an individual is expected to follow. In reality, as the yellowbeard claims, time is not made of anything. The idea of imposing order to one’s period of living is unnecessary, villainizing the desire to explore the self.

Geryon, also villainized as a little red monster, feels this isolation from the world around him. From early on, he has felt this detachment from what is considered “normal,” eventually hiding his wings within an overcoat to abide standard values. His insecurity exhibits “emotional and physical responses to different kinds of time; thus people feel guilty… these emotional responses add to our sense of time as ‘natural,'” (Halberstam, 7). Geryon’s struggle with his unique qualities causes him great emotional distress, as he often feels very angry, sad, or frustrated. This confusion with the societal fabrication of “normal” causes him to question what it will take for him to fit into time’s standards. By viewing time as a indicator of what is natural, Greyon overlooks, and even seems somewhat disapproving of what is truly innate. His inner connection with the color red is an important facet to his being, something that is characteristic to him from birth. Instead of embracing himself, the perceived normalcy of time prevents his identity from flourishing.


  Brennan, Toni. “In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives: By Judith Halberstam, New York University Press, New York, 2005, 213 Pp., $19.00.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 36, no. 5, 2007, pp. 755–57, 

Carson, Anne. Autobiography of Red : a Novel in Verse. First Vintage Contemporaries edition., Vintage Books, 1999.

“Unnatural” IS Natural

“Mala all but rid herself of words… Every muscle of her body swelled, tingled, cringed, or went numb in a way that words were unable to match or enhance… Mala’s companions were the garden’s birds, insects, snails, and reptiles… She did not intervene in nature’s business… Flora and fauna left her to her own devices and in return she left them to theirs. They realized eventually that they had no cause to hide. Mala permitted them to roam boldly and to multiply at leisure throughout her property.” (Mootoo, 126-128).

Nature is the embodiment of identity; just as a species is equipped with instincts crucial to their individual life cycles, a sense of self is an innate aspect of a human being. However, humanity lacks the freedom to simply exist, unlike plant and animal life. Heteronormativity embeds a myriad of expectations upon an individual, immediately characterizing any divergence as “abnormal.” Failure to abide societal mores results in public ostracization, despite identity being a natural facet of an individual. A blooming flower is seen as beautiful, yet a blooming identity is subjected to judgement.

Mala’s comfort in nature allows her to feel physically and emotionally at ease with her body, quirks, and queerness. The removal of pressure to present “normally” in order to please a higher power allows her to heal from her years of abuse. For the majority of her life, she was silenced by her father, expected to serve him. Additionally, the community was ignorant to her trauma, labeling her as “crazy” rather than recognizing her behavior as symptoms of PTSD. Nature had no opinions of Mala, as the wildlife “left her to her own devices,” (128). Mala had developed a symbiotic relationship with the natural, as both her and earth could exist without fear. She was treated as a human being, a living organism; not as an abnormal phenomenon.

Mala’s relationship with nature reminded me a lot of Eli Clare’s “Stones in my Pocket, Stones in my heart.” Similar to Mala, this was only place Clare felt a “sense of a body,” (Clare, 145). Despite not understanding the meaning of certain heteronormative expectations, Clare knew that he naturally did not feel feminine. The pressures to adhere to the accepted lifestyle of a woman did not match his innate identity. Therefore, he found an escape through an environment where there was no “normal.” Every being was allowed to exist naturally as they are. His lived experience is analogous to the relief Mala feels within her garden.

The physical pleasure Mala obtains from surrounding herself in the wild is akin to Clare’s view on the body from a biological standpoint: “Our bodies are not merely blank slates… We cannot ignore the body itself: the sensory, mostly non-verbal experience of our hearts and lungs, muscles and tendons, telling us and the world who we are,” (Clare, 150). Mala foregoes speaking, allowing her true sense of self to transcend words. By letting her anatomy alone present who she naturally is, she is defending herself against verbal opinions. No matter how common, opinions are not facts; Mala simply existing as she is cannot possibly be “unnatural,” despite the controversy around her. She physically feels the most content in an environment who not only accepts her natural self, but also exhibits their unique qualities with no shame.

Clare, Eli. “Stolen Bodies, Reclaimed Bodies: Disability and Queerness.” Public Culture, vol. 13, no. 3, 2001, pp. 359–66, 

Mootoo, S. Cereus blooms at night; Thorndike Press, 1996.

The Harm of Time

“Family time refers to the normative scheduling of daily life that accompanies the practice of child rearing. This timetable is governed by an imagined set of children’s needs… the time of inheritance refers to an overview of generational time within… morals are passed through family… it also connects the family to the historical past of the nation, and… connect[s] the family to the future of both familial and national stability,” (Halberstam, page 5).

The concept of time, built upon those rooted within a higher power, obstructs the process of self-discovery. In the heteronormative ideal, the definition of a “virtuous” life resides only within the walls of what is seen as pivotal milestones (birth, marriage, reproduction, death) that will allow this approach to endlessly continue toward the future. Specifically, in this passage, the concept of “family time” demonstrates the responsibility placed upon young children to uphold this societal cycle. The majority of children are raised without exposure to the notion of “queer time” and “queer space” discussed within the essay, or an alternative to the heteronormative ideal. Children are pressured to replicate a pre-programmed version of life, looked down upon as unproductive when their identities, logistics, sexual preferences, occupations, morals, willingness to reproduce, etc. are not considered acceptable within the favorable collective norms. Imaginary “healthy” child chronologies that may seem insignificant (such as bed times) are harmful when considering the domino effect that agenda creates. Ironically, a child’s version of a pivotal milestone may be not necessarily fit within the teleology of living, causing inner turmoil within the self. What is considered “healthy” is, in actuality, unhealthy for their mental wellbeing. For example, the discovery of one’s sexual preference may cause fear within an individual due to their family’s traditional morals and expectations for them to reproduce. A vision of a happy future associated with queer time may cause disappointment in those around them, causing insecurity and even suppression of their identity to fit within heteronormative expectations. The responsibility of preserving not only a family, but societal legacy becomes more important than simply enjoying life as it is.

A default habitualness prevents variety seen within society, impeding the ability of queer identities to ordinarily flourish. This lack of variety will only strengthen heteronormative values in future generations, regardless if these morals originated years ago.  A simultaneous connection to the past and future protects the fear of a new version of time annexing what is considered “normal.” Those in a higher position do not want to risk any hinderance to the preservation of the nation, as not only pivotal life events will differ, but society will develop. This evolution would lead to additional adjustments within the economy and industrial departments. Thus, everyday items, such as television, are utilized by industrialists to impose these morals onto children at a young age, hiding any sense of a different way of living. By veiling education and exposure to alternate identities, the repeating cycle of consumption and production is secured.

What is written on YOUR body?

“Written on the body is a secret code only visible in certain lights; the accumulations of a lifetime gather there. In places the palimpsest is so heavily worked that the letters feel like braille… I didn’t know that Louise would have reading hands. She has translated me into her own book.” (89). 


At this point in the novel, I believe this section represents the narrator’s loss of self. The usage of literary themed words (write, reading, braille, palimpsest, letters, book, translate, etc.) combined with bodily terms (body, hands, etc.) suggest that words and identity are intertwined. They compare the multiple experiences and relationships they have encountered to a palimpsest, illustrating the frustration and confusion they have endured. A commonality seen within each of the narrator’s previous relationships was the brief period in which they lasted. The narrator’s dissatisfaction with their lovers only contributed to their inner turmoil regarding what they truly were searching for in their concept of love. 

Louise’s ability to connect with the narrator was the blossoming of an epiphany. They felt as if they were being accepted for who they are as an individual, rather than a short-lived phase. Louise did not have any intention of hiding the narrator from her husband, nor did she want to change the narrator in any way. She was adamant about wanting to leave Elgin to pursue her relationship with the narrator simply because she loved them. Additionally, in the narrator’s past relationships, they chose to compromise with their lovers to salvage their bond. These compromises consisted of communication by pigeon, shaving their entire body, lying about their relationship status, living an uneventful life, and countless other situations that they did not feel comfortable with. For the first time, Louise was not asking for anything from the narrator. She simply wanted to be with them. 

However, this epiphany ironically led to the narrator’s misunderstanding of a healthy relationship. Having been changing themselves for their partner over and over, repeatedly erasing and creating new identities on themselves, they ran into a sense of confusion about who they are as an individual when their lover did not wish for them to change. Louise was not attempting to write anything on the narrator’s body; she only wished to read their identity. However, due to their inexperience in self-discovery, the narrator felt as if it was almost mandatory that they must be rewritten. With the lack of any attempt to modify the narrator, the narrator does not know how to act within a relationship. They are not told who to be; therefore, they misunderstand Louise’s sincerity, and mistake it as a “translation.” By this, they believe that they must become one with Louise. Love is not only about the other person, wishing to physically exude a perfect replication of the partner. A relationship consists of two individuals, not one. An absence of identity weakens companionship, disrupting equality and erasing any sense of a secure attachment. Instead, selfishness and inferiority emerges.