Based on the poem "What is Red?" by Mary O'Neill, what is said to happen if you have a slight cut on your hand? What about a deep cut? What does the line "Red is a signal that says, 'Watch Out!'" mean? Why do you think red is the color used for such signals? How does the narrator describe the impact of the color red?

In "What is Red?" a small amount of blood is said to come out of a slight cut on the hand. What happens when it's a deep cut is not directly said, but one can infer there would be a much larger amount of blood. In general, red is depicted in the poem as an attention-getting color, so the speaker says it is useful as a warning as well as a representation of a variety of strong emotions. 

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The main theme of the poem "What is Red" by Mary O'Neill is how one color can evoke a vast array of feelings and responses. Some of these responses are cultural ("red is a fire engine"; "red is a rubber ball") and some are inherent in the human experience ("red squiggles out when you cut your hand"). 

Ms. O'Neill seems to paint the idea of the color red in the very phrasing of each line of her poem. The sentences are short and blunt and overtly specific. "Red is a lipstick. Red is a shout. Red is a signal that says 'WATCH OUT'."

Despite the many varying shades and hues of red that could be referenced (i.e., scarlet, crimson, magenta) Ms. O'Neill deliberately repeats the specific word "red" over and over again, until like the very color itself, the word red is impressed harshly upon the brain.

Many of the things Mary O'Neill describes in the poem "What is Red" are unpleasant: embarrassment, anger, a sunburn. There's a sense that the author doesn't particularly enjoy her experience of the color red and yet she is struck by its influence and finishes her poem by considering: "Red is a show-off, no doubt about it. But can you imagine living without it?"

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In the poem, "red squiggles out" when we have a cut on our hand. The word "squiggle" is interesting; it describes an irregular, curly line of blood emerging from the wound. Perhaps the blood is "squiggly" because it follows the lines on our hand. The poem doesn't say what happens when we get a deep cut, but we assume that the blood doesn't just "squiggle" out; as my colleague mentions in her answer, a deeper cut can cause blood to gush out in greater volume.

This leads us to what the color red means to the poet:

Red is a shout
Red is a signal
That says, “Watch out!”

The color red warns people about danger. It's a bright, attention-grabbing color. In the poem, the color red can spell sexy (as in a woman's red lipstick) or beautiful (as in a red rose); it can alert us when someone's angry (as in red-hot angry), and it can also spell danger. So, the color red can signal at different times anger, danger, beauty, or sexiness. Additionally, when people become emotional, the poet tells us that "Red is hotness/ You get inside/ When you’re embarrassed."

Here, the color red explains how someone feels. Some people blush when they get embarrassed; the little twinge of red on someone's cheeks alerts us to how that person feels. The poet says "Red is the giant-est/ Color of all." That's the impact of the color red. It's a "show-off,/ No doubt about it," perhaps because it knows how important it is in our lives. The color red causes us to react to what we see and feel. Its power is felt daily in our lives, so much so that the poet invites us to imagine what it would be like to live without it.

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In the poem "What is Red," Mary O'Neill writes that if you have a slight cut on your hand, "Red squiggles out." If the cut is deeper, red blood would not squiggle out but might gush out in greater force and volume.

Red is a signal that says "Watch out!" because it is used as a stop light and a stop sign, as well as a warning light. It is used for signals because it captures people's attention and tells them to stop.

The author describes red as "a lipstick," "a shout," and "a show-off." In other words, the personality of the color is bold and vibrant. Red does everything it can to attract people's attention, and its impact is to make people stop and cast their eyes on the color red. It is not a shy or subtle color; rather, it makes itself noticed. 

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