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I’m reading a short story, “Terrified” by C. B. Gilford. This story is about Santin, a seller; he got an accident with a car on the opposite side of road. The occupants of that car, a young man and his girlfriend, intended to silence Santin so no one can know that is the young man’s fault.

In this extract (p. 252), what is the meaning of “red haze of agony”?

Santin saw him coming and closed his eyes.

“Wait a minute”, he heard the girl say, as from the far end of a long tunnel. He existed in a red haze of agony now, and her voice seemed far away.

I tried to figure out by myself:

  1. “Haze” is light mist, smoke, or steam (Collins Dictionary). Another meaning: “If someone is in a haze, they are not thinking clearly or not really noticing what is happening around them." (Collins Dictionary).
  2. “Red”: a color.
  3. Agony is a great physical or mental pain (Collins Dictionary).

Combining all three above seems meaningless to me. Is it Santin’s illusion or his mental state?

Then I tried my luck with Google. It turns out that “Red haze of agony” is used in various short stories, novels, etc… but none can give me any idea. In the end, I’m still in vain.

1 Answer 1

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"Haze of pain" usually doesn't refer to actual visual obscuring, but rather a mental state that's referred to as "haze" where you can't think clearly, sometimes referred to as "feeling hazy" or "thinking hazily".

2 : something suggesting atmospheric haze especially : vagueness of mind or mental perception

That said, pain can cause a visual haze via optical nerve inflammation, increased blood pressure, or burst blood vessels in the eyes (the last of which can create a red haze due to the presence of blood in the visual field).

Assuming we're not talking about an actual "red haze", the red color is often associated with strong emotions like anger or pain (sometimes, anger being used to carry yourself through the pain, "fighting through the pain" so to speak).

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    I assume "red" is at least partly related to anger, rather than merely the presence of blood/bleeding.
    – Stuart F
    Feb 22 at 14:32
  • I'm still a bit vague. The author used the verb "exist" here, it makes me think Santin is in an illusion.
    – Shodo_Lam
    Feb 23 at 8:54
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    Ah, I think that, instead, it's meant to emphasize his helplessness in the situation. He can't move, can't protest their murder attempt, just "exist" and hear them. Feb 23 at 13:18
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    Minor point, visual effect in migraine aren't a result of pain, the visual effects generally precede the pain and both the result of the same neurophysiological phenomenon.
    – Spagirl
    Feb 24 at 10:03
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    So noted. Removed the reference to migraines. Feb 24 at 13:01

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