The rainbow chart above tells a story. An entire novel, in fact. British artist Jaz Parkinson created the image for Smithsonian by tallying the number of times Stephen Crane’s classic Civil War saga The Red Badge of Courage mentions or evokes different colors. “I’m interested in showing how the human mind can transform a word of text into a tangible color,” says Parkinson, who has visualized 12 other books and plays. She found the writing in The Red Badge of Courage to be especially evocative and she groups similar colors together to illustrate the imagery’s nuances. For instance, the three large reddish bands above represent “crimson” (a color Crane uses to describe the flash of rifle shots), “blood” and “red” (which Crane often uses in reference to the bloodshot eyes of the battle-weary soldiers).
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Paul Bisceglio is an editorial fellow at Pacific Standard and co-editor of the website "Land That I Live." He was previously the editorial intern for Smithsonian magazine. Follow him on Twitter @PaulBisceglio