08_marcin_sroczynski - 62 Marcin Sroczy\u0144ski Marcin Sroczy\u0144ski Marriage as Hell Sex as Salvation and Love as Nirvana Jeanette Winterson\u2019s Concept

08_marcin_sroczynski - 62 Marcin Sroczyu0144ski Marcin...

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Marcin Sroczyński Marriage as Hell, Sex as Salvation, and Love as Nirvana: Jeanette Winterson’s Concept of Love Jeanette Winterson is famous for criticising bourgeois lifestyle and morality, and a close reading of her novels reveals that she is particularly hostile to the institution of marriage, as several of her characters need to get out of a marriage in order to pursue their loves. Critics have noted that “[f]rom Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) onwards, marriage is described as an institution and is castigated, whereas the belief in true love hardly ever wavers” (Ellam 79). The aim of this article is to take a closer look at how Winterson defines and describes marriage and what she offers as an alternative. I shall try to show how the author sets herself on a quest to abolish the centuries-long tradition of putting marriage on the pedestal, as an ultimate accomplishment and realisation of the ideal of love. The analysis will take into consideration two aspects of Winterson’s project: the first is her focus on sensuality and carnal pleasures having the power to create a private bond between the lovers which would override the institutionalised one. The second is an attempt to forge a new philosophical ideal of love, a paradigm shift which would allow the lovers to live in a world beyond the power relations ruling contemporary Western societies. The following analysis will confront Winterson’s ideas to the theories developed by the French historian and philosopher Michel Foulcault, with an aim to demonstrate that Winterson only partly succeeds in her venture. I am going to analyse three of Winterson’s novels: Written on the Body , Lighthousekeeping , and The Stone Gods. They come from different periods in Winterson’s literary career and seem to differ thematically. However, they are strikingly similar in the ideological back- ground which determines their plots, i.e. the denouncement of a traditional, institutionalised matrimonial relationship as a source of falsity, suffering, and the ultimate defeat of an individual. The narrator of Written on the Body indulges in several love affairs with married women. Eventually, (s)he 1 falls in love with Louise, whose marriage is unhappy. They have an affair, but Louise’s husband (an oncologist called Elgin) successfully schemes to regain control over his wife. The cryptic final scene of the book suggest a reunification of the lovers, although Louise is presumably dead of cancer. The narrator of Lighthousekeeping is an orphaned girl named Silver, who learns about life from her protector, Pew. He tells her the story of a clergyman called Babel Dark, who had a turbulent affair with a girl called Molly, and as self-inflicted punishment for the pain he had caused her, he decided to move to a small and depressing town and marry a local woman. His life and marriage were unhappy, and eventually, unable to find a way out of the vicious circle of suffer- ing, the character commits suicide. Silver grows up to be a lesbian, goes on a journey of 1 Winterson deliberately conceals the sex of the narrator.

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