Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

Love is constant in its demand of your entirety.

“When I say ‘I will be true to you’ I must mean it in spite of the formalities, instead of the formalities. If I commit adultery in my heart then I have lost you a little. The bright vision of your face will blur. I may not notice this once or twice, I may pride myself on having enjoyed those fleshy excursions in the most cerebral way. Yet I will have blunted that sharp flint that sparks between us, our desire for one another above all else” (Winterson 79).

I believe that through this passage the narrator tells us that loving another person, giving yourself to them and only them, is a conscious, continuous action. Love is constant in its demand of your entirety; at even the smallest provocation of infidelity, your love will have lost a part of you to another. When Winterson says “in spite of the formalities, instead of the formalities” she is referring to marriage and courtship (79). As both marriage and courtship unite the individuals in the relationship by binding them by societal ties of belonging, Winterson declares that these unions are separate from the commitment of love. A person might be bound to another by marriage or courtship but their love might not truly belong to their partner if they “commit adultery in [the] heart” (79). If your love, desire, is given to another even if only for a second, then you will have “blunted that sharp flint that sparks between us” (79).

At this point in the novel, we know that the narrator has had numerous prior relationships that have been adulterous. By fantasizing and dreaming of Louise, the narrator has actively estranged herself from Jacqueline. This passage is about that narrator letting go of their relationship with Jacqueline, all the possibilities of a life between them, and of Jacqueline herself. The narrator identifies that her adulterous thoughts and desires for Louise “blunted” her interest in Jacqueline (79). While recognizing this, the narrator simultaneously pledges a vow to Louise to constantly affirm their love for her: to banish all thoughts of past lovers and forever cherish her above all else.

2 Comments

  1. I really like your approach to this passage of the novel and I think it is really interesting how this promise to Louise develops in the course of the novel. You said that the narrator promises Louise to “banish all thoughts of past lovers and forever cherish her above all else.” And even though that is absolutely true at the beginning of their relationship, I personally feel like this changes when the narrator finds out about Louise’s sickness. Even though the narrator still cherishes Louise and argues to do everything in Louise’s best intentions, they are putting something else before her and that might be their own fear. Additionally, even though the narrator says they cannot forget Louise and still love her, they do to some extent commit to a liaison with Gail and does not break it up as they intend to do. If they still hold on to their first statement that the thought of someone else alone is enough to commit adultery in the heart, then I believe whatever they have with Gail would count as well, and thus cherish something else above Louise.

  2. I like how you analyzed this passage, it is similar to how I had also interpreted it. At the beginning of the book, the narrator was questioning whether they needed to view love as others do. With love being something out of a fairy tale, and the heart wants what it wants so to speak. The idea that to love someone is a conscious, continuous action really gives insight into how the narrator views love. Especially now in this turning point of the book, in which the narrator realizes that Louise is becoming so engraved in the narrator’s mind that there is little room for much more. The notion of love being “constant” in its demand for a persons entirety is also a very bold statement. The word constant stands out at me because it continues to follow the theme of time and things being continuous.

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