Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

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

The laws of love

“Two hundred miles from the surface of the earth, there is no gravity. The laws of motion are suspended. You could turn somersaults slowly slowly, weight into weightlessness, nowhere to fall… You will break up bone by bone, fractured from who you are, you are drifting away now, the centre cannot hold” (100).

This passage from Written on the Body speaks volumes. The repetition of words related to science, physics, space, and motion (such as earth, gravity, laws of motion, weight, bone, etc.) is critical to understanding this moment in the novel. The laws of motion are considered by most to be absolute, unchangeable and fixed. However, just 200 miles from where we all stand on Earth, everything we think we know about physics is wrong. We are rooted to the earth through gravity, but in a moment, we can be lifted from normalcy and brought into weightlessness with nowhere to fall.

Much like a scientific fact, the narrator thought they knew everything about Louise and everything about their life together. Yet, because of just one sentence, everything crumbled to pieces. Not only was their life with Louise shattered, but even the narrator themself was “fractured from who [they] were, drifting away now” (100). When something as easily accepted and important as gravity, or in this case, true love, breaks, who you are breaks with it.

As another student mentioned in class, “the centre cannot hold” comes from a Yeats poem titled “The Second Coming”. In my opinion, both the poem and the novel’s passage refer to absolute chaos erupting from the seams of the world. Louise was the narrator’s world and imagining a life without her was like imagining life without the laws of motion- impossible.

5 Comments

  1. I would say more about this post if this was a real comment!

  2. To expand on your analysis, I found this quote interesting because of the way science is used to explain the narrator’s current feelings. I read this quote as a way to make their feelings for Louise more logical, by connecting their situation to the rational. Throughout the novel, the narrator used grandiose phrases to explain their love for Louise, however in this one quote, the narrator is attempting to create reason in the unreasonable.

  3. You brought up the point about the repetition of words related to science and how science is a constant. We call them laws of motion because we know them, they have been proven true over and over again. Much like we know the laws of motion the narrator knows Louise. When the narrator realized that she didn’t know everything about Louise they felt as if they had lost their sense of gravity, “weight into weightless-ness, nowhere to fall” (100). The narrator is no longer grounded on earth, but it is now “two hundred miles from the surface of the earth” (100) where there is no gravity. This was an amazing analysis!

  4. This *is* a real comment and I have plenty to say! Specifically about the relationship between the passage you chose and “The Second Coming.” I think you’re right about how both the poem and the passage refer to the eruption of chaos. Furthermore, any time you have an allusion to one part of another piece of literature, I think it invites you to consider the whole of that literature. “The centre cannot hold” refers to a loss of balance and the destruction of the rules that we currently live by, but “The Second Coming” also includes the line “The ceremony of innocence is drowned.” By quoting part of one line from “The Second Coming,” Winterson evokes the whole of that poem, including this line about innocence. And I think that there *is* a loss of innocence experienced by the narrator that occurs in the passage you describe. After all, like you mention, everything that the narrator thought they knew is falling apart.

  5. “In my opinion, both the poem and the novel’s passage refer to absolute chaos erupting from the seams of the world. Louise was the narrator’s world and imagining a life without her was like imagining life without the laws of motion- impossible.”

    There is a lot that I enjoy about this response — and this quote from your response in particular, which I think is a really good summary of your feelings and analysis of the quote which you initially responded to. I also think that it could also bring up a “So what?” question: What are the seams in the world in Written on the Body? Considering how the narrator felt about Louise like they had felt about no one else — felt a very strong, and very confusing sort of love for her — I think, then, that love is one of the great seams running throughout the world, and running throughout the narrator’s relationship with Louise.

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