Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

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

Visceral Gender

“I didn’t only want Louise’s flesh, I wanted her bones, her blood, her tissues, the sinews that bound her together. I would have held her to me through time had stripped away the tones and textures of her skin. I could have held her for a thousand years until the skeleton itself rubbed away to dust. What are you that makes me feel thus? Who are you for whom time has no meaning?

In the heat of her hands I thought, This is the campfire that mocks the sun. This place will warm me, feed me, and care for me. I will hold on to this pulse against other rhythms. The world will come and go in the tide of a day but here is her hand with my future in its palm.” (p. 51).

Time and magnitude play a big part in this passage. The sun is a universal constant; it has lasted and will last forever, and a human life or a day or a campfire is nothing when compared to it. Likewise, the age or bodily wear from time presents no issue or worry for the narrator in this passage, for how much they feel for Louise. This passage describes the magnitude of the feeling the narrator feels for her; it is all-consuming, only measurable in astronomical proportions, or in the immeasurable length of time. And is it love? The narrator is still entirely confused by the feeling and its intensity.

This passage reinforces the notion that this book is not only about kinds of love, but it is also about bodies. The narrator feels love viscerally and physically and only finds similarity in the astronomical, not-easily-grasped concepts of time or distance or scale. The narrator’s relationship with love, which is one of confusion and yet one that they are connected to intrinsically and completely, reflects the portrayal of bodies in the novel, and ultimately the narrator’s relationship with gender- and the concept of gender itself. The narrator’s gender is never truly revealed (and so, in our minds, neither is their body), and their love is never truly understood. I think the author is saying that a person’s relationship to their gender is connected to their relationship with bodies and that for the narrator, it’s as unknowable and complete as love.

4 Comments

  1. I found this quote interesting, in that the narrator is so focused on describing Louise they never take the time to describe what they look like. Your analysis of the narrator’s love for Louise being all-consuming fits with this idea; their feelings are so intense, they cannot think of anything but Louise. Because Louise is the center of their world, they might not think it important to describe what they look like in favor for their lover.

  2. This passage ties back to a central point of the novel: bodies. The narrator’s past loves have been judged by the experiences and connections of the body, the gender of the body is never a factor. For me, this passage is not illustrating the narrator’s desire for Louise’s feminine body, but exemplifying the human need for another human body in general. I agree with the statement that the passage is describing the narrator’s intense feelings of love for Louise, but I feel as though it is also reinforcing the widespread desire of human-human body interaction.

  3. “The narrator’s gender is never truly revealed (and so, in our minds, neither is their body), and their love is never truly understood. I think the author is saying that a person’s relationship to their gender is connected to their relationship with bodies and that for the narrator, it’s as unknowable and complete as love.”

    I loved your take on this! The debate over the narrator’s gender has been coming up constantly in this class, and I also remember us having discussed how this book was also largely about bodies. Your response tied those two concepts together excellently, and makes both of the concepts make a lot more sense in the context of the book, which I greatly appreciated. I agree with you on the part in which you stated you think that the author is making a connection between a person’s relationship with their gender and with bodies. Although this certainly isn’t true for everyone, I think a lot of people’s periods of self-discovery regarding their gender or sexuality are marked by events which, although not necessarily sexual in nature, have to do somehow with bodies and their relationship with them in connection (or perhaps a lack thereof — a disconnection) with their gender.

  4. I really like your interpretation of this passage and especially like how you pulled it together describing how it reinforces the theme of the book. Particularly that it is not only about love but also about bodies. As I had read this, I acknowledged that as the narrator was describing Louise’s body, they revealed a sense of longing and admiration, as if they admired so much the intricate details of her that he wanted to be apart of her in a deeper physical and visceral way. This notion also leads to the substance of the book, in which the narrator has been searching for love but most likely hadn’t known that they had been searching for this feeling of wholeness and oneness with someone else.

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