Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

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

What a lighthearted deflection of blame has to say about the narrator’s state of mind

“Perhaps I’m not meant to have any worldly goods. Perhaps they are blocking my spiritual progress and my lighter self continually chooses situations where I will be free of material burdens. It’s a comforting thought, slightly better than being a sucker…Judith’s bottom. I treasure it” (Winterson 76).

This quote comes just after the narrator had recounted the story of one of their ex-girlfriends, Judith, who once locked the narrator outside in the cold and then burned their clothes. The narrator has hypothesized that maybe the reason that they are often found caught in situations such as this one – facing ex-girlfriends who have turned hostile – is not a result of any fault of the narrator, but instead, anything but that. In this case, it’s that the universe has decided that the narrator is not meant to possess worldly goods, and their subconscious is what is creating these situations, ones in which it knows the narrator will end up losing something.

This way of thinking reoccurs quote frequently throughout the novel – not necessarily in terms of analyzing the reasons for which the narrator is losing their possessions, but in terms of the narrator placing the blame and searching for answers elsewhere. The narrator tries to look at the big picture, the “other” reason or explanation, when there may not even be one. Between the girlfriends (and girlfriends who are already married, specifically), the narrator is constantly waiting on heartbreak and is constantly waiting on change. It is the mark of an exhausted person who has grown tired of looking within themselves and has grown tired of trying to fix what drives them to always end up in situations that are prone to ending in disaster.

Much of the grappling for some external explanation is done in specific reference to love and time, which really lays bare some of the narrator’s inner demons; they are a hopeless romantic who still searches for hope, but they are afraid of commitment and are reluctant to show vulnerability, which is why they are always searching for another way of explaining their situation.

4 Comments

  1. The idea that you bring up about the narrator escaping blame and negative thought by creating a new explanation is a really important point. I see this idea come up multiple times throughout the book. On page 43 the narrator says, “I don’t feel wise. Why is it that human beings are allowed to grow up without the necessary apparatus to make sound ethical decisions?” In this passage the narrator admits to not always making the best decisions, and the passage that you provide about escaping blame by creating new explanations for things, is an example of the narrator making poor decisions. By not owning up to their decision and diverting blame, in their mind they are excusing themselves from needing to make decisions, when in fact diverting blame is a decisions in itself.

  2. I hit enter on my first post prematurely!

    I believe this says less about the narrator looking at the big picture or alternate explanations and more about the narrator’s inability to take the blame for their inability for their own actions. All we know about their relationship with Judith and the reason they were locked outside was that “we had a tiff” (75) and that the narrator was locked out. We explored in class that it is possible that the narrator is not being entirely truthful with us, that what we know about their relationships comes from them and it is very possible the information could be skewed. This was really interesting to read!

  3. Hi! Your analysis was really interesting. I didn’t even notice the trend of deflection that the narrator displays when I was reading the book but now it seems obvious. One of the major issues I have with the narrator is how they are oblivious to the hearts they break. They just move on, constantly searching for something better, while not caring what happens to the women who loved them. Your observations that they blame anything but themself is an apt one. Even when the narrator leaves Louise, it’s not their fault, it’s the cancer’s fault. Interesting!

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