Barbed Wire?

“The naked eye. How many times have I enjoyed you with my lascivious naked eye. I have seen you unclothed, bent to wash, the curve of your back, the concurve of your belly. I have had you beneath me for examination, seen the scars between your thighs where you fell on barbed wire. You look as if an animal has clawed you, run its steel nails through your skin, leaving harsh marks of ownership” (Winterson 117). 

Jeannette Winterson writes in Written on the Body about the Narrator’s love for Louise and eventually, the Narrator becomes obsessed with Louise to the point of medically describing Louise and her body. The Narrator mentions the scars on Louise’s thighs from where she “fell on barbed wire” (Winterson 117), which she may actually have done. However, this brief anecdote sounds as though it may be referring to another circumstance: perhaps the Narrator has found a poetic way to describe the way their fingers grab Louise. The Narrator may well be describing their own nails scratching Louise, claiming that she fell on barbed wire to disguise the true nature of the situation. The “harsh marks of ownership” (Winterson 117) may be the Narrator’s nail marks on Louise’s legs as they have sex. This example of the Narrator describing one situation under the guise of another shows their tendency to avoid taking full ownership for their actions. Throughout the second half of the novel, starting at the point where the Narrator makes Louise get back with Elgin and the Narrator moves away from the couple, the Narrator refuses to accept any responsibility for the loss of Louise. The Narrator mentions, once, that they “should have trusted [Louise] but [they] lost [their] nerve” (Winterson 187), but this is not admission of fault. The Narrator should have allowed Louise to make her own decision about where to go and who she wanted to be with, but they prevented her from doing so. The deep marks on Louise’s thighs may or may not have been caused by barbed wire, but either way, the Narrator is unable to admit fault or responsibility for any part of Louise’s body and, by extension, cannot admit fault for the loss of her entire body and soul.

2 thoughts on “Barbed Wire?”

  1. The way you analyze the physical aspect of the relationship and what that means is really interesting. In the novel it is easy to get caught up in the word play and the way the narrator talks to Louise and how much they love and value her. However, their actions often show something very different. The narrator physical leaves Louise yet does not allow Louise the option to leave them in certain instances. It is interesting to see the narrator’s physical dominance in certain situations and how the absence of gender can take away from the severity of their actions.

  2. The connection between the eerie description of the scars on Louise’s inner thighs and the lack of ability to take responsibility of fault is bold, and points out a tie to my own blog post. I touched on how the Narrator avoided many possibilities to avoid pain and loss, yet ended up hurting nonetheless. I find it intriguing that we both wanted to point out the possible incompetence of the Narrator, even if it was through different perspectives.

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