Temporary Loss

     Loss is something that no one wants to experience, but somehow everyone inevitably encounters it in one shape or form. It wouldn’t be as troublesome if there were an end-all solution, but the problem is that there is no clear way to deal with loss. In Jeanette Winterson’s novel, “Written on the Body,” the theme and experience of loss is consistently brought up. Even in different contexts, there is an underlying message that Winterson brings to light, which might not be all that obvious. To elaborate, loss may not be as permanent and devastating as the narrator makes it out to be. 

      The narrator has many points of self reflection and realization about loss, yet one in particular stands out. The focus point reads, “To lose someone you love is to alter your life forever. You don’t get over it because ‘it’ is the person you loved. The pain stops, there are new people, but the gap never closes.” (155). It is easy to assume that this passage is about the long-lasting effect of loss. However, based off of the previous stories about the narrator’s past lovers, this described loss seems to be just another one in the books. This assumption is possible because when looking at how the narrator grieved the ones she had loved and lost, the story remained the same; they fell in love, the relationship failed, they lost each other, and they grieved. Each time, the narrator got over the additive pain and eventually moved on, only to find a seemingly greater love and ultimately a greater loss; possibly adding to the so-called “gap” left behind from past lovers. And each time a loss is explained, there seems to be so many possibilities to avoid it from happening, yet the narrator’s decisions inevitably result in greater loss. This recurrence questions if the pain of loss is actually unavoidable or if it was the narrator’s subconscious decision to avoid potential pain? 

      Even though the narrator’s losses could’ve been avoided, they still happened and the narrator still buried the emotions and moved on every time, proving the point that “the pain stops.” Perhaps each time the pain stops, it allows there to be an opening for someone new, someone like Louise. And even though the narrator demonstrated a strong bond with Louise, it ended with loss, and was the biggest loss of them all. However, bringing back the proposed question, if the narrator managed to overcome the previous losses, why is Louise the one that is seemingly the change of pattern? Considering the significant contradiction between the pain of loss with left behind feelings of love, versus moving on, the narrator’s seemingly unbearable feelings resulting from losing Louise are only temporary and the pain will eventually stop; allowing the cycle of love, loss, and recovery to restart. 

3 thoughts on “Temporary Loss”

  1. Your comments are really interesting, and I like the way you connect the narrators love as cyclical rather than linear. The narrator describes love in a unique way because they make someone their whole life, show them devotion and compassion and then cut them off as if nothing had ever happened. This constant recreation of particular patterns shows that the narrator’s capacity for love is not growing but is shrinking and that this cycle may not end until they want to make a change in their lives.

  2. I think your decision to focus on the cycles of love and loss that we see throughout the narrator’s life in the story was smart. Especially given that the book starts by asking, “why is the measure of love loss?” it raises the question of why certain loves hurt more to lose than others. In that way, the measure of how much love in a relationship IS directly relevant to the amount of pain there is in the eventual loss of that relationship. I think it is also relevant to the repetitive emphasis on time in the novel; the length of time between relationships as well as the length of time the relationships last might also be indicative of how much loss is felt.

  3. The post “To be or not to be vulnerable” gets at the idea that the narrator never lets themself get too close and struggles with intimacy and vulnerability. Those struggles mentioned could explain why the narrator never felt true loss, they seemed to move from relationship to relationship. That is until Louise, we can’t be sure if the narrator was more vulnerable with Louise and shut down afterwards that caused their detached description of Louise mentioned in “To be or not to be vulnerable” or that detachment is because like you suggest, the narrator never is feeling a temporary pain and the cycle will continue all over again.

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