The Truth About Change

“THINGS HAD CHANGED, what an arsehole comment, I had changed things. Things don’t change, they’re not like the seasons moving on a diurnal round. People change things. There are victims of change but not victims of things. Why do I collude in this mis-use of language? I can’t make it easier for Jacqueline however I put it. I can make it a bit easier for me and I suppose that’s what I’m doing.” -Page 56-57

A few pages before this passage the narrator is contemplating if they should cheat on their girlfriend, Jacqueline. Like the passage above it is written following the narrator’s stream of consciousness. I believe Winterson’s intention is to help the reader connect to the narrator, humanizing them by showing their thoughts and feelings. Without an assigned gender the humanity that is brought to life, allows the narrator to be anyone. The internal monologues expressing the narrator’s thought process helps facilitate empathy between the narrator and the reader. That is especially the case when readers may not like the narrator or agree with their actions all the time.

After re-reading the passage I wanted to know how does this analysis of their comment makes them feel better? At first, I believed this passage was indicating that the narrator is owning their actions and ultimately taking the blame. “Things hadn’t changed,” (56) but the narrator had changed (page 39) and admitted to taking the leap (having an affair), knowing it would ultimately hurt Jacqueline. It seems like the narrator is taking ownership when they indirectly call themselves an ‘arsehole’. The narrator feels guilty and taking responsibility possibly makes them feel better. “A weight has been lifted off their chest” some might say.

The phrase “It’s the cliches that cause the trouble.” (10) continues to reappear throughout the novel, the act of airing everything out and taking responsibility is supposed to make people feel better, perhaps the narrator is doing the exact opposite of what I just said. Maybe they aren’t owning up to their actions like I previously thought. What if the narrator is alluding to the idea that even though they have changed, it isn’t their fault? The line “There are victims of change but not victims of things.” (56-57) introduces the new idea that the narrator considers themself to be a victim of change. People go through phases and are always changing, just like the seasons. “Things don’t change, they’re not like the seasons moving on a diurnal round.” (56) It is humanity’s inability to stay the same that’s to blame.

The narrator questions why they would “collude” (57) with such wording. Although they answer the question, to make themself feel better, the narrator is lying to themself. Maybe no one has changed. Like the aforementioned seasons, the narrator naturally moves through relationships and fooled themself into “believing” they would be happily married. Although their friends questioned if the narrator would be happy, they have to convince themself this experience is what marriage is and it isn’t always happy. Deep down the narrator always knew there was something wrong and playing the victim of change is easier than saying ‘I made a mistake and I dragged you (Jacqueline) through the mud’.

If the narrator wants to feel better and make it easier on one of them it makes sense to shy away from the blame and more importantly the guilt. Later on in the book, the narrator hits Jacqueline and the readers can tell the guilt is eating them up inside. It is the guilt that is difficult to deal with. It isn’t something the narrator can control, it just happens to them and so they are just as much a victim as Jacqueline.

4 thoughts on “The Truth About Change”

  1. This is a really interesting passage to focus on – I like the way you think about blame and responsibility. I definitely agree with your idea that we get the narrator’s point of view in order to empathize with them. If we read about these events from the point of view of Jacqueline, or from one of the narrator’s other past partners, it would no doubt be a completely different story. I don’t think Jacqueline would see the narrator as a victim of change in the same way they see themself – where the narrator doesn’t want to hold themself accountable for hurting Jacqueline, she would likely put much more blame on the narrator than on the abstract concept of “change.” I think this passage is a good example of the narrator’s unreliability – it’s important to remember that the whole novel is focused on their thoughts and emotions, and we need to constantly be aware of how the narrator is viewing events and think about how far we can trust their version of the truth.

  2. This morale dilemma that the narrator endures over Jaqueline is particularly interesting when compared to how they handle their other relationships. The never really agonize over how those end. While some of this is due to the fact that the narrator is occasionally the dumpee, not the dumper, it is important to highlight. Jaqueline was their attempt at a full “normal” relationship, as is discussed in another post from our class. But here the narrator still rejects the clichéd and normal language of breakups, the “I’ve changed, my feelings have changed”. It almost seems like the narrator is dealing with the fact that they DIDN’T change–that their attempt at different patterns failed.

  3. Your passage and the overall takeaway from your writing is a similar point to several other posts that I have read. I find it interesting that so many of us drew the same conclusion that the narrator had a hard time taking blame, yet all of us used different parts of the book to support our claim. Additionally, I think the issue of taking responsibility is a common issue in the real world. Many people resolve to blaming other people or situations, instead of actually looking at what they did wrong. Perhaps Winterson wanted to point out that message in order to bring light to this common issue.

  4. This piece reminds me of another post titled “Barbed Wire?” It describes the possible sexual intimacy between the narrator and Louise, the writer of this post comments on the avoidance of responsibility. It also begs the question whether we as readers should go beyond just seeing this as lack of taking accountability but also as gaslighting and manipulation. The narrator throughout the novel describes his affair with Louise and his relationship with Jacqueline as “things” that happen to them. We readers are, like you said, empathize with them and give them the benefit of the doubt. However, by doing this, we explain and justify their actions rather than call it for what it is. Bringing in the example of physical abuse Jacqueline endured is a prime example of how the narrator overlooks his actions. The way that Louise didn’t have a say in what to do with her marriage and relationship with the narrator is also manipulation done by Elgin and the narrator. By acknowledging these moments, we then see a pattern of gaslighting done to the women in this novel and to some extent maybe to us, the readers as well.

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