“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.