To be or not to be vulnerable

“Louise dipterous girl born in flames, 35. 34 22 36. 10 years married, 5 months with me. Doctorate in Art History. First class mind. 1 miscarriage, 0 children. 2 arms, 2 legs, too many white T-cells. 97 months to live (Winterson, 144).”

This passage occurs after the narrator has left Louise after finding out her diagnosis. They then describe Louise to a woman named Gail in a manner that is unloving and callous of the past that they once shared. They repeatedly say throughout the novel that they love Louise and that they would never leave her. However, their actions and thoughts show a different intention. The narrator has a fight or flight response leaving the reader feeling just as empty as each lover they leave. The cold-hearted nature of Louise’s description “2 arms, 2 legs. (144)” shows how unreliable the narrator is. This is an important aspect of the novel because they perpetuate such vulnerability to the reader and their lovers, yet they leave all of us wanting to know more and feeling slightly empty. This is a common theme throughout the novel, and it is apparent that the narrator has betrayed the sense of trust that we all placed on them and the unreliability of their stories leaves us wanting to hear the stories of their various lovers. A narrator just like a romantic partner needs to be honest, open, and vulnerable, and just how Louise and Jaqueline once felt, we feel as though we did not get the whole story and despite having finished every page there is still so much left to uncover, yet we have also been cut off.

The concept of reliability is significant in our lives because trust and authenticity allow us to be our full selves. We can share our identity with those we trust and those who have trust in us. When we are vulnerable with unreliable people, like the narrator, we close ourselves off, unable to share our true selves, for if we do, we may get hurt. The narrator’s unreliability and inconsistencies are a symbol of the toxicity that eats away at our identities and prevents us from being our true selves. The relationships that we have with those around us influence how we are able to display ourselves and just like the narrator does with Louise we often feel the need to run and hide from our true selves when things go awry.


One thought on “To be or not to be vulnerable”

  1. I really love your insight into the way the narrator is and is not vulnerable! I was especially struck by the comparison you made between a narrator and a romantic partner, in that they both have a responsibility to be honest and vulnerable. In that light, I wonder if the readers of this text can be considered another of the narrator’s romantic partners? Or, because the story is so self-reflective and focused on the narrator’s internal thoughts, whether the narrator themself can be read as their own partner, in an unusual kind of self-love? That also raises the question of vulnerability with oneself – there is so much we don’t know about the narrator, and I wonder if that’s because the novel is focused on their own mind. Is there information missing from the narrative because the narrator already knows it, and there’s no need to consider certain things they take for granted (their gender and sexuality, for example)? Or are there gaps in the story because the narrator doesn’t want to be vulnerable with themself and doesn’t *want* to think about certain things?

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