Nature: Who Needs It?

“In the heat of her hands I thought, This is the campfire that mocks the sun. This place will warm me, feed me and care for me. I will hold on to this pulse against other rhythms. The world will come and go in the tide of a day but here is her hand with my future in its palm” (Winterson 51).

In this passage, the power of the narrator’s devotion to Louise is illustrated through a binary between nature and body. These two themes are prominent throughout the entirety of the story, but in this passage they are positioned in a contrast which signifies the narrator’s obsessed love for Louise. The body, which is linked with warmth and intimacy, is indicated by words like “hand,” (which is used twice), “pulse,” and palm.” The contrasting symbol of nature represents everything distant and outside their love, and is shown through words like “sun,” “world,” “tide,” and “day.”

In every sentence of this passage, the symbol of the body is positioned opposite the symbol of nature. “This is the campfire that mocks the sun” is the first thought the narrator has. The campfire is a manmade thing, which in this instance symbolizes the love of the narrator and Louise, and by “mocking the sun” it is implied that this feeling makes everything else seem inadequate. The narrator is so overpowered by their emotion they have no need for anything else, even things that have kept them alive their entire life, since the sun is obviously essential for the existence of living things. This metaphor also implies a sort of self-awareness of the narrator, since when you are close to a campfire it may seem like the greatest heat source imaginable, but of course you know the sun is a million times stronger. This hints that the narrator knows deep down that the relationship is not truly this all-powerful force, but they will cling tightly to it nonetheless.

The second sentence, “This place will warm me, feed me and care for me,” positions Louise’s love not only as a thing but as a place, which has swallowed the narrator whole. The repetitive structure of this sentence implies that the narrator is drilling these things in their mind, trying to convince themself of their truth. “I will hold on to this pulse against other rhythms” returns to the body/nature divide, with “this pulse” being the heartbeat (of themself or of Louise) and “other rhythms” referring to everything beyond their bodies. “Rhythms” is such a vague word, and yet nature is full of repeated sounds: the rushing of a stream, the blowing of the wind, birdcalls, even the tides, which is referenced again in the last sentence. The rhythm of their bodies (heartbeats and perhaps the rhythm of physical contact as well) is all the narrator needs to survive. The passage ends with “The world will come and go in the tide of a day but here is her hand with my future in its palm,” rounding out the message with explicit symbolism: the outside world (referenced by name) with its rhythms and structures (“the tide of a day”) is separated completely from the body and the narrator’s relationship with Louise, suggesting the narrator has no desire for any aspect of life beyond their love.

2 thoughts on “Nature: Who Needs It?”

  1. Adding onto the point about being separated from the outside world, or nature, one could infer that the relationship is being kept separate from the natural outside world for a reason. It’s as though the narrator and Louise are in a bubble in their relationship, ignoring the outside world and their problems in favor of each other’s bodies. This all comes crashing down when Louise’s cancer diagnosis comes to light; the outside world, or a disease that is inherently natural, comes rushing in to destroy that body the narrator relied on. While the narrator values body over nature, in the end it is nature that wins over body in their relationship.

  2. I agree with your point about how the narrator’s love for Louise is all consuming and is sort of this otherworldly force for them. They reiterate that the only thing about their life that is worth living is their love for Louise, yet they still leave her in the end. Much like the blog post about Louise’s reading hands, the narrator has never experienced a true love like this before. Therefore, the narrator puts Louise on this pedestal of being above other humans. She is not just a person, but a place. In doing so, the narrator doesn’t see Louise as a person and by failing to recognize her humanity they lose her.

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