The Act of “Writing” on Bodies

The focus and title of this novel is centered around the body. Jeanette Winterson uses the word “body” four times in the first paragraph of page 178. The first three uses seem to address Louise’s body, her dying and eventually dead body. The second to last sentence is about the proximity of bodies–Louise and the narrator’s. The last line in the paragraph says “This is the body where your name is written” (Winterson 178). The word “written”, like the word “body”, is also included in the title. This prompts the question of what Winterson means by “written” or the act of writing on a “body.” I think that this action of writing isn’t literal but a literary way of symbolizing the marks people leave on eachother. For the narrator of Written on the Body, Louise is the one who has left a mark on the narrator and their life. And if writing is just a symbol, then so is the body, or rather, the body is a physical extension of the soul/consciousness in each human being. Winterson wants readers to focus on the body because this passage says that this “written on the body” is “passing into the hands of strangers.” Because Louise is dying/dead, one can understand that those involved in the cleaning, embalming, and dressing up this body are “the hands of strangers,” but what can also be noted is the ambiguity of this sentence. “This body where your name is written” could also be the narrator’s, and so the hands of these strangers may also be the narrator’s other lovers. “You [Louise] were intimate with every muscle, privy to the eyelids moving in sleep” (Winterson 178). Here, there is an understanding of two bodies that are in close and intimate, almost sacred, proximity, that makes the hands of these strangers possibly a violation of that intimacy between two bodies. These two sentences evoke emotions of possession and jealousy, but also grief as the state of the body being discussed is a decaying one. In the larger context of the novel, this is just one example of the language related to writing/reading and its relationship to the focus of the physical, bodily, corporeal, carnal, and mortal description and reality of Louise and the narrator’s affair.


One thought on “The Act of “Writing” on Bodies”

  1. I completely agree with your thoughts! I especially like this statement you made that states, “Louise is the one who has left a mark on the narrator and their life”. Louise has added to the text that the narrator’s body makes. I also really like the passage you picked and how it showcases the nature of Louise’s relationship with the narrator. I also think your thoughts on how Louise’s cancer has changed the dynamic of the relationship are interesting.

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