This post will focus on a passage found at the bottom of 74 carrying over to the top of 75. This portion of the text sheds light on the remaining chapters of the book, but also perpetuates heternormativity within story telling and society, an important aspect of the coming out narrative.  In this passage, Jeanette re-reads a story she had grown up listening to by her mom. In the end of the story her mother tells, Jane Eyre marries and goes off with Saint John. When Jeanette reads the story for herself however, she learns that Jane never marries and her mother had manipulated the story’s ending. For years, her mother had embedded this story of love and (heterosexual marriage) into Jeanette’s mind. This notion is influential in regard to coming out narratives, in which we often see the pressure of heterosexual standards adopted in all works of life, making coming out, that much more difficult.

When Jeanette reads the actual story, her reaction is both shock and distraught, promising that she has “never since played cards, and I will never since read Jane Eyre” (Winterson 75). The last sentence of this passage evokes a sense of mistrust and sadness within Jeanette, however she quickly shuts the door to her emotions, promising to never read it again. Jeanette’s inability to, want to, or force herself to, acknowledge what the stories says, and face her emotions is almost naive. This portion of the passage certainly has an emphasis on the texts meaning as a whole. The quote represents a larger theme the novel seemingly has. Jeannette denies herself the opportunity to learn more from what she encounters from this small piece of truth. Denial is a reoccurring emotion that Jeanette often faces. The quote insists that Jeanette is in denial of her own truth, a concept that may configure throughout the rest of the novel. Her hesitancy to read the story or play cards again connects closely to the instance of when she finds her adoption papers, but then still hopes her mother may be her biological mother. These acts of denial, may be seen again in her denial of her sexuality, or a fear of truly accepting herself.

3 thoughts on “Denial”

  1. I thought that you had a really interesting close reading of this passage. I really like how you equate her mother’s manipulation of Jane Eyre narrative to the coming out narrative. I think that your claim that society forces us to adhere to one heteronormative narrative, when others do exist, is a really strong point and is illustrated well by the passage you chose. I don’t know if you intentionally meant to do this, but when you used the phrase “shuts the door” when referring to Jeannette’s denial of her emotions, it evoked the idea of “being in the closet” for me and how that is often a part of the coming out narrative.

  2. There is definitely a theme of denial throughout Jeanette’s childhood and I think this denial stems from her fear of uncertainty. On page 100 Jeanette writes, “Uncertainty to me was like Aardvark to other people. A curious thing I had no notion of, but recognized through second-hand illustration…Uncertainty was what the Heathen felt, and I was chosen by god.” When she says this, she is discussing her uncertainty with the validation of her feelings for Melanie. Jeanette hates feeling uncertain because her upbringing in the church has never left her uncertain, everything was always black or white, with no room for any sort of gray. It is possible that Jeanette denies the fact that she is adopted because she doesn’t want to face the amount of uncertainty that that truth might come with.

  3. I think you raise a very solid point about Jeanette’s denial. Until she’s a teenager, Jeanette clings to the hope that her mother might be her biological one, even if it means tarnishing her mother’s reputation (as would be the case if Jeanette was actually the daughter of the Frenchman). It’s not until Jeanette’s biological mother shows up that she shifts her thinking. I think it’s important to note that after that shift, Jeanette rarely seems to exhibit denial again. She embraces everything that happens to her and faces it head on, more or less unafraid.

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