Jeanette’s Dream

“In the spring, the ground still had spaces of snow…It wasn’t fair that the whole street should be filled with beasts.” (p. 71- 73)

In the beginning of the passage, which serves as the opener for the “Numbers” section of Jeanette Winters novel, Jeannette describes a reoccurring dream—perhaps more accurately described as a nightmare—in which she is walking down the aisle to marry a man. As she progresses down the aisle, her observations begin to become more and more fantastical and peculiar, such that the priest gets increasingly fat while her groom remains anything but husband material, presenting himself in various forms: as blind, or her mother, or as not even human. She also feels progressively more “weighed down” as she walks down the aisle, to the point where it becomes unbearable. I think this dream foreshadows Winterson’s ultimate coming out as it indicates her developing sense of misalignment with the future her mother (and society) has imagined and prepared her for. Jeanette is expressing her fear of being blindly forced into a narrative for which she is not inclined; one she does not feel is truly her own.

Further in the passage, Winterson’s reflection upon her dream leads to certain self-realizations and causes her to question the society she lives in, as if she has gained some new perspective that everyone else seems blind to. She questions the norms she has been socialized to, as “everyone always said you found the right man…but there was the problem of the woman married to the pig, and the spotty boy who took girls down backs, and [her] dream” (p. 72). She expresses a level of incredulity at the fact that, either everyone around her knew men were pigs and beasts, and simply chose to ignore that fact while keeping Winterson in the dark, or they were all simply unaware of the horrible paradigm in which women marry beasts and hope that, with enough kisses, they’ll turn into a prince. She calls it a “conspiracy” that, perhaps, “…all over the globe, in all innocence, women were marrying beasts” (p. 73). She comes to this conclusion after reading “The Beauty and the Beast,” and it is at this point she begins forming her opinion that this conspiracy is a narrative she does not long to be a part of.

I believe this passage represents the prerequisite internal conflict many individuals undergo prior to and throughout the process of forming their own understanding of their sexual identity prior to coming out. It is similar in theme to what was described in many of the videos from the “It Gets Better Project,” in which the individual begins to recognize the misalignment of their own narrative with that of society—spurred by the knowledge that they always had felt different, until they eventually worked out what that difference was.


One thought on “Jeanette’s Dream”

  1. I found your ideas and input interesting. This section of the novel stood out to me as well. I found the stigma around marriage in this novel to be quite different from the stereotypical outlook. I feel most people think of marriage as this happy and special day that everyone dreams of, this special connection between two people. However, the characters of this novel see marriage as something that must happen because it is “right” and in the end you may be stuck with a beast. Jeanette’s mother adds to this perception when discussing her marriage to Jeanette’s father. I agree that this section allows Jeanette to see that “society expected” marriage is not for her. I just found it interesting how the whole novel portrays marriage in this light. Perhaps the author questions the concept of marriage as a whole?

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