She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies.
This quote comes from the beginning of the first chapter of the book, Genesis, when Jeanette is describing her mother's character. This character description lays the backdrop for the future conflict that Jeanette will have with her mother's personality. Jeanette's moth is a woman who sees the world only in black and white terms with no layers in between. For her there are friends and there are enemies. A person is holy or evil. She does not allow room for people to be non-religious but still good people. For Jeanette's mother if you are not saved by Christ then you are a heathen. Such dualistic views of the world have deeply been impressed upon Jeanette. Yet as she grows older and becomes a lesbian, she falls into a middle ground. Homosexuality falls outside of the assumed heterosexual binary. Winterson criticizes the mother's perspective and suggests in her novel that the world does not exist in a series of binaries.
And so it was that on a particular day, some times later, she followed a star until it came to settle above an orphanage, and in that place was a crib, and in that crib, a child. A child with too much hair.
This quote from Chapter 1, "Genesis," describes the adoption of Jeanette in terms that compare her to Jesus Christ. This imagery is important because throughout the plot Jeanette will embark on a mythic quest that in some ways resembles the quest of Christ. The imagery and the style also is important because it mimics that of the Bible. The star over Jeanette's crib can be compared to the star of Bethlehem. The long sentence starting with "And" replicates the narrative technique of the Bible. Here the narrator twists this generally austere style by saying finally that the child that was found was "a child with too much hair." This comedic touch is not consistent with a true biblical tone, as its content gently pokes fun at the biblical style. As Winterson tries to question the nature of narratives and fictions, it also represents her attempt to rewrite a classic book, the Bible, with her own style. In the act of rewriting, Winterson suggests that no text, even ones considered sacred like the Bible, actually represent truth. For Winterson texts are representations of reality that carry a subjective taint due to the mere fact that they were created.
The salt beef of civilization rumbling round in the gut. Constipation was a great problem after the Second World War. Not enough roughage in the diet, too much refine food.
This quote comes from the Deuteronomy chapter of the novel in which the narrator is commenting on the nature of history. The narrator is speaking directly to the reader at this point, which is not consistent with the rest of the novel, to explicitly make her point. She starts discussing beef because she suggests that the act of making history resembles the act of making a sandwich. This quotation demonstrates the comedic irony with which the narrator explains her position. The image of beef comes from her metaphor of history being like a sandwich, but after mentioning beef the narrator throws in images of constipation and roughage since they came to mind. This technique highlights the stream of consciousness inherent in the narrator's tone. This placement of images adds a comic light to a serious subject—historiography. The comedy may help facilitate the reader's understanding of the concept. The concrete images also manage to breakdown postmodern theory into physical terms. Ultimately, the quote might push the reader into laughter. Overall this quote is one of many examples of Winterson's often comedic tone that permeates her novel.
I love you almost as much as I love the Lord.
This quote comes from the chapter of Joshua. Jeanette says it to Melanie as they are heading to church. The quote is important because it comes right before the church meeting where the pastor accuses the two girls of being sinful with their love. The quote shows Jeanette's sincere love and affection for Melanie, as well as her belief that she is not doing anything wrong by loving Melanie. It contrasts greatly with the subsequent scene in which the church members will brutally condemn Jeanette for her impure thoughts and desires. Despite their criticism, Jeanette still sees no such fault. In fact, Jeanette's love for God, Melanie's love for God, and Jeanette's love for Melanie all seem to fit perfectly together in Jeanette's world. One reason that Jeanette feels so happy in her love for Melanie is because Melanie has joined her religious community, which basically has been her lifelong family. Jeanette sees Melanie as a gift from God, not as a temptation sent by the devil. Even after her condemnation, Jeanette will maintain her idea that she can love women and love God equally. Jeanette will never believe that she cannot love God simply because she is a lesbian. Jeanette's disagreement with the church on this matter starts her deep understanding of the religious misinterpretations of her church.
Pillars hold things up, and salt keeps things clean, but it's a poor exchange for losing your self. People do go back, but they don't survive, because two realities are claiming them at the same time.
This quote takes place toward the end of the final chapter, Ruth, when the Jeanette is thinking about whether or not she should revisit her past by going home to visit her mother. Jeanette is thinking but speaks directly to the readers as she does so. Jeanette's discussion of pillars refers to Lot's wife. According to the Bible, Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt when she turned to look back at burning Sodom and Gomorrah. God had previously told Lot not to have his family look back, but Lot's wife still did. Jeanette parallels the wife's act of looking back to the act of looking backward over one's past. Jeanette proposes that it is impossible to live in your past while you are in your present. Your life always is changing and going forwarded, if you cling excessively to your past identity it will destroy you. For Winterson, the self is malleable and always in a process of being created and reinvented. Jeanette has been able to change as she has grown. If she were to have clung only to her childhood identity, her liberation would not have been possible. Eventually, Jeanette develops a profound understanding of her self where she can see who she was before and what she is now. By not defining herself only by her past, Jeanette will not become one of the living dead. This quote crucially relates to one of the main themes in the book: the need to find your own identity. Jeanette's lengthy philosophical thinking on the matter helps to inform the reader for his or her own life.