Jeanette Winterson's Family Values

From Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit to Lighthousekeeping

in Critical Survey
Julie Ellam University of Hull

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Jeanette Winterson's fictional families are unusual. Invariably the adopted or fostered child is used as a narrator. This offers the perspective that nurtured relationships are as emotionally bonding as natural ones. The traditional, biological family is, at times, used in order to be exposed as brutal and false, as in Art and Lies (1994) where Picasso is sexually abused by her brother and is the product of rape between her father and a maid. Winterson's novels appear to challenge the biological family. Furthermore, adultery is used as a repeated theme. From Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) onwards, marriage is described as an institution and is castigated, whereas the belief in true love hardly ever wavers. That Winterson continues to draw on the family, however it is constituted, reflects an ongoing concern with the bonds of love. It is this belief in love that reveals a paradoxical fidelity to a conservative stance which is elsewhere, through the critiques of family and marriage, apparently questioned.

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