Jeanette Winterson’s “The Green Man” Protagonist Transition

The protagonist within Jeanette Winterson’s, “The Green Man”, is initially an emasculated husband. The protagonist undergoes a transition from a person of suburbicated domesticity to that of one who understands the benefit of sexual freedom. The act of becoming “The Green Man” is proved by the text to be one of, sacrifice and expressive freedom.

The initial usage of “Green” within the text is to describe the protagonist’s “green-eyed doll” of a lawn; the context of the lawn’s description of “Green” is describing of suburban culture and the uniformity of suburban lifestyles. This is reflected through the protagonist stating that his wife refuses his lust, instead directing it towards the lawn. This attribute is additionally reflective of the sexual repression felt by the protagonist, as he feels his wife no longer will receive him sexually. The protagonist rejects the suburban stereotype attached with the name “Daddy” as shown by him internally mocking his labelling of the normalized name. 

The language used in describing suburban ideals develops the theme of a sheltered man, maintaining a breadwinner position. The protagonist accerates, “Didn’t Daddy save up to move out of the city? … Didn’t he save for wife and daughter?” (166). The protagonist maintains a position of sacrifice yet the fruits of his labour are going to his wife’s expenses. Initially, the description of the “The Green Man” entailed a King who sacrifices his life to benefit others; to which the protagonist admits he acknowledges this and then goes back to work on his lawn. By metaphorically agreeing to the sacrifice of his happiness and satisfaction at the cost of preserving the suburban ideals present within the attribute of the lawn, the protagonist is aligning with conforminism and is existing within the limitations set out by his family (namely his wife).

The text consists of two pieces, the initial piece contains a clearset border between the order and elegance of suburban lifestyle in comparison with the grotesque, liberal lifestyle of gypsies. The latter piece contains blurred lines between the two sides as the protagonist slowly starts to feel and act as the gypsies are expected to. Horses play a symbolistic role within the text as they appear in prominence both at the start and at the end of the text, both in the context of the protagonist’s daughter. Initially, the horse is discussed as an attribute of young girls’ desire, the protagonist suggests that the reasoning for this is the long neck and hot ears of animal seduction. The heavily lustful description of the relationship between young girls and horses and, the fast and free roaming nature of horses gives evidence for horses symbolizing youthful sexual freedom within this text. The protagonist gives reason for disliking horses as he believes their purchase to be a trap.

At the fair, the protagonist experiences the rupturing event of his upper lip touching the breast of a gypsy. This act serves as a rupture (beginning of the second piece) as shown by the fact that the narrator’s cheeks were, “burning with shame” (167). The protagonist’s preexisting world of suburban limits has been turned on its head and as such his immediate reaction to a form of sexual freedom is distaste. However, when the protagonist later joins the same gypsy woman in her caravan, the once strict border between suburban lifestyle and gypsy lifestyle begins to become less clear. This is reflected through the protagonist referring to the caravan as, “carved, sprung, beautiful” (169), after previously referring to gypsies as, “filthy, scarred, vagrant” (167). The two descriptions are completely contrasting yet pertain to the exact same lifestyle. This serves as prove that the protagonist underwent a transition. The protagonist’s switch is again shown through his third-person statement of, “The Green Man could copulate with anyone” (168). The Green Man is now being described as a man of open sexuality. 

The conflict of the story takes place when the protagonist’s wife notices the green on his knees and reacts as if the pants (or the protagonist’s suburban image) have been utterly tainted. The formation of the protagonist as “The Green Man” takes place through the event of his sexual encounter reminding him of the growth and liberation he once had with his wife. This allows “The Green Man” to encapsulate a sexually free, giving (sacrificial), and fixed man. The exchange of the horse in the end of the text is able to reflect an acceptance of both, his daughters embracement of sexual freedom, and his fixed suburban position (his heart has stopped but his life is going on). 

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