Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Jeanette writes that Ann “had to sever some part of herself to let [Jeanette] go.” Jeanette says that she herself has “felt the wound ever since.” Jeanette ruminates on famous “wound stories,” like the story of Odysseus, whose wife recognizes him when he returns to Ithaca by a scar on his thigh, as well as the story of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and was punished by having an eagle peck out his liver each morning—the wound healed each night, but the eagle came back and the punishment repeated each day—and the story of the disciple Thomas, who had to touch the resurrected Jesus’s wounds to believe that he was real. Wounds are “symbolic and cannot be reduced to any single interpretation,” Jeanette writes, but adds that she believes that “wounding [is] a clue or a key to being human,” that a wound is a “blood-trail” to one’s roots, and that a child is both “a healing and a cut, the place of lost and found.”
By examining familiar “wound stories,” Jeanette connects the emotional wounds she and Ann have had to bear with the physical wounds of major mythological figures. Wounds, in literature as in life, are a way of recognizing another person, of punishing another person (and of reliving a certain punishment again and again), and of accepting another person as they are. She examines her own role in her birth mother’s “wound,” and her birth mother’s role in her wounds.
Themes
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Jeanette feels she has “worked from the wound” all her life, and now, with Ann in her life, Jeanette recognizes that Ann too is and has been wounded. Mrs. Winterson, too, Jeanette writes, was “gloriously wounded. Suffering was the meaning of her life.”
All three women—Jeanette, Ann, and Mrs. Winterson—are bound by the wounds they sustained at one another’s hands through the years.
Themes
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Mothers, Daughters, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Jeanette wonders what was the truth of the afternoon that the strange woman came to the door of her house—she feels it is connected to the birth certificate she found in her father’s things. She has learned throughout her life, she says, to “read between the lines, to see behind the image”—her mother used to hang paintings backwards on the wall to avoid exposing her family to “graven images.”
Some things are still a mystery to Jeanette, even though she tries to impose a narrative on everything that happens to her and around her in order to understand things. She comes to accept that some things defy narrative, defy being a part of a story, and must just be accepted.
Themes
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Ann tells Jeanette that she ordered Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit from the library, and proudly told the librarian that Jeanette Winterson was her daughter. Jeanette remembers Mrs. Winterson telling her that she had had to order the book under a false name. 
The contrast between her two mothers’ responses to her soul-baring autobiographical novel pains but also bolsters Jeanette. She finally has the support she wanted all her life, but it has of course come very late—perhaps too late.
Themes
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“Happy endings,” Jeanette writes, “are only a pause.” She reflects on the three types of “big endings: Revenge, Tragedy, [and] Forgiveness.” She believes that forgiveness “redeems the past [and] unblocks the future,” and forgives Ann for throwing her from the wreckage of her own life into another unknowable, unforeseeable kind of wreckage. Jeanette feels she has been “repeating the leaving” of her mother’s body over and over throughout her life, but is finally practicing forgiveness, and is “not leaving any more.”
Jeanette’s faith in the power of forgiveness has allowed her to accept her past, forgive those who have harmed her, and make way for whatever the future brings. Jeanette has finally been able to achieve a measure of rest and peace, and no longer needs to repeat the endless leaving and searching that have dogged her throughout her life.
Themes
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The Pursuit of Love and Happiness Theme Icon
Mothers, Daughters, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
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