Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?


Jeanette Winterson

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Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Characters

Jeanette Winterson

The writer and protagonist of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson is an author who was born in Manchester in 1959 and adopted at six months old by the Winterson… read analysis of Jeanette Winterson

Mrs. Constance Winterson

The primary antagonist of Why Be Happy, Mrs. Winterson is the cruel and domineering adoptive mother of Jeanette Winterson. A deeply devout Pentecostal Evangelist, Mrs. Winterson believes in depriving herself of happiness and… read analysis of Mrs. Constance Winterson

Mr. Jack Winterson

Jeanette Winterson’s adoptive father. A manual laborer all his life, he was the one responsible for doling out the physical punishments Mrs. Winterson assigned to Jeanette for her many “transgressions.” Though he was complicit in… read analysis of Mr. Jack Winterson


An older girl who goes to the Emil Pentecostal Church with Jeanette. One day, after prayer meetings, she kisses Jeanette, and the two begin a relationship when Jeanette is fifteen years old. Mrs. Wintersonread analysis of Helen


Jeanette’s second girlfriend. Janey’s family is much more tolerant of their relationship than the Wintersons, though Janey’s father doesn’t care much for Jeanette. When Jeanette tells Mrs Winterson that she is in love with the… read analysis of Janey
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Mrs. Ratlow

The head of English at Jeanette’s sixth-form college (a kind of junior college where students in their late teens study for their college entrance qualifications and exams). Mrs. Ratlow has a flamboyant appearance and Jeanette… read analysis of Mrs. Ratlow

Vicky Licorish

A friend of Jeanette’s at Oxford whom Jeanette brings home to Accrington for the Christmas holidays. The two volunteer together at a local mental hospital while they are in Accrington. The trip will ultimately be… read analysis of Vicky Licorish

Ria Hayward

A social worker in London who helps an older Jeanette to find her birth mother. Ria assures Jeanette that, having counseled “many mothers over the years” as they make the difficult choice to give their… read analysis of Ria Hayward

Susie Orbach

A well-known psychoanalyst and writer of books such as Fat is a Feminist Issue, Susie Orbach has been Jeanette Winterson’s partner since about 2009. Jeanette describes Susie as a loving and empathetic person who… read analysis of Susie Orbach

Ann S.

Jeanette’s birth mother, Ann was just sixteen and working in a factory when she got pregnant. After six months of raising Jeanette in a home for mothers and babies, Ann chose to give Jeanette up… read analysis of Ann S.

Ruth Rendell

A friend of Jeanette’s, whom Jeanette describes as her “Good Mother.” A supportive and helpful confidant, Ruth lent Jeanette a cottage to write in when she was just starting out, and she helps and… read analysis of Ruth Rendell
Minor Characters
Mr. Winterson’s second wife. The two have a physically abusive relationship, and Lillian often disparages the effects that Mrs. Winterson has had on both Mr. Winterson and Jeanette herself.
Uncle Alec
Mrs. Winterson’s brother who physically assaults Jeanette after she breaks into her parents’ house when they leave her alone and go to the beach for a week, barring her from entering the home while they are away.