When Jeanette Winterson is thrown out of her house at just sixteen years old, she begins sleeping in the “beaten-up old Mini” on which she has been learning to drive. A boy at church whose parents gave him a car without realizing that he was terrified of driving has effectively given it to Jeanette, and, with nowhere else to go, she makes the car her home. She sits in the front to read and eat, and lies down in the back to sleep—the distinction to her is very important as she attempts to cobble together some order out of her “dislodged” life. When she confesses the state of affairs to the head of English at her junior college, Mrs. Ratlow, Jeanette is offered a place to stay and a key to the Ratlow home—“I have never had a key,” Jeanette says, “except to the Mini.” The Mini is therefore a contradictory object that symbolizes both the first autonomous space Jeanette has ever had and also the depth of the solitude and isolation that Mrs. Winterson forced her to endure.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Jeanette’s Mini Cooper appears in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9: English Literature A-Z
...to a conversation in which Jeanette confesses everything—the fact that she is living in her Mini and reading her way through English Literature A-Z. Mrs. Ratlow tells Jeanette she can stay... (full context)