Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Royal Albert China Symbol Analysis

Royal Albert China Symbol Icon

Jeanette Winterson describes her mother’s china set as “a very nasty set of sentimental tableware.” Though her mother, Mrs. Winterson, permitted few happinesses or indulgences in her household, the china set was a small joy that she allowed herself. Floral, decadent, and showy, the china was likely an anomaly in the austere Winterson household—Mrs. Winterson wanted to show “everyone else in the street that even though [she] wasn’t better off, [she] was better,” and saw displaying the china as a means to do so. Jeanette describes how Mrs. and Mr. Winterson saved their “spare pennies” in a tin in order to buy more china, and that she, too, caught “Royal Albert fever” as a child and began saving up on her own. “Happiness,” Jeanette says, “was on the other side of a glass door—” the china was as close to happiness as her mother would ever get. In a book so thematically preoccupied with the pursuit of happiness, Mrs. Winterson’s Royal Albert obsession symbolizes the basic human need for that pursuit—even in those who claim to shun or reject happiness, contentment, and indulgence. The china itself, forever “on the other side of a glass door,” serves as a symbol of the fact that happiness was always kept just out of Jeanette’s reach—and of her parents’ reach. The china was a means of intimidation and a way to perform a fantasy as much as it was an object of pleasure, and so the two things, in Jeanette’s mind, are perhaps inextricably linked.

Royal Albert China Quotes in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

The Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? quotes below all refer to the symbol of Royal Albert China. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Storytelling Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? published in 2012.
Chapter 7 Quotes

I think Mrs. Winterson was afraid of happiness. Jesus was supposed to make you happy but he didn’t, and if you were waiting for the Apocalypse that never came, you were bound to feel disappointed. She thought that happy meant bad/wrong/sinful. Or plain stupid. Unhappy seemed to have virtue attached to it.

Related Characters: Jeanette Winterson (speaker), Mrs. Constance Winterson
Related Symbols: Royal Albert China
Page Number: Book Page 96
Explanation and Analysis:
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Royal Albert China Symbol Timeline in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

The timeline below shows where the symbol Royal Albert China appears in Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5: At Home
Religion and Control Theme Icon
...she had forced Mr. Winterson to throw out Mrs. Winterson’s extensive collection of Royal Albert china when they married and start over. (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
Jeanette takes Lillian shopping for more crockery. Lillian disparages Mrs. Winterson’s old china, and berates her for having abused both Jeanette and Mr. Winterson. (full context)
Religion and Control Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Love and Happiness Theme Icon
...around her that “even though [she wasn’t] better off, [she was] better.” The Royal Albert china was an easy way to do so—and as Mrs. and Mr. Winterson saved their pennies... (full context)
Chapter 7: Accrington
Storytelling Theme Icon
Religion and Control Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Love and Happiness Theme Icon
Mothers, Daughters, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
The few things Mrs. Winterson actually seemed to love were the Gospel Tent, Royal Albert China , and Christmas. Christmas was a time of luxury and celebration, and “the one time... (full context)
Chapter 12: The Night Sea Voyage
Storytelling Theme Icon
The Pursuit of Love and Happiness Theme Icon
Mothers, Daughters, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...living facility. In a locked trunk, Jeanette discovers a cache of her mother’s Royal Albert china, her father’s war medals, letters from her mother to her father, and her own formal... (full context)