When saying that there are certain folk or fairy tales about herself, Jeanette Winterson could not be more right, because there are indeed several myths surrounding her person. For many people Winterson's sexuality is the golden key to her public persona. Although she correctly states that `[she is] a writer who happens to like women, [and] not a lesbian who happens to write' most critics are only too willing to interpret her writing in an autobiographical way and restrict her to the literary persona of a lesbian writer only. However, this whole obsession about her sexuality is not the only myth surrounding her. Furthermore, critical opinion likes to describe her as a novelist who feels the constant need to defend her writing against the critics. As a result Jeanette Winterson is perceived as (and maybe really is) one of those arrogant writers who want to place their work in the tradition of English literature by pretending that none of her contemporaries will ever be able to be on the same level of writing competence than herself.
Although, according to the author herself, these fairy tales surrounding her public and literary persona `are assumed to be worth more than the are', there is no doubt concerning a certain value of fairy tales in her novel The Passion. In the following essay, I would like to examine the `worth' of fairy tales in this piece of work. That is to say, the numerous fairy tale and mythical elements of the novel shall be discussed, as well as their value for the novel as a whole and the effect they have on the reader.
First of all, it is justified to claim that no one but Jeanette Winterson herself will ever be able to really answer the question of why she chose to include this vast amount of fairy tale elements into her novel. However, one can certainly say that by making use of this device she succeeded in giving her work a special flair, a memorable achievement to distinguish her from most of her contemporaries.
However, although the story of The Passion greatly relies on mythical elements, it is not correct to categorise this novel simply as a example of magic realism. When taking a closer look at her use of fairy tales, it is soon clear that there is much more to The Passion than can be seen at first sight. Jeanette Winterson does not simply include fairy tale elements into her novel, but she makes the readers to see this book as a fairy tale itself. Contrary to the tendency of magic realism to `draw upon the energies of fable, folktale and myth while retaining a strong contemporary relevance', Winterson succeeds in spreading the fairy tale elements all over her novel, and thus leaves hardly space for a connection to a realistic story. Consequently, there simply is no realism in this book. Although the novel seems to be entirely historical (and thus rather realistic), when considering its setting during the time of Napoleon and its complete lack of connecting the plot to the present, there are hardly any...