Sexing as King Charles and King Henry. Unlike

 Sexing the Cherry, similar
to The Passion, grounds itself in a
real location at a specific time period, seventeenth century England, with
similar engagement with real historical figures such as King Charles and King
Henry. Unlike The Passion, Sexing the Cherry utilizes a much more
fluid temporal landscape to establish itself as a postmodern, historiographical
text. In a similar vein to The Passion, the
narrativisation of the history of these real historical figures is done through
the perspective of fictional characters, the grotesque Dog Woman and her
adopted son Jordan. Unlike traditional historical accounts, these marginalised
characters provide the readers with their own subjective perception rather than
a citation-based factual account. The political leanings of the Dog Woman, unlike
Henri in The Passion, lie with the
royals, which taints her perception of the events around the Civil War, which
she believes to be unjustified and fuels her hatred for the Puritans. By taking
the political discourse out of the hands of the patriarchal hegemony and giving
it instead to a woman, who due to her physical stature would have been
historically ostracised by the patriarchy, Winterson expresses the viability of
histories alternative to the dominant perception of these events. The Dog
Woman, in her vengeance against the Puritans, unites with other ostracised
women in her society, such as the sex workers she helps escape the Puritan oppression.

By considering the plight of otherwise overlooked marginalised characters in
this specific historical context, Winterson further underscores the gaps patriarchal
historical discourse leaves in discussing the treatment of women in oppressive regimes
through history and their personal experiences of the same. A traditional
account of the English Civil War would focus on the treatment of the King, yet Sexing the Cherry chooses to meditate
instead on more abstract, and seemingly insignificant events instead. For
instance, the Dog Woman’s son embarks on various journeys, to far-off, magical places
with John Tradescant, juxtaposing the historically real, the fictional and the
fantastical characters in an attempt to confront the hegemonic historical
tradition. It complies with Hutcheon’s view of the paradox that lies central to
historiographic metafiction: “both resolutely fictive and yet undeniably
historical”.1

 

 Similar to Henri
in The Passion, the Dog Woman is
conscious of her upbringing and how it might affect her perception of history: “As
far as I know it, and I have only a little learning, the King had been forced
to call a Parliament … against the kilted beast and their savage ways”
(p.21). Her self-awareness of her limited understanding of past events
affecting her perception of the reality of that past reminds the reader that
history isn’t always accurate and credible and the author of that history is
constantly influenced by their discernment of the events in question. Her view
on the London plague is that it is a result of “God’s judgement” (p.159) on the
beheading of the King, stating divine intervention as the reason for the
suffering of the people around her. By giving incorrect historical facts, the
Dog Woman makes the lines between history and narrativisation indistinct.

 

 The notion of time
is closely linked to the notion of history in Sexing the Cherry. Toward the end of the novel, the story looks at
the Great Fire of London in 1666, with a similar fire being set to a London
factory in twentieth century London, blurring the line between past and
present. Through this, Winterson is able to comment on the non-linearity of
time in her text and recognise that “… all journeys exist simultaneously,
that to be in place is not to deny the existence of another” (p.98). Time, in a
fantastical and postmodern vein, is seen as a conscious construction, and the
willingness to consider the simultaneous existence of different temporalities
shows her view that this self-aware destabilization of history can expose a
methodology to deconstruct other concepts like time, which we consider to an
objective fact. This willingness to see the multiplicity in these concepts,
mirrors Hutcheon’s view of historiographic metafiction’s ability to remind its
reader that “there is no one writable ‘truth’ about history and experience,
only a series of versions”.2

1
Hutcheon, p. 142

2
Hutcheon, p.10

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