“Daddy, in the Olden Days the Queen married the king and after a year she killed him… It was to make the crops grow”
I find Jeanette Winterson’s story “The Green Man” very intriguing. In this story the main protagonist, a dad, faces the emasculation and burial of his manhood, the smothering and sputtering of his fears, desires, and denials as well as the monotony of suburban life.
In the beginning of this short story, the main protagonist reflects on the gypsies coming to his town and how this affects him personally, as well as the town itself. He begins to rethink his position in life and what it means to be a man; if he can in fact call himself one. In the midst of his self loathing and lethargy towards life, the main protagonist and his family go to the fair to celebrate his daughter’s 13th birthday. Here, the family dynamic emerges and the reader is able to clearly see the main protagonist’s conflict and resignation over the monotony of his current life. He must appease his wife, though at times he wishes “she would kill[him], collect the insurance, go on with her life and free [him] from the guilt of staying, the guilt of going.”
At the fair, the main protagonist is bombarded by many of his desires and fears which causes him to face reality and make a choice. He is halted by a fortune teller while viewing cheap products with his wife; the fortune teller prophesizes the stopping of his heart –not the death of him, but his heart. He later makes a series of choices and indulges in his desire. The entire time he asks “Where was my wife?”, even after he sleeps with a red haired woman at the fair who asks him to give her his soiled pants to clean. He asks where his wife is when he is lost and found, for she has molded him ; She ” coaxed out the grit in [him] and held [him] to his job.” She as the queen has made the crops grow, has made him “drain the lawn” and “strides [them] on into prosperity and fulfillment.” While doing so, he has come to lose who he is, his manhood buried and green — is the lawn he cares for selectively on weekends– he is emasculated by his family’s wants and needs, his fear the only driving force in his life. He is buried and the gypsies arouse his manhood, rile his fear, and make him adopt false confidence.
After waking from a slumber induced by his affair with the red head, the main protagonist collects himself and goes to get his daughter. When he comes into contact with her, he finds that she has bought a horse. This doesn’t phase him much and they make their way home. At home, he further contemplates his current situation until he hears the sounds of a horse coming down the road in front of his house. He sees his highly anticipated and beloved redhead, thinking, ” I could leave now and not come back. Grow a ponytail and wear a cowhide coat.” He views her and he views the horse as it shoots its piss onto his lawn, onto his manhood and further sediments his burial and humiliation. Following this, he and the redhead exchange money for the horse and silence for intimacy. It is here, after she walks away, that his heart stops. He will continue to live life as a shell of himself, there, but long gone. He has lost the battle torn and cowardly, the Green Man— the gypsy’s Corn King, left with nothing — and still he will shout “Long Live the Queen!” as she, as they, go on “to honour. To mock. To fear.To be fascinated. To laugh out loud” at him and by him.