Feed on

“The Green Man” tells the story of a man struggling with feelings of emasculation, dissatisfaction, and even fear as he realizes his daughter has reached an age of potential sexual awakening. Winterson also portrays the appeal between “wild and tame” in the dynamic between the gypsies fair and the repressed suburban setting the narrator comes from, adding another layer of conflict within him. Winterson has created an incredibly strange story that comes across as very surreal but blunt, which I believe makes it easier for readers to pinpoint and follow the symbols and events that effect the narrator most.

This story comes across as a bit sad, in that the narrator is in a loveless marriage and feels emasculated by his wife—and by women more capable than himself. He mourns the loss of love between himself and his wife while also harboring resentment and guilt for the ways in which he’s aroused by the wildness of the fair and women he sees. The affair he has seems to serve as an expression of these feelings, deepening his shame and dissatisfaction with his life and marriage; a moment of freedom he takes to escape the painful domesticity he lives in. Despite thinking this way, and wishing to be separated forever from what he loves, he believes changing his life won’t ease these miserable feelings.

The narrator’s actions result in a deeper sense of fear when his attention turns to his daughter. He recognizes his behavior as inappropriate, immoral, and perverted, which results in a natural desire to protect his daughter from such things, especially as she grows older. There’s a strange placement of sexuality in the horses present in this story, and the daughter’s relation to sexuality itself. In the beginning of the story we’re told:

Well known is it that young girls love horses, loving the wild underside of themselves, loving the long neck and hot ears of animal seduction.

But the gypsies are coming and his daughter is thirteen. (Winterson, 629)

This entire passage sets the reader up for an understanding of one of the narrator’s struggles: his fear for his daughter’s loss of innocence, as his own loss years ago resulted in an incredibly miserable present for himself. He rushes to his daughter when he finds her on a horse, led by a group of men and “slithering a bit on the bare back.” (Winterson, 635) The horse seems to symbolize his issues with sexuality and his loss of control, and when he projects this onto his daughter it results in an intense need to remove her, and himself, from the situation entirely.

“The Green Man” presents stereotypical concepts of emasculation and unhappiness in relation to marriage and domesticity. Despite being predictable, I don’t think this took away from the surreal twist Winterson uses on an unfortunately common dynamic in society. The surrealism in this story seemed to better emphasize incredibly real problems and damage this dysfunction can cause.

Leave a Reply