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How is the traditional notion of subject challenged in “Boating for Beginners?” (Jeanette Winterson)?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Boating for Beginners as a challenge of the traditional notion of subject: The character of Gloria.
    1. Intellectual and physical descriptions of Gloria.
    2. The use of point of view.
  3. Gloria's development.
    1. How has Gloria's self been constructed?
    2. Boating for Beginners as a bildungsroman.
  4. Conclusion.
  5. Bibliography.

Boating for Beginners is the second novel published by Jeanette Winterson in 1985. It deals with the growing up of Gloria Munde, who seeks her way in the world. The resemblance between Gloria Munde and Jeanette Winterson is striking and some elements of Gloria's life echo Jeanette's: both were raised in a religious environment and had problems with their parents and eventually left home. Christine Reynier in Jeanette Winterson's Le Miracle Ordinaire writes that Boating for Beginners "met en scène un personnage, Gloria, qui poursuit le parcours entamà par Jeanette." Their path is thus very similar. Gloria becomes a "zoo keeper" for Noah, a man who runs a boat company on the Tigris and the Euphrates. Noah is a macho and an opportunistic character that has created God, called "The Unpronounceable" out of a piece of forest gateau. They both secretly decide to flood the world thus reproducing Noah's Ark biblical event. Desi who eavesdrops on a conversation between Noah, his sons and "The Unpronounceable" learns about the flood and tells Gloria, Doris and Marlene about it.

[...] In Boating for Beginners, there is not one main character, but there are several main characters: Noah, Bunny Mix, Mrs Munde, Gloria, Desi, and so on. Their points of view are given in the novel and no particular voice prevails. All the voices interrelate with one another without a particular order. So there is a plurality of voices. Even though Gloria seems to be the protagonist whose story is told, her point of view is almost inexistent. She is passive. Thus, language is less referential and no longer aims at spreading the moral values of society as it was in the case of traditional novels. [...]


[...] Conclusion All things considered, we can say that Boating for Beginners gives a much challenged vision of the subject both concerning characterization and point of view. Gloria conforms to the typical ?protagonist? of post-modern literature who is in conflict with the society she lives in. Boating for Beginners can be read as a bildungsroman in the sense that it shows the development of a young girl who will evolve from ignorance and submission to confidence and knowledge, thanks to the guidance of several characters and the magical voice of the orange demon. [...]


[...] In the first one, she ?gives birth? to her opened and shut her mouth a few times beginning each sentence with and suddenly like a medium with a message from the other side, she said in spite of her want to be a success'.? (p32) To Julia Kristeva, a feminist philosopher, self is a subject of enunciation a speaker who can use the pronoun Therefore Gloria's self is born and only needs to be developed. In Jeanette Winterson's Boating for Beginners: Both New Baroque and Ethics, Eileen Williams-Wanquet explains that the orange demon could be interpreted as being ?Gloria's self? (p110), he appears exactly at the moment when Gloria expresses the wish to be a success. [...]

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