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MonkeyNotes-Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
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Exodus is the Biblical book of leaving Egypt (or the book of going to the Promised Land) ; it is filled with miracles that God performs on behalf of his chosen people. The Exodus chapter in the book begins with Jeanette and her mother arguing. Jeanette does not want to attend school and thinks her mother should stand on principle and allow her to stay home. Her mother, fearful of the government authorities that have sent the letter, says Jeanette must go. Jeanette still does not accept her mother's explanation. She reasons that if anything bad happens, God will take care of it. Through the argument, Jeanette's mother exposes herself to the reader as one of little faith. She espouses the church's positions but does not have a deep enough faith to risk her freedom for them. Jeanette, on the other hand, seems willing to take the risk and trusts God to intervene on her mother's behalf.

Jeanette's deafness and recovery is one of the "miracles" of the chapter. Mrs. Jewsbury (whose name is significant) is ironically known as an unholy person; yet she is the only one to listen to Jeanette when she says that she cannot hear. Her own mother has ignored her daughter's complaints about deafness, even when Jeanette puts them in writing. Mrs. Jewsbury knows how to get her mother's attention. She tells her that Jeanette is not "full of the Spirit," as evidenced by her deafness. Unable to stand the thought that her daughter may have an incomplete spirit, Jeanette's mother has her daughter's hearing tested by a doctor, who says that Jeanette is indeed deaf and needs an operation. After the surgery, Jeanette's hearing is restored; ironically, an unholy woman instigates the "miracle". The church and its members have failed Jeanette: first they ignore her problem of deafness and do nothing to help her since they claim she is "in rapture". Her "holy" mother rarely even visits Jeanette in the hospita l. She is too busy helping the "suffering" and planning a Christmas play. All she does is send oranges to her daughter; she expects Jeanette to eat them whenever she is upset about a change, whenever she cannot do something, or whenever she does not want to talk about a certain matter. The oranges, therefore, become a symbol of keeping things the same; they are a pacifier, a calming influence to do nothing different. The astute Jeanette resents her mother's approach and complains aloud that "Oranges aren't the only fruit." The title of the book is taken from her statement and its underlying meaning.


Elsie Norris, another major character, is described in this chapter. She is known for giving her testimony in church, for praying at exactly 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. each day, and for throwing "holy" dice from Mecca (ironically the holiest city of Islam) to guide her in her Bible reading. Although strange, Elsie means well and is kind and sincere. She is also a very good friend to Jeanette, visiting her every day in the hospital and cheering her up when she loses contests. Elsie compares her friend to Christ, saying that even Jesus was scorned. She also teaches Jeanette that God is present in everything, a philosophy that is not in keeping with the teachings of Jeanette's mother. Elsie also reads verses to Jeanette from secular poets, including Blake and Rosetti. The lines that she reads to her friend in the hospital are very significant, for they have a double meaning in the context of the novel and foreshadow the adult life of Jeanette. She will fall, she will rebuild herself, and she will be gay.

This chapter also gives a sensitive perspective on Jeanette's ostracization by her classmates and the secular community. At public school, Jeanette is placed in an environment where the other children, their parents, and the teachers do not believe the same things as she does. Jeanette "preaches" to her fellow classmates about eternal damnation and tries to save them; but they are frightened by her fundamentalist ideas about hell and salvation. Unfortunately, Jeanette's upbringing by her mother is so colored by her religious beliefs that it is hard for her to change. When she enters her work containing religious motifs into contests, Jeanette always loses. She changes her Themes into more secular ideas, and she still loses. There seems to be no victory for Jeanette.

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MonkeyNotes-Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
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