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When Jeanette was a girl, she writes, she lived, like most people, with her mother and father. Her mother was combative, devout, and saw the world in black-and-white.
When she is very young, Jeanette meets a gypsy woman who foretells that she will never marry and will never be able to be still. Jeanette peppers the story of her childhood with fanciful interludes: tales of her own invention which mirror whatever she is going through at a certain point in her life.
One story is of a beautiful woman who comes upon a hunchback in the woods. Jeanette is prevented from going to school, and instead her mother brings her to daily sermons at church, some of which are frightening. At school, Jeanette has a hard time fitting in. She imagines the story of a prince who is so desperate to find the perfect wife that he beheads anyone who opposes his ideal that perfection can be achieved, ultimately beheading a kind, beautiful woman who he feels has deceived him into seeing her as flawless.
At fourteen, Jeanette begins to worry about men and women and the relationships between them. Jeanette fears that all men are beasts in disguise, and fears she will one day have to marry a beast, too. One day, while running errands downtown with her mother, Jeanette meets a beautiful young girl named Melanie. The two become close over the next several weeks as Jeanette repeatedly travels downtown to visit her new friend, and eventually Jeanette invites Melanie to church. Melanie is accepted into the fold, and the two begin spending more and more time together.
Jeanette tells yet another story, this time of a calm and happy festival banquet in a high-walled castle being stormed by angry rebels. In a brief, lyrical interlude, Jeanette considers the relationship between time, fact, fiction, and history. She writes that people are more likely to believe history as fact rather than stories or fiction or memories, even though history is what is most often rewritten to accommodate the mistakes, embarrassments, and pain of the past.
One morning, Jeanette comes down to the parlor to find a woman from church, Mrs. White , cleaning the parlor. Her mother is not home. The following morning at church, there is an ambush. Melanie repents and is taken away to be prayed over, but Jeanette does not. Miss Jewsbury comforts Jeanette and slowly begins stroking her, and soon the two are making love, though Jeanette is full of self-loathing and disgust.
The next morning Jeanette sneaks home and finds the parlor full of church elders as well as the pastor. They pray over her for more than twelve hours, and at the end of the night, Jeanette still refuses to repent. The pastor orders her mother to lock Jeanette in the parlor without food for three days, and her mother follows his command. The hungry, exhausted Jeanette decides to repent, but chooses to keep her demon, symbolically choosing to remain true to herself and to not deny her desires.
By summertime, Jeanette is feeling like her old self again. She joins her church on a revival mission to a seaside town, and strikes up a friendship with a pretty girl from the church named Katy. That night, Melanie calls on Jeanette, and attempts to rekindle their friendship, but the traumatized Jeanette pushes her away. Melanie follows Jeanette all over town, and Jeanette cannot escape her feelings of shame and longing. Jeanette accepts, and the two make love on their first night together.
As their sweet and reciprocal love affair unfolds, the girls spend time together at church and Bible study and take comfort in the spiritual dimension of their relationship. Melanie returns to town once more, a year later, to announce that she is getting married to an army man. In the wake of all that has transpired, Jeanette has decided to renounce the church and her dream of becoming a missionary.
Perceval sets off from Camelot in search of something, leaving the devastated Arthur behind and alone. Meanwhile Sir Perceval, lost in the woods, dreams again and again of his King, but each time he dreams of reaching out to touch him he wakes with thorns in his hands or poison ivy in his face.
The next morning, the pastor calls on Jeanette and explains his intent to subject her to yet another exorcism, but Jeanette refuses to undergo it, and announces her intent to leave the church. Her mother, incensed, casts her out of the house. On her last morning at home, Jeanette is amazed when she wakes up to find that it is just another ordinary morning, and not the chaotic Judgement Day she had imagined it would be.
Jeanette then tells the story of a young girl named Winnet who becomes lost traveling through a great wood. A sorcerer offers her food and shelter, and though Winnet is wary of him, she agrees to a bet—if he can guess her name, she will be his, and if he cannot, he must help her out of the woods. As Winnet makes friends with the villagers who live in the town surrounding the castle, she meets a strange boy and begins a friendship with him.
At the annual harvest festival, she brings her new friend to meet her father, but the sorcerer, enraged that Winnet has come to love another, banishes the boy. Winnet begs her father to let her stay, but he tells her that if she wants to remain in the village she will not be allowed to live in the castle, and will have to work as a goatherd.
As Winnet prepares to leave the castle, the sorcerer creeps into her room disguised as a mouse and ties an invisible thread around her coat button. Jeanette is working odd jobs in town, driving an ice cream van and helping out at a local funeral parlor.
She finds that the parlor is full of people from church, and she learns that Elsie is dead. Jeanette begs to attend the funeral, but as an outcast, she is forbidden.
Jeanette reluctantly agrees, knowing that if anyone from her church sees her, there will be chaos. Jeanette is able to lay food out surreptitiously and unrecognized in the beginning, but at the end when her boss calls her out to serve ice cream to the mourners, chaos indeed erupts, and her mother publicly disowns Jeanette. Winnet, lost in the woods again, is taken in by a woman from a nearby village and brought back to the new town.
She struggles to learn the language spoken there, and is continually told by the villagers of a magical, faraway town where buildings stretch to the sky. Winnet dreams of leaving the village, and begins building a boat that will take her far away. On the day she leaves, Winnet is full of fear, but knows she must set out on her own.
Jeanette has left her hometown and is living in a big city, but she feels her past has caught up with her. Her friends often ask when she last saw her mother, and if she ever thinks of going home again, and Jeanette admits that she thinks of home all the time. She cannot deny where she came from, and she decides to go home for the Christmas holidays. Her mother, however, treats her as if nothing has transpired between them, and Jeanette wonders if her mother has forgotten why she left, or if she ever even really left at all.
Sir Perceval, weary from his travels, stays the night in the castle of a warm and welcoming host who questions him about his journey. Perceval is embarrassed to admit that he left Camelot in search of something holy and perfect that he could keep all to himself, but he has been unable to find it and misses his home and his King very dearly.
Feeling selfish and ashamed, Perceval goes to bed, and dreams that he is a spider hanging from a web. A passing raven cuts the thread with its beak, and Perceval-the-spider drops to the forest floor and scuttles away. Jeanette stays with her parents through Christmas. More bad news arrives about the Morecambe guest house, and Jeanette realizes that her mother is struggling every day to keep her religious community together as it falls apart at the seams.
Jeanette watches as her mother, having just come home from church, immediately sits down at her broadcast radio, frantically trying to connect with other Christians elsewhere in England. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Plot Summary. Genesis 2. Exodus 3. Leviticus 4. Numbers 5. Deuteronomy 6. Joshua 7. Judges 8. Vole Mrs. LitCharts Teacher Editions. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does.
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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
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Oranges are Not the Only Fruit
A fascinating debut. A penetrating novel. Winterson has gone on to fulfill that promise, winning the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and producing some of the most dazzling and admired novels of the past decade. Jeanette is a bright and rebellious orphan who is adopted into an evangelical household in the dour, industrial North of England and finds herself embroidering grim religious mottoes and shaking her little tambourine for Jesus. But as this budding missionary comes of age, and comes to terms with her unorthodox sexuality, the peculiar balance of her God-fearing household dissolves.
SparkNotes is here for you with everything you need to ace or teach! Find out more. Read a Plot Overview of the entire book or a chapter by chapter Summary and Analysis. Here's where you'll find analysis about the book as a whole.
N arratively, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is built on a particular irony - a contradiction in which it takes some sly delight. It can be simply stated. The Bible is the all-controlling authority to which the narrator's fundamentalist mother makes her defer, yet it is also the book on which the novel is based. The young Jeanette knows the Bible as a work of warning, prohibition and eschatological fear. When she goes to school she duly terrifies the other children by explaining the fiery judgment that will soon be visited upon them. Yet, though this is a story of the heroine's escape from her Scripture-obsessed mother and the Christian sect to which she belongs, the Bible gives shape and meaning to that story.