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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Study Guide

Jeanette Winterson

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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Characters

Character Description
Jeanette Jeanette is a highly intelligent, creative child who grows up under the domination of her mother, a religious zealot who has a clear path laid out for Jeanette. As a teenager, Jeanette discovers she is a lesbian and must make difficult choices about following her mother's ways or her own. Read More
Jeanette's mother Jeanette's mother is a religious zealot, overly controlling and rigid; she is modeled mostly after Winterson's actual adoptive mother. Read More
Melanie Melanie is the young woman Jeanette falls in love with and has her first lesbian affair at around age 16. Read More
Elsie Norris An eccentric church member, artistic Elsie Norris is a closet lesbian and supportive of Jeanette. She practices numerology and reads poetry to Jeanette, introducing her to literature and art, which have been ignored or banned at home. Read More
Miss Jewsbury A member of the church, Miss Jewsbury recognizes Jeanette's lesbianism. She tries to protect her from the church's wrath but takes advantage by having sex with her when she is most vulnerable. Read More
Katy Uncomplicated and loving, Katy is Jeanette's second lesbian lover. Read More
Adviser 1 In the folk tale Winterson relates in Leviticus about a prince's search for perfection, one of the prince's advisors finds what appears to be the perfect woman while reading the prince's book on the topic.
Adviser 2 In the tale about a prince's search for perfection, a second unnamed advisor to the prince understands the supposedly perfect woman's comments about balance.
Alice A prominent member of the church, Alice often helps Jeanette's mother with projects.
Mrs. Arkwright Mrs. Arkwright runs a pest control shop in town but has a comical plan to escape from her miserable life and move to a beach in Spain; she is earthy, a good observer of people, and always treats Jeanette well.
Army man A year after Jeanette loses Melanie, she meets the army man to whom Melanie is engaged and spits on him after he says he forgives them for their lesbian affair.
King Arthur Winterson portrays the legendary King Arthur as past his glory days, sad and lonely, when she relates the legend of Sir Perceval and his search for the Holy Grail.
Assistant In a fevered dream Jeanette has after the exorcism, she finds herself in a bookshop inside a prison, which an assistant tells her is "the Room of the Final Disappointment" and warns she can never escape.
Maxi Ball Maxi Ball owns a cheap clothing shop in town. Jeanette's mother hates him and refuses to shop there.
Beast As a young child, Jeanette reads a fairy tale in which a beautiful young woman's father forces her to marry a beast, who transforms into a handsome prince when she kisses him.
Beast's wife In a fairy tale Jeanette reads as a child, a beautiful young woman, forced to marry a beast, has a kind heart. When she kisses the beast on their wedding night, he becomes a handsome prince.
Betty A church friend of Jeanette's mother, Betty is in the hospital being tended to by Jeanette's mother when Miss Jewsbury takes Jeanette there for emergency help for the temporary deafness her mother has been ignoring.
Uncle Bill Jeanette dislikes her Uncle Bill and labels him as one of the beastly men women put up with as husbands.
Uncle Bill's wife Uncle Bill's wife, Jeanette's aunt, knows her husband is despicable but advises Jeanette that women have to get used to their husbands and learn to keep them in line.
Blind man In the fairy tale about Winnet, a wise and kind blind man teaches Winnet how to sail so she can escape to a new life.
Eli Bone Reverend Eli Bone runs the Society for the Lost in the town of Wigan, where Jeanette's mother spends a lot of time as treasurer for the endeavor. At the end of the novel he is unveiled as a fraud and philanderer.
Bundled woman On Jeanette's train trip home after several years' absence, she observes a heavily bundled, mentally unstable woman getting stuck in a door and then chanting curses as she eats.
Maude Butler When Maude Butler retires from the Society for the Lost, Jeanette's mother takes her place as treasurer. Mrs. Butler then opens the Morecambe guest house, but she eventually turns into an alcoholic who allows her lover to practice voodoo in the retirement home where she works.
Caretaker Jeanette hears the caretaker at her school talk with disgust about the smelly shoebag room where Jeanette often hides.
City woman An unnamed woman Jeanette walks with in the city asks her probing questions that ultimately lead to her decision to visit her parents after several years away.
Cleaning lady The cleaning lady at Jeanette's school admits to the caretaker that she is unable to get rid of the odor of feet in the shoebag room where Jeanette often hides.
Mrs. Clifton Mrs. Clifton gives singing lessons in town and is generally viewed as rich and self-important.
Doctor The doctor takes care of Jeanette in the hospital where she is treated for deafness. His voice is the first she hears after surgery, and Jeanette wonders if he is an angel.
Doreen Doreen is one of the rather crass women Jeanette eavesdrops on when trying to figure out man-woman relationships; she has a daughter who could be a lesbian, but no one knows.
Dwarves In the legend of Perceval as Winterson tells it, dwarves welcome the knight as he reaches the castle where he hopes to find the Grail.
Eddy A beekeeper, Eddy was one of Jeanette's mother's boyfriends before she married.
Elders The church elders all participate in the exorcism following the revelation of the affair between Jeanette and Melanie, a days-long event that ends in Jeanette's false repentance.
Stanley Farmer Stanley Farmer is a boy at Jeanette's school who goes to her church and whom she dislikes.
Fat woman When Jeanette, upset at the news of Elsie Norris's death, has trouble dishing ice cream and a fat woman complains, Jeanette throws an ice cream treat at her and roars away in the ice cream truck.
Jeanette's father Jeanette's father, Jack, seems to have little impact on her. Jeanette describes him as nice, rather quiet, and completely dominated by her mother's wishes and rules. He says nothing in the story.
Jeanette's natural mother Jeanette's birth mother tries to see Jeanette, but Jeanette's adoptive mother denies her and hits Jeanette for being upset by it.
Mrs. Fergeson Mrs. Fergeson, a town gossip, spreads a story that the two women who own the paper shop have bought a new double bed to share.
Grace Finch Married to Pastor Finch, Grace Finch tries to calm him when he gets too worked up in his ministry.
Pastor Finch The pastor of Jeanette's mother's church and an expert on demons, Pastor Roy Finch uses seven-year-old Jeanette as an example of innocence that can be ruined if people are not vigilant. In later years he travels with Jeanette's mother to counsel others who have "demon-possessed children."
Five angry men When Jeanette leads a tent mission in Blackpool, five angry men from a nearby boarding house demand the worshippers' loud praise and music stop so that they can sleep.
Frank Frank is Doreen's husband. She believes he might be having an affair and complains he never has been good to her.
Fred Fred is the hired driver who takes the church members to the Blackpool tent mission and rescues Mrs. Rothwell when she is swept away by the rising tide.
General in the Salvation Army The general decides one Christmas season that no one can play tambourines on the streets with his group. This decision causes the church to which Jeanette and her mother belong to avoid joining forces with the Salvation ("Sally") Army.
Goose A female goose is a character in the tale Winterson works into her narrative. The goose is an advisor to the prince who seeks a perfect woman—until the prince disagrees with the goose and chops off her head.
Graham Graham is a convert to Jeanette's church when she is a teenager. Jeanette's mother worries her daughter might want to get involved with him.
Susan Green Susan Green is a girl Jeanette's age who goes to church and school with Jeanette. Her family is very poor, so she often eats unappetizing food.
Betty Grimsditch Grumpy and eccentric Betty Grimsditch is a waitress at Trickett's in town.
Gypsy woman When Jeanette is quite young, a gypsy woman reads her palm and tells her she will never marry.
Halifax woman When the church exorcises Melanie and Jeanette, Melanie goes to relatives in Halifax; Jeanette finds out where Melanie is and gets the woman who answers the door to let her in to be with Melanie.
Homosexual couple Jeanette never forgets the homosexual couple who once came to her church and held hands. Her mother comments that one of the men should have been a woman.
Hunchback In a tale Winterson relates, an old hunchback woman saves a sensitive princess by giving her responsibilities.
Jane Jane is Doreen's daughter, who might be a lesbian.
Joe Co-operator of the funeral parlor where Jeanette works, Joe is kind, hardworking, and supportive of Jeanette when the members of her church are cruel to her at Elsie Norris's memorial.
Lucien Loyal to the prince and harsh to those who disagree with him, Lucien is the chief advisor to the prince in the tale Winterson includes about the search for a perfect woman.
Mad Percy Mad Percy was one of Jeanette's mother's debonair suitors when she was young.
May A close friend of Jeanette's mother, May is naive in her complete religious devotion.
Miss Miss is what Jeanette calls her physical education teacher at school. Miss pays more attention to her boyfriend than to her students.
Muttering man On the train ride home after years of absence, Jeanette notices a muttering, sighing man who appears to be mentally unstable.
Neighbor woman A woman who lives on Jeanette's street when she is growing up sparks Jeanette's vivid imagination when she describes her husband as a pig.
Nellie Nellie is one of the crude women in town Jeanette eavesdrops on to learn more about male-female relationships. Jeanette's mother removes Nellie from the church prayer list after she complains about the quality of the free food the church distributes.
Nurse 1 The first nurse who tends to Jeanette in the hospital when she is treated for deafness is not kind and won't let Jeanette play with putty.
Nurse 2 A second nurse who tends to Jeanette during her surgery is nice to her and referred to by the doctor as an angel.
Old man In the tale Winterson tells of a prince's pursuit of perfection, an old man forcefully assures the prince's advisor of the perfection of the woman the advisor identifies as a possible wife for the prince.
Orange demon Jeanette first sees her orange demon during her exorcism and feels relieved when he leaves her consciousness months later. The orange demon encourages her to be skeptical about the religious messages she has received all her life.
Orange seller Near the end of the tale about a prince's search for perfection, the prince buys oranges from a man and asks him for something to read; the prince leaves quickly when the orange seller offers him the book the prince wrote about perfection, which he now realizes is ridiculous.
Paris doctor Before finding religion, Jeanette's mother had a one-night affair with a suitor named Pierre and went to a doctor in Paris because she thought she might be pregnant; the doctor diagnosed a stomach ulcer.
Paper shop owners Two women who own the paper shop in town and live together are gossiped about frequently as likely lesbians.
Paying woman When Jeanette parks the ice cream truck on Elsie Norris's street on the day Elsie dies, a group of gossiping women led by the woman paying for their treats talk about Elsie.
People next door Called "Next Door," by Jeanette's mother, the people living next door to Jeanette during her childhood are despised by her mother, who refers to them disdainfully as outcast heathens and sexual deviants; they, in turn, dislike Jeanette's mother.
Sir Perceval Winterson interrupts the narrative several times with snippets from the legend of Sir Perceval and his quest for the Holy Grail. She portrays him as confused and disillusioned about his role as King Arthur's most beloved knight.
Perfect woman In the tale Winterson shares about a prince's search for perfection, a woman does seem to be perfect, but she herself knows perfection is not possible. In a rage at her defiance of him, the prince has her head chopped off.
Pierre Before Jeanette's mother became religious, her one passionate love affair was with the Frenchman Pierre. After she got over her fear of being pregnant following their one-night stand, Jeanette's mother lost interest in him and seemingly in all men.
Pig husband When a neighbor of Jeanette's says she married a pig, Jeanette takes it literally and tries to catch him revealing his true identity as an animal. She says he is sly and has pink skin.
Post office manager The man who runs the town post office seems perhaps inappropriately interested in Jeanette when she is a child.
Prince The main character of a traditional tale Winterson weaves throughout the narrative is a petulant, arrogant prince who seeks a perfect wife.
Princess Early in the book, Winterson interrupts the narrative with a tale about an extremely sensitive princess saved by an old hunchback woman who gives her practical duties to assume.
Protestor 1 When the prince in the traditional tale Winterson shares tries to cast aspersions on the character of the woman he wants for his wife, a protestor in the crowd defends the woman for having healed the prince.
Protestor 2 A second protestor in the crowd during the prince's verbal abuse of the woman who refuses to marry him continues to defend her as being without blemish.
Mrs. Rothwell Mrs. Rothwell is the elderly, deaf, and somewhat senile church member who nearly drowns on a trip to the beach and is sorry to have been rescued.
Shelley Shelley, who goes to school with Jeanette, is popular and represents the type of spoiled, shallow person Jeanette dislikes.
Sir Sir is the name Jeanette uses to refer to her physical education teacher's boyfriend, who seems as besotted with his lover as she is with him.
Sorcerer In the fairy tale Winterson invents to try to make sense of her life, a sorcerer traps Winnet and makes her his apprentice. Like Jeanette's mother, the sorcerer banishes Winnet for disgracing him but keeps her tied to him by an invisible thread.
Mrs. Sparrow Mrs. Sparrow is one of the mothers who come to Jeanette's school to complain about her "terrorizing" the other children.
Mrs. Spencer Mrs. Spencer is one of the mothers who come to Jeanette's school to complain about her "terrorizing" the other children.
Pastor Spratt Pastor Spratt is the man who converted Jeanette's mother and who remains her religious hero as she follows his missionary career.
Stranger The stranger in the tale about Winnet is a boy who befriends Winnet but who is then accused by the sorcerer of "spoiling" her. Winnet saves the boy by having him cast the blame on her, in the same way Jeanette saves Katy.
Susan Susan is the possible lesbian partner of Jane, Doreen's daughter.
Teacher Jeanette's classroom teacher tries to be kind to her but is ultimately shocked by her religious fanaticism.
Tetrahedron Tetrahedron is the beloved, flexible, all-seeing emperor in a tale Winterson relates to emphasize that life is in constant motion from tragedy to comedy and everything in between.
Ticket clipper On the train Jeanette rides home after several years away, the man taking tickets scolds her for putting her bag in the aisle.
Vicar During Elsie Norris's memorial, the vicar insists on talking to Joe, thus leaving Jeanette to deal uncomfortably with the people from the church she has left.
Mrs. Virtue Mrs. Virtue, the needlework instructor at Jeanette's school, is somewhat diplomatic in her lack of acceptance of Jeanette's overly religious themes, but Jeanette sees her as lacking vision.
Mrs. Vole Mrs. Vole, the head of Jeanette's school, contacts Jeanette's mother with concerns about Jeanette's religious obsessions.
Mrs. White Mrs. White is one of Jeanette's mother's best friends, a religious zealot who judges people on how holy she believes them to be.
Winnet Jeanette's invented alter ego, Winnet is the main character in the fairy tale Winterson tells to make sense of the events of her own life.
Wreath maker The wreath maker and co-owner of the funeral home is always kind to Jeanette, both when Jeanette works for her as a child and when Jeanette comes back after being kicked out of her home. The woman does not appreciate religious zealots but greatly respects the dead.
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