Course Hero. "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 Dec. 2017. Web. 2 Mar. 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Oranges-Are-Not-the-Only-Fruit/>.
Course Hero. (2017, December 11). Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved March 2, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Oranges-Are-Not-the-Only-Fruit/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Study Guide." December 11, 2017. Accessed March 2, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Oranges-Are-Not-the-Only-Fruit/.
Course Hero, "Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit Study Guide," December 11, 2017, accessed March 2, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Oranges-Are-Not-the-Only-Fruit/.
Winterson, the author of this semiautobiographical novel, grew up in the 1960s in a religious home characterized by fundamental Christian beliefs. Although the term fundamentalist has come to be viewed as synonymous with extreme religious views, those within the Christian community at that time would have viewed it as a testament of true faith. Christian fundamentalism began as a Protestant movement in the 19th century. Followers reacted against what they viewed as unwelcome modernist viewpoints, such as those embracing evolution rather than creationism and interpreting biblical stories as based on myth rather than fact. At a conference in Niagara, New York, in 1895, a group of conservative Protestants formally stated what they called the five points of fundamentalism:
During the time of Winterson's childhood, fundamentalist Christians like Winterson's mother were proud of themselves for adhering so strictly to what they viewed as pure Christianity. As one modern-day fundamentalist leader, Dr. Dale A Robbins, describes his beliefs in defending the movement, "In the broad sense, fundamentalism may be used to describe Christians who are uncompromising, conservative and who take their beliefs to the maximum."
Steven McSwain, a writer who grew up in a fundamentalist household similar to Winterson's, describes additional ideas embraced by fundamentalists that almost certainly affected Winterson. Marriage is defined as a union only between one man and one woman. Homosexuality is viewed as a sin. Abortion is labeled murder. Christians go to heaven when they die, but everyone else goes to hell, which is believed to be a real place where people burn forever as torture for the way they chose to live on Earth. Jesus could come back at any time, and every Christian—by continual prayer and repenting of sins—must be prepared for this Second Coming, which will herald the end of the world. Therefore, when a member of a fundamentalist community goes awry and acts in ways that contradict the belief system, the community's responsibility is to force that member to admit sin and to ask for forgiveness. Readers of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit will see these actions taken against Jeanette when her homosexuality is discovered and will see the fundamentalist attitude clearly manifested in her mother.
Because religion so thoroughly dominated her upbringing, Winterson chooses to structure her semiautobiographical first novel in eight chapters, each bearing the name of an Old Testament book of the Bible. Together these eight books are known as the Octateuch. The first five of the eight books are also known as the Pentateuch, or Torah, which is the foundation of Jewish religious faith. The chapters of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit are ordered in the same chronology as the biblical books, and the content of each chapter corresponds to the cited book of the Bible.
One of the traditional tales Winterson interweaves throughout the narrative of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a legend of the Holy Grail. She chooses to focus on the version that features Sir Perceval, one of the knights of King Arthur's Round Table. King Arthur was a legendary king of Britain, and tales about him and his knights became widely accepted during medieval times. Revered as a great and benevolent ruler, he based his governance on the concept of chivalry. His Knights of the Round Table conducted themselves according to a code that demanded honor, honesty, valor, and loyalty.
The Holy Grail legend also arose during medieval times. The story is that Jesus Christ drank from a goblet—the Holy Grail—during his final meal with his followers, known as the Last Supper. Said to possess great powers, this goblet has been the object of many unsuccessful real and imaginary searches. One of the most celebrated versions of the legend associates the search for the Grail with the Knights of the Round Table. In this version, the Grail is supposed to be hidden in a desolate area in Britain, in a castle belonging to the "Fisher King," who is in a perpetual state of illness, poised between life and death. The purest of King Arthur's knights should be able to resolve the struggle simply by seeing the Grail, which would restore the Fisher King to health and his wasted lands to their former glory. So trying to achieve this goal was seen as the knights' noblest cause. The knight Perceval supposedly did catch sight of the Grail but didn't recognize it, and so failed in his quest. These legends add to Winterson's story and help set her character's quest in a more meaningful context.