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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Study Guide

Jeanette Winterson

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Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit | Deuteronomy | Summary



This short chapter presents the author's musings about various topics. First she comments on time as "a great deadener" that allows people to forget unfortunate things. Next she describes storytelling as "a way of explaining the universe while leaving the universe unexplained ... of keeping it all alive, not boxing it into time." Her perspective on telling stories is that storytelling represents everyone's right to tell about things from their own point of view. She is skeptical that history is really true—because the telling of it requires human interpretation of events—and she especially rejects the notion that Bible stories are factual. She points out that the evil Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, where his murderous Khmer Rouge government ruled from 1971 to 1975, was based partly on his desire to wipe out his country's history and start a new one.

Winterson then applauds human curiosity and the daring it requires to try a completely different approach, although she realizes it seems to be rewarded only when a lot of money is the outcome. Historical accounts feature success stories, in her opinion, and so she prefers to interpret history in her own, different way. One person's truth, she suggests, is not another's.


Most notable in this chapter is Winterson's appreciation for storytelling as a way people express their ideas, respond to what happens around them, and make sense of the world. Yet this chapter is also a cautionary tale: people should realize every type of storytelling—whether it be myth, history text, fiction, or religious edict—should be viewed as subjective rather than accepted immediately as fact. Throughout the chapter, she links accepting stories as true, without a questioning mind, to swallowing something without thinking about what it is.

This is the only chapter Winterson gives a subtitle: "The last book of the law." This title, along with the chapter's placement in the middle of the book, could be interpreted as her way of saying to readers, "Here's the most important thing I want to communicate to you." This might be seen as her bottom line of meaning in the book, and in the course of this semiautobiography, it resides just after Jeanette begins to question the stories she has learned and accepted as a child, just after she begins to see her mother as revisionist rather than as omniscient. What comes next are her attempts to "make [her] own sandwiches" instead of eating what she has been force fed to believe. It's a turning point in her coming-of-age story.

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